The Bay Area Sushi Master - Sushi Yoshizumi [Thoughts + Pics]

Hmmm let me throw in my 2 cents about sake pairing.

With my limited experience in Tokyo, you only can experience a true pairing (one sake per dish or across two or three) at very specific restaurants and/or sake bars. It’s much easier with otsumami or very small dishes. There are a some folks who are extremely talented at doing this and have a very loyal and rabid following, but they are the exception.

Other than that, a lot of places stock sake based on what they can buy, perhaps what is in season, and the business owners have to think about what may or may not work. In actuality, outside of a select few, not a lot of thought is put into a sake list and there is not as much consideration even into thinking how to pick sake that matches food on a wider scale. This is not just in Japan but also in California and likely parts of the USA.

The other thing is that a lot of chefs (we are talking sushi / sushi omakase places now) are not exactly building their food to structure properly with sake.

The other difficulty with sake pairing is, you have drinkers at many different levels, and in fact a lot of them beginners or very casual. Not everyone will appreciate a Junmai or Junmai Ginjo. A good list (or inventory if not a list) has to have enough choices to fuel the demands of different tastes and levels of appreciation. And the choices made by the chef or owner needs to be at a minimum, something enjoyable, if not something that is a direct match or as close as possible.

Because you are not getting a small shot of sake per piece of nigiri or exactly for one small course/otsumami, the other difficult part is having sake on a list that works generally well enough with most dishes, and it is hard to pace and figure out when a customer will finish a current sake, and decide the next one to serve, using best guess/intution and the rest up to chance/luck if the customer likes it or not (subjective).

Last but not least, “matching” can be subjective. What I think works, may not be something you feel that works well. You mentioned you picked up on the salinity and savory / heavy umami factor in the nikiri or tsume… it is a completely different style than other places, so if you are used to a lighter / sweeter nikiri, then either this will be a matter of personal preference or needs more time to get used to. Maru san is from Osaka region and probably has worked in kaiseki restaurants too, so his approach which works for him and his fans, is generally lighter more delicate flavors…and thus certain profiles of sake would work best there. On the other hand with SY, there is more intense umami and structure… the match with the sake then has to be more specific. For example: personally I cannot see myself drinking Yasuke anywhere else in the USA (well maybe except at Sushi Sho Waikiki), and it would be a waste having it with ramen or some random izakaya that doesn’t have good quality seafood (because of the lack of matching).

But I have to give it to Yoshizumi san, regardless of it all, his list is very well thought out compared to the competition (other sushi omakase joints, McChelin or not) and exists in its own realm. It’s unique and structured in a way that is versatile enough, and the profiles fit and/or go with the food pleasantly. The old school way of eating food to make sake tastes better rings true here, but in some cases drinking sake with the right piece of sushi or otsumami about halfway through chewing enhances the flavors so much more at times here as well (again subjective). With the dead silence of people around you, you wouldn’t know if they are experiencing mouthgasms, creaming their undies, or simply whether they are enjoying the food or not… like having to suppress their feelings of joy (or maybe they don’t appreciate it on the level we do)…so effing boring with a bunch of poker faces lol.