For Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto — the first in the U.S. — sake is more than just sushi’s sidekick. Appreciating Japan’s native drink is all about “designing taste.”
ISSUE: Winter 2010-11
STORY: Anna M. Park
Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto pours the Oyama sake into a white wine glass. Holding the base and stem, he swirls, then sniffs. Fruity. Tart. Perhaps a hint of pear? It’s a familiar scene at any wine tasting, but for sake? Indeed, says Matsumoto, one of only 60 certified master sake sommeliers in the world. In sake, it’s all about taste, he adds, as opposed to varietals or regions.
In fact, Matsumoto gives seminars on “designing taste,” informing the industry on brewing standards, mill percentages and aging. He’s a man who takes his work seriously, so you have to give Kabuki restaurants real cred that it’s got the U.S.’s first (and until recently, only) master sake sommelier on board. Matsumoto oversees all of the 14 Kabuki restaurants’ extensive sake and cocktail menu, making sure to complement Corporate Executive Chef Masa Kurihara’s newly unveiled menu of both traditional and innovative Japanese cuisine. Started in 1991 when owner David Lee opened the first Kabuki in Pasadena, Calif., today the 14 Kabukis in the western U.S. include restaurants in Las Vegas and their newest location in Brea, Calif.
Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto’s Plum Orange Tokyo Mojito
7-8 mint leaves
2 oz Jinro Soju 2.5 Takara Plum Wine
1 oz bar syrup
Dash of Yuzu juice (a Japanese citrus)
2 orange wheels
Muddle and mix the first five ingredients. Top off with club soda and garnish with orange wheels.