Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar - Sake Flights & Bites Series
I've heard positive things about Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar for a while and finally bit for a Sake Flights & Bites event. This was the first of an on-going series and featured the seasonal nama sake alongside three savory courses and one dessert course.
The co-owner Evan (middle) hosted the event and introduced us to chef and co-owner Anthony (left) and Max (right), who were busy preparing the food and drinks for the evening. Evan is a Certified Sake Professional (CSP) with a level 1 certifiication; level 2 requires going to Japan which is in the plans for next year!
We were introduced to nama sake, an unpasteurized and seasonal sake that is released in Spring and goes out of stock fairly fast. Two other varieties, nama zume and nama chozo are pasturized once, either before maturing or before bottling. A visual chart on the nearby tv screen really helped explain this! For this event, the last four bottles of the selected nama sakes were saved and we got 3 oz of each.
On the left, Seikyo Omachi Junmai Ginjo Namazake (Nakao Brewery, Hiroshima, 55%) was the mildest, a nice intro to sakes for those who weren't as familiar. It was smooth with a slight hint of sweetness. Per Evan, the longer a sake sits, the sweeter it becomes due to the components continuing to break down.
Wild Local Halibut Ceviche, Watermelon, Crispy Rice Noodle, Grasshopper Salt
The first bite was an eye-catching sight! I loved the peppery citrus infusion and subdued sweetness of watermelon. A strong punch came from the grasshopper salt and wonderful texture contrast came from the crunchy fried noodles. The appetizer was chilled and the taste of sake was stronger after a bite!
Braised Pork Belly, Grilled Peach Gastrique, Nasturtium
A sizeable chunk of pork belly goodness appeared before our eyes next! We loved the pan sear of the meat, giving it a light crispiness but not as crunchy as chinese roasted pork. The fatty portions were rendered enough to be firm yet melt in your mouth tender. There was no stickiness or thickness that took away from the enjoyment of this flavorful meat and I could taste a little fennel too! The sauce was vinegary but played down the peach sweetness with a tang like mustard or similar. All together it was one of our favorites of the night.
The paired sake was Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Namazake (Masumi Brewery, Nagano, 55%) which had a higher percentage of alcohol added in the process so the intensity increased. It smelled wonderful, more aromatic than the first drink. This one had more of a stone fruit flavor in the sake.
The third sake Seven Spearsmen Junmai Nama Genshu (Tomita Brewery, Shiga, 60%) was more intense with more malt. 12 cases come to the US and Saiko Sushi got most of it! We were also able to try one bottle left over from last year as a comparison. Dennis liked the older one slightly more.
Cold Green Tea Soba, Roasted Duck Broth, Ginger, Wasabi, Blood Orange
The third course was absolutely gorgeous. The soba noodles were extremely thin and the shredded duck meat was well seasoned with a stronger ginger presence and only a hint of wasabi. The noodles soaked up the flavors of the broth but this one was a bit salty for our tastes. A little less pronounced would have worked well but the rest of the ingredients were wonderful.
Tempura Nutella Ice Cream Finger Sandwich, Honey-Raisin Syrup
To finish, we had a treat made by one of the staff that specializes in desserts. We found this course interesting, especially with the slightly fried texture edge to it but soft interior. It was almost like a bread pudding, not too sweet but a really good feel in your mouth. The syrup was pleasant and not an overly sweet component.
The last sake Red Maple Nama Gensu (Kamo Izumi Brewery, Hiroshima, 60%) was aged 2 years in below freezing temps, undiluted and was said to be delicious both cold and warm. It was the sweetest sake due to the aging process.
The whole sake bar was reserved for the event. Sitting in a communal area gave us the chance to meet people who had similar interests, including Edwin from Eating Drinking San Diego who helped promote this. The event was not only a pairing but an educating lesson on the style, history, and techniques of sake, reminding us a bit of events like Bite San Diego but without walking!
We had just enough eats to be comfortable but most people stayed around for either more sake or food from the menu. We ordered the Fanfare sushi roll, recommended by Max. Even though it looks like four huge pieces, it's actually split into eight! This tasted fresh and was a simple and clean roll to end the night.
The rest of the restaurant has some fun artwork. I especially love the cats behind the sushi bar and the huge samurai mural in the dining area.
Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar started out in Coronado 5 years ago which only has about 12 different sakes and focuses more on beers and cocktails. 2 years ago, the North Park location opened, allowing for guests to explore more sake choices. A flight here is typically 6 oz total (2 oz of each taster) while a sake pour is 4 oz. During a normal tasting, they'd also do the special overflow pour as traditionally done.
If interested, there are several more sake flights and bites coming up, each scheduled for the first Thursday of the listed month (subject to change). Check restaurant for latest info.
- September 2016 - No. 1: Nama Flight
- November 2016 - No. 2: Yamahi Kimoto Flight
- January 2017 - No. 3: Land Flight (served hot)
- March 2017 - No. 4: Unique & Modern Flight
- June 2017 - No. 5: Sea Flight
- July 2017 - No. 6: Air Flight
Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar (North Park)
2884 University Avenue
San Diego CA 92104