Sake has been rapidly gaining popularity in recent years, with many more restaurants either adding or introducing it to their drink menus. Of course, if you were on the bandwagon long before it even was a bandwagon, then you already know the drink’s many pluses. Here are five great places to discover — or rediscover — great sake in the Valley.
1 Roka Akor
Roka Akor's sake and wine flight menu allows guests to try a couple different kinds of sake during the course of their meal, or it can help them decide what they like best before committing to a particular sake for the rest of the night. We like the Satomi, which includes three flights of premium Ginjo sake, and the Sayaka, which features super premium Daiginjo, but our favorite is the Moriawase, which is comprised of one flight each of Nigori, Ginjo and Daiginjo sake. But if this delightful Japanese drink is new to you, the best thing you can do is get help from a member of Roka Akor's friendly staff. Depending on how sweet or strong you like your libations, and what you plan on eating, they can help you narrow down the vast selection.
2 Pearl Sushi Lounge and Bomber Bar
Located in downtown Scottsdale, Pearl's has a very hip, clubby feel to it, and the sake matches the vibe. Sake drinkers can choose from hot or cold house draft sake, the Zipang sparkling Junmai sake, the Moonstone plum sake, the highly popular Sake 2 Me (a lightly carbonated Junmai ginger-mango sake), and others, as well as a pretty good selection of imported Japanese beer. The sushi here is incredibly innovative and indulgent, and we're big fans of their Pearl Rewards system: Card holders receive 10 percent off their bill every Sunday and are invited to roll the Pearl dice for the chance to win additional discounts, food, cocktails or bonus points on their rewards card. Plus, did we mention that it's happy hour all day every day at Pearl? What's not to love?
4252 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale 480.94.PEARL web
3 Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar
The brain child of Hong Kong native Johnny Chu, Sens serves up more than 60 different kinds of sake, as well as shochu infused with several enticing flavors. The place is a great choice for those who might want to place an emphasis on the sake rather than a full meal, as the restaurant focuses on serving small tapas plates, such as lime mint beef, miso, papaya mango spring roll, ginger mint duck, spicy wonton and others. And the setting? Sens' sleek and modern interior alone is a delight, with plenty to take in visually, including delicate hanging lamps and white walls with pops of pinks and reds. This is a great choice for a fun and exotic date night.
705 N. First St., Suite 120, Phoenix 602.340.9777 web
4 Nobuo at Teeter House
If you're looking for a Japanese house of cuisine, this is the real deal. Executive Chef Nobuo Fukuda's eponymous restaurant serves such haute entrees as sea bass and mushrooms baked in parchment, Kumamoto oysters with uni, shiromi carpaccio and other fine flavors. Naturally, dishes as fine as these require an assortment of premium libations for discerning guests to choose from. And the array is certainly eclectic. If you just want a glass to accompany your meal, the Tengumai “Dance of a Tengu” Junmai comes in 6-ounce tastings. If you’re among friends, a bottle is the way to go; you have the choice of everything from a $28 bottle of Rihaku Nigori “Dreamy Clouds” Junmai Tokubetsu (300 ml.) to a $300 bottle of Daishichi “Houreki” Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo (720 ml.) We think a nice Goldilocks sake is the Satonohomare “Pride of the Village” Junmai Ginjo (300 ml., $46).
622 E. Adams St., Phoenix 602.254.0600 web
Now here's a place that's packed every weekend. Sapporo is the whole package: The food is incredible (go make reservations right now for Teppanyaki!), the cocktails are delicious, the setting is gorgeous, and the nightlife atmosphere is energizing. While the pineapple martini and mango mai tais are fan favorites, we recommend the Sapporo Torch -- made with Myers rum Bacardi rum, Cointreau, Velvet Falernum, fresh grapefruit and lime juice -- to heat up the evening. There are also about a dozen varieties of sake to choose from, ranging from roughly $20 to $70, with the Momokawa "Silver" (Junmai Ginjo), "Diamond" (Junmai Ginjo) "Asian Pear" (flavored Junmai Ginjo), "Pearl" (Jinmai Ginjo Nigori Genshu) and "G Joy" (Junmai Ginjo Genshu) sakes, as well as the Rihaku "Wondering Poet" (Junmai Ginjo) and "Dreamy Clouds" (Tokubetsu Junmai Nigoir), currently offered both by the glass and bottle. Our absolute fave, though? The Tyku Junmai Ginjo. (A bottle will set you back just $56.)
14344 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale 480.607.1114 web