Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Servin’ Up Sake: Your Guide to Local Sake Choices in the Area

Sake, or Japanese rice wine, is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. And while most Toledoans may not be well acquainted with the centuries old beverage, the area’s culinary scene provides an opportunity to understand and enjoy the rich tradition of sake.

Types of Sake

Junmai: A pure rice sake, it’s made solely from rice, water, yeastand koji (rice mold). Known for its clean, robust flavor and full body.

Honjozo: Light and approachable, honjozo is brewed with a touch of distilled alcohol to enhance aromas and flavors. It’s a great start for beginners.

Ginjo: Ginjo sake has a fruity and floral aroma due to a slower fermentation process at lower temperatures. It’s light and elegant, perfect for sipping.

Daiginjo: The highest grade of sake, daiginjo is made with rice grains polished to at least 50%. It boasts complex flavors and is often enjoyed chilled.

Attributes and Pairings

Junmai: Pairs well with hearty dishes like grilled meats and tempura. Its robustness complements bold flavors.

Honjozo: Ideal with sushi, sashimi, or mild-flavored dishes. Its delicate profile won’t overwhelm subtle flavors.

Ginjo: Complements light appetizers, seafood and salads. Its aromatic qualities enhance the dining experience.

Daiginjo: Best enjoyed on its own or with light, elegant dishes. Its intricate flavors shine when not overshadowed.

How to Order

At a Restaurant: When dining at a Japanese restaurant, ask the server for sake recommendations based on your meal. Be sure to specify your preference for dry (karakuchi) or sweet (amakuchi) sake.

Sake Menu: Most establishments offer a sake menu listing the available varieties. Familiarize yourself with the types and choose according to your taste.

Temperature: Sake can be served hot (atsukan), warm (jokan), room temperature (joon), or chilled (reishu). Ask for your preferred temperature when ordering.

Sake Set: Opt for a sake flight or tasting set to sample different varieties and find your favorite.

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Kengo Sushi & Yakitori

38 S Saint Clair St.



Tuesday through Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm

In the heart of Toledo’s Warehouse District, Kengo Sushi and Yakitori, a modest yet enchanting spot, captures the essence of Japanese dining. Owned by chef Kengo Kato, the restaurant has garnered a loyal following.

Chef Kengo offers Omakase “leave the selections to the chef” at the 5-seat sushi bar, which allows guests to experience a two-hour, 12 to 14 course, culinary journey. For those looking for an intimate dining experience to pair with a glass of sake, look no further than Kengo Sushi and Yakitori.

Owner Kengo Kato recommends: “Both Shobu and Kengo sushi carry a highly allocated sake called Naginata that I love. It is actually brewed in the state of Oregon, not Japan. I also enjoy a sake called Shirakabe from Kyoto Japan and Dassai 45 from Yamaguchi Japan.”


5577 Monroe Street



Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 2 pm; 5 pm – 9:30 pm

Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am to 2 pm; 5 pm – 10:30 pm

KotoBuki stands as a haven for sake enthusiasts. Guests can explore an array of sake varieties, from crisp Junmai Ginjo to velvety Junmai Daiginjo, each meticulously paired with authentic Japanese cuisine.

KotoBuki’s tranquil ambiance and attentive service make it a cherished dining destination for locals and visitors alike, showcasing Toledo’s evolving appreciation for the art of sake and the rich cultural tapestry it represents.

Owner Dennis Chung recommends: “Our standard house sake is Sho Chiku Bai. It’s Ginjo, a cold sake, and it’s not super exotic, just our house sake. It’s consumed cold. On the finer end, Hakutsuru Sayuri, an unfiltered sake, is also served cold.”

Kyoto Ka

6801 West Central Ave.



Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm; 4:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Friday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm; 4:30 pm – 10:30 pm

Saturday, noon to 10:30 pm

Kyoto Ka is a culinary gem that captivates diners with its innovative fusion of Japanese flavors. This intimate restaurant combines precision and creativity, serving up dishes like sushi rolls and udon paired with traditional Japanese sake. 

The restaurant’s commitment to fresh, high-quality ingredients and impeccable presentation adds to the unique and unforgettable experience that continues to draw food enthusiasts seeking a taste of the extraordinary.

General Manager Jason Cho recommends: “Bride of the Fox, a savory sake that fits well with meat dishes. Or, Moon on the Water; it has a little bit of sweet to it. This one fits well with shellfish like scallops, or it fits well with dark chocolate.”

Domo Sushi

6725 West Central Ave.



Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 am – 2 pm; 4:30 pm – 9 pm

Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 pm – 9 pm

Domo stands as a cherished destination for those seeking an authentic Japanese dining experience. This inviting establishment boasts a comprehensive sake selection, showcasing the diversity of this revered Japanese beverage.

The restaurant’s serene ambiance, complete with tatami rooms, provides a genuine taste of Japan. Toledo’s Domo has become a hub for those who appreciate the art of sake, making it an essential stop for enthusiasts exploring the city’s evolving sake landscape.

Owner Michael Song recommends: “Sweet and unfiltered: Sho Chiko Bai Nigori. Dry/Crisp and quality: Ozeki Karatamba.”

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