We were headed to Chicago for a book fair and, of course, I wanted to find a fun place to drink saké. I wrote to the Chicago Chowhounds board and someone enthusiastically recommended Meiji.
I went there with three friends, one a fellow saké drinker. We ordered by the glass because we wanted to taste as many sakés as possible. I happen to like slightly sweeter sakés and my friend Al prefers them more dry and the waiter gave reasonable recommendations based on this.
First I tried the Karen "Coy" junmai ($12/glass). This was actually way too sweet for me. I haven't found the SMV on this, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was -60. Still, I would love to get my hands on the label. It's so pretty: as Tim at urbansake.com says, "the über-pink bottle perfectly captures the taste." He awards it his Golden Masu for "Biggest Barbie Wannabe" and I couldn't agree more. [Update! This just in: I happily found the September issue of True Sake's newsletter in my inbox today and found a nice review of Karen Coy by guest reviewer Mark Bright. His review along with True Sake's tasting notes actually sound so tempting, I now want to give this saké a second chance! Also, nb: SMV -23, acidity 2.9, alcohol 10%.]
Al ordered the Masumi junmai ($8/glass) and this was the hands down favorite of the night. With an SMV of +3 it was dry, but not too dry for my taste. I wish that I could do it justice with a description, but, unfortunately, I only got a sip of it.
Next I had the Umenishiki Junmai Ginjo ($11/glass). John Gauntner discussed the brewery in his July '06 newsletter and said: "Umenishiki has a lot of diversity across its products, but the one thing that they all share is clean, focused flavors that almost radiate quality...The junmai ginjo is clean, bright and sharp with a cleansing acidity melon and citrus flavors and aromas." This was my second favorite of the evening.
The final saké that we tried was Dewazakura "Oka" Junmai Ginjo ($10/glass). This was also a popular choice. In fact, I was surprised by how much I liked Al's drier sakés. I guess I am still learning my own taste!
*Grade: Ginjyoshu(50%), Nihonshu-do: +5, Acidity: 1.2, Rice: Miyama-Nishiki,Yukigesyo, Yeast: Ogawa, Alcohol: 15.5%.
By the way, the food at Meiji was delicious. We had a friend along who absolutely refuses to eat raw fish and even she managed to find some things she found yummy, including chicken skewers with spicy sweet miso, sweet and sour plum and teriyaki sauce and the Asparagus Ribeye Roll with enoki mushrooms and teriyaki glaze. I highly recommend the Yuri roll and all agreed the nigiri was fresh and tasty.