In Japanese, the word “sake” simply means “alcoholic beverage.” Developed around 713 A.D., the fermented rice cocktail remains an essential part of Asian cuisine. How the libation is consumed depends totally on the suggested temperature at which to sip or down it. With so many bars in and around Los Angeles that serve sake, it’s always best to choose one that specializes in the correct manner in which to enjoy the drink’s effectiveness sufficiently. Here are some of the best bars in LA that recognize sake as both a premium signature offering and gracious gift from Japan.
Yen Sushi & Sake Bar
11819 Wilshire Blvd., Stuite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90025
If you prefer to indulge in the dignified grace of chef-prepared sushi and the flavorful taste of premium sake, this Brentwood location is worth a visit. Daily specials include economical servings of Japanese delicacies consisting of fresh red meat and seafood. Either hot or cold sake works well with such dishes as sashimi with garlic ponzu, soft-shell crab roll, salmon teriyaki and barbecued ribs. Bar tabs on many items are reduced during the weekday hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
1266 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
There is good reason this cozy establishment near UCLA has been a sake and sushi lover’s favorite since 1975. At Asuka, bar chefs prefer serving sake that nearly matches normal human body temperature. This way, the intoxicating effect of the liquid can be felt more quickly and with more punch after it’s quaffed. While waiting for your spirit-lifter to heat up to around 98.6 degrees F, you’ll enjoy watching world-class culinary artists prepare fresh sushi, sashimi and many other good fixings that’ll surely make your mouth water.
20356 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
Serious sake sippers in and around scenic Malibu know where to go whenever they’re ready for their senses to gleam. Against a backdrop of the mighty Pacific Ocean, patrons at this dramatic locale can relish sake by the glass or bottle while dining on such palatable dishes as Mediterranean octopus, pan-seared sea scallops and sake-braised short ribs. Moonshadows Malibu offers seven different types of the heady beverage, and all are infused with an array of flavorful fruit and organic spices.
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Hikari Sake House
401 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Located within walking distance of the beach and the Third Street Promenade, this drinking establishment has become a gathering spot during happy hour. Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., a small serving of hot sake carries just a $2 price tag. The beverage menu boasts several different types of the popular hot or cold drink, including kikusui ginjo, sho chiku bai nigori and the fan-favorite sake bomb. This brew is good for washing down such dishes as popcorn shrimp, yellowtail shashimi and the California roll.
137 Japanese Village Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
If authenticity is what you’re looking for, this top-rated eatery and prominent sake bar in the Little Tokyo district of downtown LA is where to go. Kagura’s notable list of alcoholic beverages includes more than 30 varieties of sake that are rated high in East Asia. Whether your taste is for chilled premium sake or hot and dry, you’ll be satisfied amply. First-timers are encouraged to start with its abundant sampler selections of sake along with some of the best dishes that are indigenous of the “Land of the Rising Son.”
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Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.