Japan Food Town in Wisma Atria was last week unveiled and opened to the public, with around a dozen Japanese establishments all under one roof on the fourth floor of the Orchard Road mall. What is of particular interest for sake fans is that among them is Dassai Bar, the first of its kind outside of Tokyo, Japan.
Sake connoisseurs would no doubt have heard of Dassai sake, made by Asahishuzo Brewery from Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture. Interestingly even though Yamaguchi prefecture has a rich rice growing tradition, Dassai uses only Yamadanishiki rice – the most prized varietal for brewing sake – sourced from other prefectures such as Hyogo (the varietal’s birthplace), Okayama, Fukuoka, Tokushima and Shiga.
Also somewhat unique is that Asahishuzo only makes junmai daiginjo sakes, and its range of premium sakes is made with exactly the same recipe – all of them are made with Yamadanishiki rice, the same yeast strain, clean local water, and exactly the same production methods. The only thing that differs between each expression is the polishing rate, so the Dassai 50, for example, has the rice milled down to 50% of its kernels remaining while the Dassai 23 has the rice milled all the way down till only 23% of each kernel remains.
Rice Polishing rate is a mark of quality in sake. The outer layers of a rice grain contains high concentrations of protein, which generally imparts a flavour unwanted in quality sake. Removing the outer layers of the rice kernels helps to achieve the refined flavours sought after by aficionados.
The 25-seater Dassai Bar in Wisma Atria’s Japan Food Town will carry eight different expressions, and will feature exclusive sakes not found in other places in Singapore. Most notable (and priciest) is the Dassai Beyond ($1,100 per bottle, $170 for 90ml pour), which sees a staggering rice milling rate of under 23% for the most delicate floral notes in white flowers, and tropical fruit notes of fresh-cut pineapple, Japanese peach and lychee.
The Dassai 23 ($194 per bottle, $25 for 90ml pour) is better priced, and has a rounder palate that’s rich with orchard fruit flavours in apple and pear. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan once gifted US President Barack Obama with a Dassai 23 once, so we reckon it must be pretty decent.
The best way to enjoy the sakes here, though, is with its tasting sets ranging from $15 to $60 that allows you to try different expressions. If sake is not your thing, you’re pretty much out of luck. The only option then is its single cocktail offering, the Sakura Sling ($28, pictured below), which is actually exceptionally delicious. Made with Dassai 50, Calvados, Chartreuse, hibiscus syrup and elderflower liqueur, it’s sweet, fruity and punchy all at once.
Dassai Bar’s snack menu is exceptionally traditional; that means the otsumami can sound frightful to those not familiar with Japanese cuisine. Take for example the Shrimp with Fish Guts ($25), or Dried Sea Cucumber Ovaries ($35), both of which are delightfully umami (to the Japanese palate, at least), pair well with sake, and tastes better than they sound. Sounding a lot more palatable is the Dassai Sake Cake ($8), a butter cake made with sake lees.
“We believe that diners in Singapore are more educated and have a higher appreciation for premium sake. Through the Dassai Bar, we hope to further educate diners in Singapore about the intricacies that go into making premium sake, and even how to pair sake properly,” says Kazuhiro Sakurai (main picture), the fourth generation owner of Asahishuzo brewery, who was in town for the official opening of the bar.
But despite the crowds that are expected to swamp Japan Food Town, you may be well advised to visit Dassai Bar as soon as you can. According to Kazuhiro Sakurai Dassai Bar is actually a pop-up space that will be in Japan Food Town for only six months.
“The main idea is to introduce Singapore to Dassai sake. We’ll see how the response is like and decide whether to continue after the six months is up,” he adds.
Dassai Bar is located in Japan Food Town, situated on the 4th floor of Wisma Atria at 435 Orchard Rd.