I’ll admit that I’ve never been a big Sake fan, most likely because all I ever tried was the hot stuff that came out of the big box at Japanese restaurants. And even the hot sake I drank was added to beer as part of a “sake bomb”, so yeah… I never really saw the attraction. My attraction to amazing noodles, however, brought me to my favorite local spot, Mirin, a few days ago, and on this visit owner Griffin Paulin was able to showcase some of the recent changes to the menu. I knew I wanted a spicy double soup, and I knew that he added Sake to the menu, so that made a great excuse for me to head into Clifton and check it out.
When Americans refer to Sake, we are referring to a type of rice wine that takes root in Japanese culture. Often used ceremonially, the alcoholic beverage is made using a brewing process that is somewhat similar to beer. The alcohol content is usually comparable to wine (15 – 20%), even though the process is completely different than winemaking. I enjoy wine, and I enjoy beer. My palate is not terribly shabby when it comes to either of these things, but with sake, I need some assistance. Griffin helped me through the entire meal and sake tasting by imparting the recent wisdom he had gained from tasting and deciding on which products to include on his menu. For a guy who “didn’t really know much about sake until recently”, he certainly was able to give me quite a bit of insight into this squirrely beverage as I made my way through 3 distinctly different sake brands. All of this sake was served cold. Many of Mirin’s offerings come in two sizes: bottle and pour. Some of the bottles are larger than others, so Griffin is able to offer a pour, which is a small sake jar. The bottle price is much more cost effective, though, so even if you don’t have anyone to split it with you can take it home and enjoy it at a later date. Here’s what I tasted:
- Ozeki Dry Sake | $12 (bottle) – This is a great starter kit when you’re wanting to test the waters in sake land. As it says in the name, it is dry. Other than that it seems to be really well-balanced and easy drinking with a nice finish.
- Kiku Masamune Taru | $12 (pour) $40 (bottle) – This sake will take you miles above the starter kits. It’s packing a completely different set of characteristics than the Ozeki. While it is still a little dry (though not nearly as dry as Ozeki), you will notice some peppery notes coming through on this one. It’s a real party in your mouth.
- Kikusui Junmai Ginjo | $17 (pour) $65 (bottle) – To me, this one was neither sweet nor dry, however I detected some vanilla notes in there, which almost lead me to believe that there was a little sweetness to it. Again, the characteristics were incredibly diverse, and I wanted more.
While it was my first real experience with quality sake, I am excited to go back and try some others. I want gain some knowledge in this arena now that I know how delicious it can be.
In addition to the fabulous sake list, Mirin added some craft beers. The list is very well-thought out, and the size of it the just about perfect. There are a couple of righteous IPAs, a couple of lighter options like golden ale and pilsner. There’s also some local flavor on there, a couple of Japanese beers and that’s about it. One of Griffin’s recommendations to me was a citrus-infused wheat beer called “Lil Darlin” by Mill Creek Brewing Co out of Nolensville, TN. Griffin specifically told me that this beer went really well with the flavors in their food, and he wasn’t lying. That beer was a tasty treat, but drinking it alongside my spicy double soup was a win-win. Again, I really feel like this list was created purposefully so that the food would shine through as the star that it is.
If there’s ever been a constantly evolving and improving restaurant, this is it. I loved everything I tasted on my first trip to Mirin, and I couldn’t get enough. Each time I show up there for lunch or dinner, it gets even better. I encourage you to get down Frankfort Ave and have yourself an eating and drinking experience like this. Mirin is located at 2011 Frankfort Ave Louisville, KY 40206 and is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
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