Try 391 Sakes at the Joy of Sake Festival

Sake sippers will celebrate the largest sake-sampling event out of Japan on July 31 in Honolulu.
Photos: Gregory Yamamoto 


Honolulu’s sake insiders can taste a record number of rice brews in the 15th year of the Joy of Sake Honolulu July 31 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.


And this year, 21 restaurants will cook up sake-inspired appetizers, including some of the newest eateries in town. They include Hale Ōhuna, Lee Anne Wong’s upcoming noodle/sake bar; Mission Social Hall & Café, Mark Noguchi’s latest lunch spot; and a chance to learn more about chef Chris Kajioka’s upcoming venture in Kaimukī.


Kajioka, the chef who opened Vintage Cave Honolulu, is slated to debut his new place later this year, maybe by fall. For this event, he’s preparing sake-cured ikura with potato pureé, grain furikake and green apple.


The event celebrates all things sake at the largest sake-sampling festival outside of Japan. Our community heritage of Japanese immigration helps explain why we had our own historic brewery and can boast more sake-serving restaurants per capita than any other U.S. city.



Sake expert Lito Pineda recently led a group of media types through Sake 101 explaining the difference between traditional junmai, ginjo and ultra-premium daiginjo. Part of the key is the amount to which the rice is milled or polished before being brewed. As you’d expect, the more polishing, the more expensive.


SEE ALSO: 2015 Joy of Sake Media Preview


But Pineda urges drinkers to sip to enjoy and discover their personal preferences. He suggests tasting across the spectrum to find sake that is alternately fruity, sweet, actually ricey, all the way to complex, elegant, nuanced flavors.


 “When you taste sake, there are stages of tasting,” Pineda says. “First the aroma,” followed by taste, body and balance.


Other restaurants serving at the festival include The Pig and the Lady, Chef Chai,  Highway Inn, MW Restaurant, Chez Kenzo, the Halekūlani, Banzai Sushi Bar and Migrant Maui. Onopops promises some locally concocted pops with a twist, including a new umeshu plum sake flavor.


After Honolulu, the Joy of Sake debuts in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace on Sept. 19, then the tour heads to Tokyo Nov. 5.


Joy of Sake, 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 31 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Tickets start at $95 general admission pre-sale, $105 at the door and $145 for an extra hour of early access, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Hawai‘i Convention Center,