When I first encountered sake sommelier Keita Akaboshi several years ago, he was working for a sake importer by day, consulting on the side, and devoting his nights to pouring his favorite brewed beverage at midtown’s Sushi Tsushima.
One memorable Halloween night, I watched him attend to the bar’s patrons with his characteristic enthusiasm and finesse, all while dressed from head to toe as a cute woodland creature. Later, when I heard that he was moving back to Japan to open a Japanese-Italian restaurant and sake bar, I mourned New York City’s loss. Luckily for me, on my most recent trip to Japan my friend and sake ambassador Etsuko-san took me to dinner at Akaboshi to Kumagai, his new restaurant.
Located in Azabu-Juban, a Tokyo neighborhood that manages to feel both cosmopolitan and traditional, the restaurant features a sleek bar stocked with over 150 types of sake. The dinner menu changes daily, and diners can opt for the tasting menu or order a la carte. Etsuko-san and I tried the multi-course tasting menu with sake pairings, which was both inspired and delicious. One of our favorites was a charcoal-grilled duck breast garnished with grated daikon and ponzu sauce, a stage for chef Michihiro Kumagai’s extraordinary technique and the quality ingredients he sources. For this dish, he used tender Challans duck from the Burgaud family business in the Vendée area of western-central France. Akaboshi’s pairings are all perfect, too; for this course it was a rich, full-bodied Kuroushi junmai from Wakayama Prefecture.