Mandarin Oriental sommelier claims top sake spot

Kaoru Izuha, assistant manager of Sushi Sora, Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, beat 25,000 trained sake competitors to take top honours at this year’s prestigious Kikisake-shi (sake sommelier) Category of the Third Kikisake-shi World Championship.

Kaoru Izuha, assistant manager of Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo’s sushi restaurant Sushi SORA

Now in its third year, the Kikisake-shi World Championship is sponsored by the Sake Service Institute and has the aim of selecting the world’s best sake sommeliers. The competition is a rigourous series of tests, assessing the competitors’ comprehensive knowledge and skills of Japan’s national drink.

It naturally requires a detailed knowledge of the fermented rice wine whilst also testing the competitors’ tasting skills, their sensitivity to customer needs and how best to pair sake with a variety of dishes.

“Many customers choose sake by brand,” Izuha said. “But in the same way as people select wine to go with different dishes, I recommend that they select sake according to the sushi items they order.

“That way you can fully enjoy the finest features of both the sake and the sushi. At Sushi Sora, we make recommendations for delightful encounters that will perfectly match customers’ tastes.”

Izuha, who first gained sake sommelier qualifications at the beginning of her hospitality career and has also trained as a wine sommelier, to better hone her understanding of pairing drinks with food, says that “every sip is a unique union between sake, cuisine and environment which creates a culinary experience.”

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