Tatsuya Iida reports on the Zakzak site about a sake bar pairing the Japanese drink with Italian food.
There are a warren of narrow back streets in the Sangenjaya area of Tokyo, crammed with bars and known as the "golden triangle" or "bar crawl heaven", and that's where you'll find Firenze Sake. Make your way to the recessed door and push, and you'll find a counter and kitchen on your left and tables and chairs on the right.
The counter is covered in wine glasses, and a blackboard lists the specials: anything so long as it's Italian, from salsiccia sausage to lasagne. Looking back at the counter, where your average visitor would expect to see wine, instead there's a selection of sake.
The first sake the writer tries is Kariho Kassei Rokushu from the Akita Seishu brewery. A light usu-nigori, the fizzy whitish liquid feels great going down.
Next is a buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomato caprese and wagyu tagliata (sliced steak), accompanied by a nama muroka from the Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute (still hard to find, as the so-called "god of brewing" came out of retirement only last year) and the Jugem junmai ginjō from Amabuki.
The bar staff are happy to advise on what sake goes with which Italian dish. Owner Mitsugu Kumagai also owns the Luna Piccola wine bar in the same area. He explains that although he had been working with Italian food for 20 years, he also loves Japanese cooking and so tried pairing with sake. That broke down the barrier between wine and sake for him, and brought him a new love of sake. When he suggested a sake bar serving Italian food, he found a kindred spirit in a regular at Luna Piccola - Manabu Mori, who was also Rakuten's head of research. He had just started a company to launch the Sake Wiz app, and brought in Keigo Hanafusa, then working as an Italian chef in Nishi-Azabu, and Kumagai's dream bar/restaurant opened its doors last summer.
Looking at how wine is enjoyed all over the world, Kumagai hopes the same for sake - that more people will come to know about it, and that the underlying culture will bring together producers, retailers and consumers.