The vision and dedication of the owners has included sending some of us lucky ones on trips to Japan to deepen our understanding of Japanese culture. I was also grateful to be sent to Toronto to study sake with John Gauntner in 2015. Like many restaurants, ours had to undergo the many challenges of the pandemic. Izanami has gone above and beyond any other in the area to provide the safest dining experiences. I was thankful that the pandemic made a lot more of the education available online, so I did three more certifications in sake studying under Michael Tremblay and Timothy Sullivan. Ten Thousand Waves has been a Japanese style spa for over 40 years and has continued evolving into one of the best spas in the world. The education of the staff on such things as sake, has in turn, been passed on to locals and tourists alike. It’s also no surprise that I am now finding quality sake at other favorite restaurants in town, such as Sweetwater, Joseph, and Tune-Up that are not even close to Japanese cuisine.
Some of the sake I’ve noticed a lot of customers enjoy recently, are what Izanami is most known for, which is the unpasteurized Namesake. It’s always what I look for when I am out enjoying a new Japanese restaurant, in part because they are hard to come by. ‘Kaze No Mori’ is always crowd pleaser from Nara. This Muroka Nama Genshu is unique in that it uses local rice and has a natural effervescence. Another seasonal favorite style at Izanami is hot sake, due to our restaurant being at almost 8000 feet. It’s up the mountains, receives snow in the winter and is close to the local ski resort. One of my favorite kan sake or hot sake is ‘Great Peaceful Mountain’ Junmai Kimoto from the Kodama brewery in Akita. There might be a bit of irony in heating up a sake from the brewery that was the first to showcase cold sake in competition, but this Kimoto, like many others reveals more umami when heated. When customers ask for a lovely Junmai Daiginjo, they are never disappointed with the ‘Tenko Junmai Daiginjo’ from Kodama Brewery or the Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo, also from Akita.
As a lover of travel, I frequently recommend restaurants and sake spots to customers and also love to ask for recommendations if I plan on traveling to where they are from. A bittersweet moment for many guests is discovering quality sake for their first time and worrying that there is no possible way they can find it back home. I let people know that they can order a lot of the sake that we carry at True Sake online. I also love to order new ones that we don’t have in New Mexico, as well as learn a lot more about what’s out there.