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We're open for online orders, store pick up, and same-day door service. (415) 355-9555.

Sake Stuff - Yelp - You - & True Sake

sake stuff april 2009Let me be the first to say it - I'm an old fuddy-duddy (Man I like typing that - fuddy-duddy- fuddy-duddy). So I am not a real big tweeter or yelper or facebooker or whatever. I still send smoke signals from one mountain range to another. But alas, all of the cool "with it" people that I know do all of these neat electronic smoke signals. They Tweet - They Face - They Yelp. They are on the cutting edge of information and information dissemination. When that information dissemination has to do with True Sake then I get a bit interested.

We get a great deal of folks who come in the store and say - "Man you get a lot of great reviews on Yelp." At first I was uncertain what Yelp was, but would nod my head and say "You bet!" After several Yelpers admitted that they found the store using this tool - I had to figure out what in the hell it was. Was it a country? A city ? A cult? A band? A collective of extraterrestrials? Well in a word I found out that Yelp was all of that! So I started reading. And reading. And reading. I was really proud that our efforts at True Sake were noticed in such a positive way. Then it happened. A two star. Huh? No WAY!

One yelper wrote a pretty harsh review of the store that was factually incorrect - so I asked Lynette to help me respond. I wrote a nice personal email explaining one or two issues that the author had a problem with at the store. He responded and I followed-up. He was a nice guy. Lo and behold he changed his review to 4 stars - thank you. But it was then that I saw the power of Yelp - not the positives, but rather the negatives. The nice reviews were/are ummmm nice! Greatly appreciated - super greatly appreciated. The negative reviews hurt. It's like a person stands up in the middle of a room with a bullhorn and says, "Beau Timken is a big turd." And I am sitting in the corner with my arms tied behind my back and duct tape over my mouth. I have no way of saying - I am not a big turd. But it's too late - it's out there and I am guilty of being a big turd.

Over the course of the next year I asked Lynette to share the negative reviews with me - another two star came and I wrote a nice long email to this person as well, explaining where she may have gotten something wrong. This person did not reply. My two star stood - "Beau Timken Is a Big Turd." Well you catch my drift. The power of Yelp is undeniable. The consequences of Yelp are numerous. And the importance of Yelp on sake is not lost on me. So I asked Lynette to pick a smattering of Yelp reviews and comment as she saw fit. So herewith is an assortment of Yelp reviews that Lynette has personally added her thoughts to and let me be the first to say, "Lynette is a big turd." (Just joking - the True Sake team is THE BEST - all Yelping aside)

Jaden V. from San Francisco, CA 7.30.07:
The first words out of my mouth were "I really don't know anything about Sake and I'm hoping you could help me." The very friendly lady behind the counter was more than glad to explain some of the various Sakes to me. She asked me what I was planning on eating with the Sake. I told her we were planning on doing some Japanese grilling. She asked me how many people and what my budget was. I thought that was pretty great! She suggested a few bottles, and I got the impression she really wanted me to be happy with what I purchased.

Shen B. from San Jose, CA on 8.8.08:
"Don't be intimidated if you don't know where to start. The people here are really helpful, and if you are too shy to ask for help, take the time to read the descriptions, they're pretty dead on."

KevCheng from Los Angeles, CA writes on 1.3.07:
"Thankfully the staff knows their stuff, I was a little shy about describing what I like, after all, what the hell do I know about sake? But they suggested a few and we picked up 3 based on their recommendations, and they were all excellent and very likable in their own way. What a store. I can't wait to come back."

Aaron T. from San Francisco, CA 6.9.08:
"It was great to be able to browse in peace and then ask for help when I was ready."

These are perfect examples of what happens every day at True Sake. There are some people who need to be helped right away and others who don't need help at all. But most people, I've noticed, are like Aaron and want to look around first, read some reviews, and take it all in. I try my best to read people but sometimes I am wrong. I don't want to hound people the minute they walk in, which is why we always say "Let me know if you have any questions" to anyone who enters the door. (If I forget I sincerely apologize!) But we truly want to help. If you're shy, keep in mind that there are NO stupid questions (I remember what it was like to know nothing about sake) and we are all very nice people. Please feel free to interrupt us if we look busy at the counter. Many times we are on the computer answering emails from customers, distributers or brewers themselves, doing sake research, finishing up shipping orders, creating a new window display, or trying to compose the newsletter you are reading now. But you are our number one priority and we are at your service!

Yuka I. from San Francisco, CA 6.2.08:
"1 star less for the selection. Most of these sake can be found at any high end Japanese restaurants and Whole Foods. I was hoping to find bottles that I've never seen before, but I have to say I've seen 85% of what they carry at places I've worked or eaten at.

I've noticed more reviews like this in the past year and at first, I must admit that I had mixed feelings about this. Really? Not a good selection? I was used to hearing the opposite. But then I thought, Wait! This is one of our goals! It's actually a great thing that people are seeing more premium sake in their grocery stores and restaurants. That means you, the consumers, are making these sakes more popular by educating yourselves on what's good and creating a higher standard. Hopefully True Sake has helped guide you in this process. Now, don't forget to look at the bottling date also. Some restaurants and grocery stores don't know that fresher is better. Or maybe they know and mark the price down. Hopefully not the latter. With all this said, I do understand what this reviewer is saying. Once a certain sake becomes readily available outside our store, we do like to "take a break" from it and replace it with something new and different. Our Monthly Sake Selects and the new arrivals that we bring in every month also help rotate new sakes through the store. Sometimes people ask why we don't sell domestic sake. One reason is because you can find it everywhere else. The next reviewer makes another good point:

Dawoud H. from Los Angeles, CA 7.19.08:
"As some other reviewers have noted, the selection here isn't extremely wide but it's a small shop with limited space and they do a good job of offering quality sake instead of everything their distributor throws at them which is what most Japanese grocery stores in the US tend to do."

Thank you for noticing this Dawoud! People often ask us if we've tried everything in the store. Beau and Miwa? Yes. Me? Almost there! We know our product. We actually try more that what's offered in the store and believe me, even if it's rare, not all of it "passes." You can trust that we have our customers in mind when it comes to the True Sake seal of approval.

Margaret G. from San Francisco 12.8.08:
"The selection is great and the little descriptions that Beau writes up for each bottle - it's invaluable. The rest of the check-out staff seems like check-out staff but that's why the little tags are written there for me."

:-( Oh man, I'm so hurt! Yes, we are a "check-out staff" but we are a check-out staff that knows their sake. Unfortunately, Beau isn't able to work all day every day. And yes, the reviews above each bottle are all that some people need to choose the best sake for the evening. Or day. But the last thing we want is for anybody to be left helpless and alone, scratching their head and staring blankly into the fridge. Please use us as valuable resources for all your sake needs. Miwa, our manager, is also a Sake Sommelier (by Sake Service Institute, Japan) and Sake Specialist (by the Sake Education Council). I have no formal titles but working here for three years now and learning from these great masters, I'd like to think that I know a bit more about sake than the average person. And of course, many of you have probably met Keiko who is our newest addition to the True Sake team. She soaks up information like a sponge and has learned a great deal about sake in just the few weeks that she has been here. Plus, she also used to work at Yoshi's so sake is far from new to her. So ask away! We will be happy to explain exactly what's in front of you, try to answer all of your sake questions, make suggestions based on your preferences and then, when you are ready, we will even ring you up at the counter.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has reviewed True Sake. We try to check the yelp site somewhat regularly to see what people have to say. The feedback is always appreciated. Perhaps I should point out though that most of our customers are not Yelp reviewers. And that's just fine! But we would like to hear from you if you have something to say. So if you have any thoughts, good, bad, things we could work on, anything! please go to:

Here, all who log on to the site will be able to read your comments. Or if you prefer, you may also email us at info @

We take all suggestions to heart and are constantly trying to improve our business in every possible way.

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