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Mandarin Oriental’s Sommelier Achieves Top Sake Honor

(Tokyo, Japan) – Kaoru Izuha, Assistant Manager of Sushi SORA,  Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, beat out 25,000 trained sake competitors to take top honors at this year’s prestigious Kikisake-shi (sake sommelier) Category of the Third Kikisake-shi World Championship.

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, and their sensitivity to customer needs and how best to pair sake with a variety of dishes.

Kaoru gained a basic knowledge of wine from her parents. She studied and obtained a sake sommelier certification while working at her first hotel position in a Japanese restaurant, which required an extensive knowledge of Japanese beverages to be able to make recommendations to customers. To broaden her knowledge of beverages, she learned all she could about wine and became a certified wine sommelier as well.

After familiarizing herself with both sake and wine, she gained an appreciation for the very wide range in variety of both drinks. She concludes sake cannot be simply expressed by terms such as ‘dry’ or ‘dolce’, but rather every sip is a unique union between sake, cuisine and environment which creates a culinary experience.

Izuha is the Assistant Manager at Sushi SORA, at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo which is an Edo-mae (traditional Tokyo style) sushi restaurant. “Many customers choose sake by brand,” she says, “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. For example, for the coming season, I would suggest a mellow sake with a rich aroma to complement marbled bluefin tuna, or a dry and crispier sake with a refreshing aroma for winter yellowtail or halfbeak. At Sushi SORA, we make recommendations for delightful encounters that will perfectly match customers’ tastes.”

Izuha says that “every sip is a unique union between sake, cuisine and environment which creates a culinary experience.”

SOURCE: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

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