Stirling Sake brings sake tasting to Long Island Wine Country

Stirling Sake owner and sake sommelier Yuki Mori behind the bar at his Greenport restaurant. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Stirling Sake owner and sake sommelier Yuki Mori behind the bar at his Greenport restaurant. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The North Fork is a place where the refrain “drink local” is often heard, but at one new Greenport restaurant, the focus is on a beverage that’s anything but.

Sake sommelier Yuki Mori, formerly general manager of the Manhattan restaurant Decibel, has brought authentic Japanese cuisine to the village with the opening of Stirling Sake in September.

Although the restaurant offers a full menu of Japanese items, like Yokohama gyoza and seaweed salad, the star of the show is Japanese rice wine.

“It’s all about the sake here,” said marketing director Rick Takemoto. “Our cuisine is to pair with sake.”

Mori, who owns the venture along with family members and Japanese investors, has brought in chef Akio Kon, a Japanese native who has worked with celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa in South America, to oversee the kitchen.

“Akio lived in Peru and loves to fish. He doesn’t consider himself a sushi chef — although he is a great one — he’s a fisherman,” Takemoto said.

In addition to the traditional menu, Kon offers a $65 tasting option that includes edamame, ceviche seared tuna with yuzu miso, seven sushi pieces of the chef’s choosing and a California roll, all capped off with green tea matcha gelato.

“If you went to Japan right now, this is the stuff you would experience,” Takemoto said.

The dining room of Stirling Sake in Greenport. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The dining room of Stirling Sake in Greenport. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The interior decor features clean lines and simple furnishings. The cherrywood bar was made by a Spanish crafter and the place settings at the wooden tables consist only of a small dipping dish, a napkin, a pair of chopsticks and jars of soy sauce. The walls are nearly bare save for a projector displaying Japanese videos, including a look at the sake-making process.

“It’s about energy, it’s about good chi,” Takemoto said. “It’s very cultural.”

The restaurant also features an oden pot, a metal box where vegetables and eggs are simmered in bonito broth.

Mori, a native of Fukuoka, Japan, said he was drawn to the East End after Takemoto sold him on the area.

“I like the weather here and it’s still in New York so I can get a great selection of sake,” Mori said. “New York has the best selection of sake in the States.”

The sake menu currently features about 18 selections from Japanese sake breweries, though Mori has additional offerings behind the bar as well. The sake varies in taste and quality, determined by variables like what water is used, alcohol content and the rice polishing rate. The more the rice is polished, the better the sake quality.

Sake can be sipped out of this cedar box. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Sake can be sipped out of this cedar box. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Mori showed a few of the sake options available at the restaurant, from Ikezo, an easy drinking peach-flavored sake with a gelatin-like consistency, to Kamoizumi shusen sake, made in Hiroshima.

“It’s a very unique taste,” he said of the latter. “Mushroomy, earthy.”

Jamesport Vineyards winemaker Dean Babiar said he has visited Stirling Sake more than a dozen times in the short time it’s been open and is enjoying the education that comes with being a regular customer.

“I keep trying new things and have now started to realize what I like. Some sakes can be drier in style and some can be more full-bodied,” he said, adding that he leans toward the fuller-bodied unpasteurized sakes. “It’s similar to certain white wines. I’ll find different subtleties that remind me of certain grape varieties, similar textures and aromas that are found in Spanish whites or sauvignon blancs.”

It’s an experience, Takemoto acknowledges, that cannot be easily found on eastern Long Island.

“I think people are looking for something more traditional,” Takemoto said. “This is the real deal.”

Vera Chinese