Sake in Los Angeles has broken out of its role as a warm accompaniment to tempura and maki rolls. Sake of all categories and regions are now common in restaurants beyond those exclusively Japanese.
My guest is Kerry Tamura, who’s family blazed trails in Japanese-style hospitality in Chicago, with Shino, Café Shino and Murasake Lounge. Success came to the Tamuras particularly in the 80’s when many Japanese contract employees of the auto industry moved to the Chicago area to be near the action. Shino and Café Shino served this new Japanese population with high end food and drink as well as a hostess bar component unique to the midwest. In the last incarnation of the restaurant, Kerry reconceived it as a sake lounge after experiencing widespread demand for premium sake at the now-closed Japonais by Morimoto where he was working at the time. Kerry and his mother cashed out of the newly viable business a few years later and Kerry came to live in L.A. With him he brought the understanding that sake is on a fast track to acceptance and popularity in the U.S. and that Los Angeles is ground zero for this potential with its large asian population and tourism industry as well as America’s increasing fascination with all things Japanese. And so it was natural that Kerry quickly got involved with World Sake Imports. Based in Honolulu, it has forged strong bonds with some of the most important sake and shochu producers in Japan and has pioneered seasonal, unpasteurized sake delivered to clients from the breweries to L. A. in pristine condition. In our talk, Kerry holds forth about sake, his growing company and the expanding opportunities that we all have as sake becomes more popularized and adapted into mainstream food culture as a worthy and flexible accompaniment.