A lot of bars like to make their own brand of beer nowadays, but the newest trend that’s brewing is making sake in house. Since sake is brewed from rice, it’s sometimes called “rice wine,” it is actually a little easier to brew and can be combined with many varieties of fruit to create a tasty brand of alcohol. It often has a slight apple-like taste and can be served cold, warm, or hot depending on the drink. Fortunately, there are many places to try this wonderful drink, quite a few in my hometown.
At the intersection of Catasauqua and airport road there is a small shopping center with Ichiban restaurant on the far left end of it as you turn in. The restaurant itself is huge, well lit with many booth seatings and classical decor. You’ll find many options for sake on the menu here that are imports from Japan. The Momokawa premium sampler is a great option but if you think you’ll like a fruitier flavoring the Moonstone sampler is good too, but my personal preferences are the Bonzai and Golden sake drinks. I don’t usually drink hot sake but the Golden is a clear exception.
As a general rule sake that is served cold is very well made and contains strong natural flavors, heating sake to make it warm or hot is a way of masking any natural flavors or lack thereof. You can heat up old sake and it won’t taste bad, and some restaurants do that, but as far as I can taste Ichiban does not.
You can find the next great sake place on Hamilton Boulevard, running straight out from the central plaza in downtown Allentown. A bit more ostentatious than Ichiban, Teppan Hibachi has a full wall painting of a mythic battle with a dragon as you walk in. There’s both a hibachi side and a restaurant and bar side, like Ichiban it is another big operation with a bright sake bar on the right as you walk in. Although the sake menu is not very varied the drinks are great, with the hot sake served in a crafe and cold sake in bottles. I’d recommend the Haiku Saki personally.
There’s a new restaurant in the west end of Allentown that now serves sake. Lily sushi is a beautiful building at the intersection of Walbert and Nineteenth Street. The atmosphere is darker than the places listed above in the attempt to add sophistication and ambiance. Once you walk in to the front of house and turn left into the bar you’ll find a rectangular bar with the left side of the room lined with booths. One interesting option is the sake martini, made with vermouth and is more of a dry version of genuine sake, but good. While the Takara Plum is a good drink you should try the Crazy Milk if you’ve got the money for it at $14 per glass. It’s mixed in such a way to make it a creamy and unique drink.
Robata of Tokyo
Deeper in the heart of the city of Allentown you’ll find Robata on Ninth Street. This place is a little darker than all the rest, with lighting provided by overhead hanging lights, but serves a pretty good assortment of sake drinks, including a sake martini that is similar to Lily Sushi’s. They also have a three sake sampler and the Rising Sun has a strong taste of plum to it that I enjoy.
With our modern economy no matter where you live you probably have access to great drinks, and the places above also have a full menu, and if you’ve never tried it before I can testify that sake is a wonderful beverage and a great thing to say you’ve experienced.