Warsaw’s Japanese wave grows stronger yet with the opening of Sakamoto-ya…
After the sushi explosion that began at the start of the millennium, Warsaw’s mania for Japan found itself sizzling down like a willow firework in the hazy winter sky – some exceptional restaurants aside, mediocrity became the bi-word. To this day, a small scattering of restaurants that slice it up to a pretty high standard have remained, but the focus has now shifted towards places that offer a more unique approach to Japanese culinary culture.
For example, there’s the robatayaki-grilled dishes of Japonka and the onigiri (think rice hot pockets shaped into triangles wrapped in seafood) of Niigata; and who can forget, of course, the premium dining at Nobu, a place that’s recently expanded on its Japanese credentials to open a deluxe sake bar. Then, for the DIY experience, there’s no shortage of pop-up markets selling artisanal Japanese products – in this case, Hala Gwardii and Mysia 3 spring to mind. But what’s really stolen our heart of late? Well that’s the Sakamoto-ya store.
Sporting a traditional noren in the doorway with two crossed arrows to symbolize truce or friendship, Sakamoto-ya is a small shop that’s big on premium Japanese products. Proudly stating that they are the number one importer of sake from Japan, you see from their selection that that’s definitely more than just a sales pitch – moreover, don’t be surprised to be engaged in tasting a few should you share an interest in these high quality items.
Another highlight is their own Japanese tea brand MON TEA as created by the owner, Mr. Sakamoto himself. Choices of matcha are available, though for our favorite look to the genmai cha (green tea with roasted rice). Keeping on the theme of beverages, the Owa beer is also of interest – a Japanese-Belgian collaboration brewed in the latter, and a good substitute given the hardships involved in importing beers straight from Japan.
The onigiri is a must for a quick bite, but do also stay for their authentic udon bowls – for sure, you’ll be stocking up on ingredients after to see if you can replicate their version at home. And for the sweet-minded that dare try new things, try their mochi – a glutinous rice cake that carries a high wallop of sweetness that’ll brighten even the greyest of days.
Keep an eye on their Facebook to partake in events such as their shochu v sake tastings – attending is like an invitation to a masterclass in Japanese culture.