Our trips to a local sake tasting room used to include traveling to the East Village, heading down a flight of stairs and waiting in a dimly lit room for a table or bar space. All this would occur in Decibel, one of our favorite sake and small Japanese plates restaurant. Now Yuki Mori, former general manager of Decibel, has teamed up with Rick Takemoto to bring the sake experience to Greenport.
“We are a sake tasting room first and foremost,” says Takemoto of Stirling Sake in Greenport. Takemoto left his advertising job and his native Japan in 2005. Once on Long Island he wanted a change of pace, so he channeled his childhood and started making sushi. “Growing up, my mom and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen,” says Takemoto. “It wasn’t professional training but it was good home cooking.” Eventually, his new surroundings influenced his craft and he started hosting wine and sushi pairings.
Takemoto met Mori through a mutual friend who just happened to work for a sake distributor. Mori was looking to open his own sake tasting room and the rest sort of fell into place. Though busy with Stirling, Mori still spends a lot of time traveling to Japan to visit breweries. These relationships allow him to get special sake like taru, which is served from wooden casks. Many brewers from Japan have also made the reverse trip. “They’re fascinated by it; he’s in the middle of wine country,” says Takemoto.
The pair brought on New York City-based chef Akio Kon to execute a complementary food menu. Kon already had a fondness for Greenport; he’s been fishing in the area for 20 years. Much of the fish they serve is caught locally and the small, concise menu is aimed to showcase and complement the sake. During our visit, we enjoyed a sake flight paired with tamago sushi and house made pickles. Mori was available for assistance when ordering and he personally delivered the sake and explained each one.
Mori eventually aspires to produce his own brand of sake—but don’t ask for it hot. Stirling does not believe in “hot” sake and instead serves it warm to maintain its essence. Stirling is at 477 Main Street in Greenport.