If you’re wondering why saké is so hot right now, head to Tsubaki, the small izakaya restaurant around the bend from Dodger Stadium. Courtney Kaplan and Charles Namba are devoted to saké in all its forms, at Tsubaki as well as at Ototo, a saké bar next door. Namba runs both kitchens, plating bar snacks at Ototo and small plates at Tsubaki of the kind he grew up with in Japan—chicken-heart skewers, grilled pork jowl with a kanzuri miso glaze, black cod with chrysanthemum greens, and savory udon with wagyu brisket, sliced as fine as paper.
Kaplan likes to remind you that izakaya literally translates “stay saké place,”and tries to live up to the challenge: In addition to an enviable wine list of mostly French selections, Kaplan’s annotated saké list contains numerous rare bottlings, many only found here, including a selection of shiboritate sakés, a “nouveau” brew rushed to market and flush with youthful energy.
Tsubaki/Ototo is part of our Top 30 LA List of 2023. Read the whole story here.
Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.
This story appears in the print issue of Spring 2023.
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