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Jan 21, 2010 06:52 PM

San Diego - Shochu bars/restaurants

Are there any shochu bars in San Diego? Or any good Japanese restaurant for shochu? To clarify, shochu is not sake and is made from barley, sweet potato, or rice and is higher in alcohol percentage than sake.

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  1. I believe Min Sook Cho (?) on Convoy, next to Korea House, is a sochu bar.

    1. More of a dining destination than straight-up bar, but Okan does a brisk business in shochu served over ice in an earthenware cup.


      9 Replies
      1. re: SaltyRaisins

        Is Japanese Shochu different than Korean Soju? I'm familar with the former but not the latter. In any case I think daantaat is referring to Min Sok Chon and its a Korean restaurant/bar, not japanese. They definitely serve Soju but not sure about Shochu.

        1. re: mliew

          From what little I know, the Korean Soju is more likely to be made from rice, than the Japanese Shochu. Also, Soju tends to be higher in alcohol than Shochu, other than Awamori. Again, only what little I know. There are no Nippon style Shochu bars in town.... but of course, I'm totally unhip. Most places like Sakura and Tsuruhashi have Shochu. From what I've seen places like Min Sok Chon and Soju Town (the old CrawDaddies) make stuff Calpico-Hi, etc. In the days when there was a stronger Okinowan presence in San Diego, you could get high proof Awamori at places like Katzra and Ishikawa. Those days are long gone.

          1. re: KirkK

            What would you consider to be high proof Awamori? I've found 2 or 3 brands of Awamori at Mitsuwa, but they're only about 50-proof.

            1. re: hye

              Awamori goes up to about 43% alcohol, though the special Donan variety from Yonaguni island can be as high as 60% alcohol. Very heady stuff.

              1. re: Tripeler

                I just visited Yonaguni in January and drank that hooch! They call it "hanazake". Flower wine. Yeah right. The island is ridiculously small but has two hanazake "factories". I brought home a bottle that I plan to either drank or use to strip paint.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  I think that place in Yoyogi Uehara stocks the same hooch.
                  Not that popular...I wonder why.

            2. re: KirkK

              I'm more than a year behind on this conversation, but I just wanted to add a little extra info to this conversation.

              Standard soju, the stuff that most places in the states carry, generally does not have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) than shochu. Interestingly, the average soju's ABV has slowly dwindled to between 20-22% over the past several years as manufacturers have further diluted the beverage so as to maintain profit margins.

              Single-distilled (honkaku or otsurui) shochu, on the other hand, almost always weighs in at around 25% ABV. Honkaku shochu is the type of drink featured at the bars that the original poster was asking about.

              Also, standard soju is almost never made from rice anymore. It's too expensive. This still relatively-unknown factoid was revealed in a WTO case when Korea was defending its taxes on imported spirits.

              These days soju production mostly involves cheaper starches such as tapioca for fermentation before the distillation process begins. Some higher-end "artisan" distillers have returned to the use of rice, but the consumption of the resulting 'premium' soju is still just a small fraction of the market.

              At the same time, it is definitely fair point out that rice is not the most common raw material used to make shochu in Japan. However, when comparing soju and shochu sold in California, it's probably a lot easier to find a bottle of the latter made from rice.

              Sorry. Back to the original poster's question: any new shochu bars in SD? Or are there at least some Japanese restaurants with a decent shochu menu?

              1. re: pellegrini

                Just to clear up potential confusion from your post, "korui shochu" is almost always multiple-distilled, not single distilled. That is one of the distinctions between korui and otsurui. And "honkaku shochu" is actually the industry preferred term for "otsurui shochu"... In regards to Korean soju using ingredients other than rice (for example tapioca, etc.), my Korean friends have told me many years ago that this was standard going back to end of the Korean Conflict in the late 50's and 60's. I'm not sure it was an industry hidden practice revealed by the WTO as you are suggesting.

          2. re: SaltyRaisins

            Do you know how extensive the shochu selection is at these potential Japanese places?

          3. I was at lunch at Sakura and saw some advertisments on every table for some shochu.