by Craig LaBan, Restaurant Critic Critic@CraigLaban firstname.lastname@example.org
If my bon vivant pal is paying, we'll splurge big on a pricey tumbler of Yamazaki, Nikka, or Hakushu malt whisky (then segue into the list of shojus, by which time we should be gnawing on skate wing jerky).
If I'm eating salty bar snacks and want a refreshing quaff of Japanese beer, I'd drink any Hitichino Nest, various rice ales, or Stillwater's sake-style saison.
For raw fish, though, nothing works better than sake, which is available here in every style, from cloudy sweet nigoris to fun ginjos served in their own cups (Kitaro!)
My favorite, though, was a luxurious junmai daiginjo called Dassai 50 "Otter Fest," which was full-bodied and round, even with flavors of licorice and mint, that was the perfect chaser to a thick, pink slice of fat-marbled o-toro tuna.
Dassai 50 "Otter Fest," $22 a 5-ounce glass, $92 a 720 ml bottle, Royal Izakaya, 780 S. Second St
A major destination for all kinds of Japanese drinkables - top-notch (and pricey) whiskeys, a large collection of 33 sakes and a dozen shochu spirits, plus 30-plus craft beers, including Japanese rarities from Iwate
(sansho pepper ale; oyster stout), Koshihikari rice lager, and several Japanese-inspired American brews, including Tired Hands Royal Lager, a shandy-ish brew made with the restaurant's sushi rice and yuzu. Among the sakes, try the Bushido on draft over ice, the approachable Rita Pure Green, or the elegant richness of a Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo.