Where to drink sake in Montreal: Our suggested addresses

adresses boire saké montreal

Many people consider sake – a Japanese drink made from the fermentation of rice – to be the equivalent of wine. Although both can be enjoyed in good company and with a good meal, sake, served hot or cold, is still quite unfamiliar to Quebecers.

As for its production, in the 3rd century in Japan, the priestesses had to chew the grain in order to saccharify the rice (make the sugar suitable for fermentation). It was then fermented with wild yeast. Over the centuries, sake gained popularity, especially through its inclusion in Shinto religious celebrations. Today, the production of sake has become truly democratic. After being collected, the rice grain is polished in such a way as to remove most of the outer layers enveloping the core of the grain, leaving the core composed largely of starch. It is then immersed in clear water and steamed. The rice grains are then transformed into sugar with the help of koji, a microscopic fungus. After a long process of alcoholic fermentation (similar to beer and wine), the preparation is pressed, filtered, clarified, pasteurized and then filtered again.

The most important step in making sake is polishing. The better the polishing, the more refined the sake. The degree of polishing is determined by the percentage of the original grain that has been removed during this stage. It is this measurement that is the basis for the classification of “rice beer”. The most common is Futsu, used as a table sake. Then there is Honjoro (to which an external alcohol has been added) and Junmai (a pure rice sake without added alcohol). The level of polish of the grain is closely related to its cost due to its production method, but is not necessarily an indicator of a better bottle!

Moreover, there are five styles of this Japanese “wine”. Genshu is not diluted with water. Nama is not pasteurized. Nigori is unfiltered and cloudy. Muroka is not charcoal filtered. Finally, sparkling sake is, well, sparkling.

Now that you’re a sake expert (more or less), you’ll no doubt appreciate this list that we’ve compiled of the best places to enjoy sake in Montreal. Refer to it for festive evenings when you want to do as the citzens of the Land of the Rising Sun do.

For other suggestions, we recommend our list of the best Japanese restaurants in town and the best places to eat sushi.

Le Blossom

Le Blossom, one of Montreal’s most beautiful restaurants, incorporates in its modern decor a huge artificial cherry tree in full bloom – hence the name of the establishment. The restaurant’s approach to cuisine is entirely based on freshness, with a cuisine strongly inspired by Japan. Almost every seat in the restaurant is organized around the bar; dishes are brought out quickly, in small bites, and are prepared to be eaten immediately to take advantage of the best possible combination of ingredients. To complete the picture, the restaurant offers one of the finest sake lists in the city.

1101 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est
Montréal

Saint Sushi

After a dazzling success with the first Saint Sushi Bar on Duluth Street, the team is back in force with a new chic and refined address on Greene Street in Westmount. On the menu, you can still taste the delicious specialties of the house which are named after famous personalities. The Michael Jackson, Beatles and Bob Marley plates are special favorites, as are the Christmas trees and the Notorious B.I.G. (the delicious sushi pizza).  The new address also has a bar license with sakes, whiskies, beer, wines and a refreshing cocktail list created by Manu Ruiz (Le Royal). If you were already a fan of the bar on Duluth Street, expect to be delighted with the second address! Photo Alison Slattery

1359 Avenue Greene
Westmount

Hanzō

Hanzō is a izakaya located in the heart of Old Montreal that offers a gourmet formula of small revisited Japanese dishes at affordable prices. As for its menu, Hanzō adopts a winning formula: affordable tapas. The decor, inspired by the movie Kill Bill and very much influenced by the Japanese aesthetic, is complemented by a short but delicious cocktail menu. The cocktail menu is complemented by a selection of sakes that will appeal to experts and novices alike. Photo Alison Slattery

417 Rue Saint-Nicolas
Montréal

Ryu

Ryú Westmount opened in August 2018 and offers excellent Japanese cuisine served in a gorgeous space. You can savour delicious and fresh food, executed with great skill. The products here are also of the highest quality; 100% sustainably fished and of certified origin, which explains why fish is always the star of Ryú’s plates. The place specializes in nigiri and sashimi, prepared the way you would find them in Tokyo! Everything here is both refined and absolutely delicious. Photo David Dworkind and Ryú

4185 Rue Sainte-Catherine
Westmount

JIAO Dim Sum Bar

Located in the Old Port, Jiao opened in August 2018 and offers a dim sum bar concept on Notre Dame Street West. The space is distinguished and quirky with Asian nods; notice the towering fabric lanterns on the ceiling, a sleek and understated bar, and manga-inspired murals.  On the menu, the house offers Cantonese classics with variations on dim sum, bao and dumplings, with an emphasis on seafood melded with local flavours. As for the cocktail menu, we taste delicious house creations complemented by a selection of stunning sakes, mostly imported from Japan. Photo Jiao  

399 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montréal

Miss Wong

Located in the Centropolis, Miss Wong is a brasserie with Asian fusion cuisine. The festive, beautiful and spacious restaurant impresses with its grand decor! The menu at Miss Wong’s is meant to be savoured in a succession of courses, ordering a series of small plates. There are well executed and revisited classics, such as the house bao buns or the tartare, but also new and original dishes like the surprising fried watermelon. As for alcohol, Miss Wong offers a wine, sake and cocktail list perfect for festive evenings. Photo David Dworkind  

1780 Avenue Pierre-Péladeau
Laval

Mikado

We really like the restaurant Mikado. The products are fresh, the quality is evident, the sauces are original and the atmosphere is very pleasant. Mikado modestly practices the art of sushi, sashimi, teriyaki, tempura, soba and Japanese starters. For your festive evenings, the house also offers an interesting sake menu! Photo Mikado  

399 Avenue Laurier Ouest
Montréal

Jun I

Jun i is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Montreal, if not the best in our opinion. Chef Junichi Ikematsu is one of the best chefs and has trained the greats of our city. The delicacy of the dishes, the freshness of the products and the workmanship on the plate are unparalleled. The address is quite expensive, but in a very chic decor and a very calm atmosphere, you will want to go there to mark a special occasion with an exceptional meal for someone you really appreciate. Photo Jun i  

156 Avenue Laurier Ouest
Montréal

Otto Bistro

Otto Bistro is a nice little Japanese address. Not a sushi place, nor an Izakaya, this restaurant offers traditional Japanese cuisine revisited. The house offers what the owners call Japanese “soul food”, that is to say authentic and comforting dishes. As for alcohol, Otto Bistro offers a small selection of wines, whiskies and beers. However, like any good Asian restaurant, many bottles of sake are offered as well. Photo Alison Slattery

143 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est
Montréal

Ichigo Ichie

Ichigo Ichie’s offer is the most gourmet and its atmosphere the most festive. You can find here delicious soups, house specialties or Japanese tapas. The prices are reasonable for an izakaya, the service is friendly and the cocktails are good. A great place to celebrate on the Plateau Mont-Royal. Of course, if it is on this list, it is because the house offers a nice selection of sakes. photo Atelier Welldone

360 Rue Rachel Est
Montréal

Gokudo

Gokudo is a great new Japanese cocktail bar downtown. The bar is owned by the same owners as Escondite, Habanera, Biiru and Koa Lua. The front is indicated by a simple Chinese lantern and a facade of thin strips of wood. Once you enter, you come to the small restaurant section which is called Ryōshi. It is only when we pass the black curtain in the middle of the small restaurant, that we enter the Japanese cocktail bar Gokudo. On the menu, there are a multitude of plates to share; all of them are inspired by the rich Japanese culinary culture. The house offers an impressive list of sakes. Alison Slattery

630 Rue Cathcart
Montréal

Biiru

Biiru is a downtown Japanese bistro that offers good food in an original and warm decor. The restaurant offers delicious recipes of sashimi, dumplings and yakitoris. The house salads are also delicious. When the weather is nice, Biiru has a lovely terrace, ideal for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Sainte-Catherine Street. For an original lunch or dinner, Biiru is a great address to discover downtown, whether it is to eat good food at an affordable price, or to drink a very good cocktail just a stone’s throw from the Quartier des Spectacles! Photo Biiru

1433 Rue City Councillors
Montréal

Nozy

Restaurant Nozy is an intriguing Japanese restaurant. It may seem a bit expensive for the neighbourhood, but the chef Nozomu Takeuchi offers quality Japanese dishes with rather spectacular presentations. These dishes are original and delicious and are savoured in a cosy and romantic atmosphere. Photo Alison Slattery

3568 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montréal

Big in Japan Bar

Big in Japan is certainly one of the most beautiful hidden bars in Montreal. From the outside, there’s no telling what’s behind the anonymous brown door. With a breathtaking decor by Braun-Braën, Big in Japan has a unique atmosphere, with its long labyrinthine bar, bottles hanging from the ceiling and hundreds of small votive candles. Drinks offered include sake, beer and wonderful cocktails. Timeless and intimate, Big in Japan is ideal for a date! photo Dominique Lafond

4175 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Montréal

Kazu

Kazu is a Tastet favourite. This is a small restaurant on Sainte-Catherine Street that is bustling from opening to closing; most likely because the establishment offers delicious small Japanese delicacies at modest prices and in a warm atmosphere. Japanese pancakes, dumplings, carpaccio and shrimp burger are a few of the dishes to be tried. One of the best value Japanese restaurants in the city! Photo Alison Slattery

1844 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
Montréal

Osmo X Marusan

Located in the business district, Marusan is one of the best Japanese addresses in town. It offers typical Japanese dishes, but in a more casual version than Furusato or Azuma. It is both a counter and a restaurant, so you can get everything offered to go. The dishes offered represent well the finesse and quality of Japanese cuisine; authentic dishes, in a contemporary and quite calm atmosphere. All of this is accompanied by an excellent sake, which can be found on a very elaborate menu.

51 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal

Fleurs & Cadeaux

This small restaurant, nestled in a pink 100-year-old building on Saint-Urbain Street, is a multi-sensory experience like no other in the neighbourhood. Fleurs & Cadeaux offers an impressive variety of wines and natural sakes, most available by the glass or bottle. They offer artisanal sakes brewed according to ancestral techniques, among which you can find those of Akishika, Terada Honke, and Tamagawa. In the basement is nestled Sans Soleil, a small hidden bar reminding us of the Japanese listening bars. We drink cocktails and sake in a warm atmosphere where sound is king. It is Sébastien D. Langlois of Agence Bacchus 76, who is behind this selection.

1002 Rue Saint-Urbain
Montréal

Photography by Alison Slattery



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