Alyssa DiPasquale · Hojoko

By Ellen Bhang · 06/19/2019

Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a couple of terrific bottles and recommends food pairings—you come away a savvier sipper.

Meet the beverage pro: Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale loves to talk about the sip that transformed her career. It was her second night as hostess at downtown sushi mecca O Ya when owner Nancy Cushman approached her.

“Nancy asked, ‘Have you tried sake?’” recalls DiPasquale. “What went through my mind was a slo-mo montage of sake bombs in beer, chugging as quickly as possible.”

But the premium sake that Cushman poured for her—with its notes of strawberry, peach, and anise—was a stunner. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute! How does this taste so good?’” says the beverage pro. “It was like nothing I had tried before.”

That taste led DiPasquale, a native of Northborough, Massachusetts, to earn an Advanced Sake Professional certification and rise in the ranks. Today she is director of communications for Cushman Concepts, the restaurant group that includes O Ya, as well as the hip izakaya Hojoko, situated steps away from Fenway Park.

 One gorgeous bottle: At Hojoko, more than 30 bottles of the brewed rice beverage are on offer. DiPasquale designed the original list, and is excited to describe what’s available at The Groove at Hojoko, the adjoining lounge where vintage vinyl is spun every night.

A bottle called “Green Ridge,” from producer Dewazakura, is a mellow Junmai Ginjo. A key feature of the sake’s classification involves milling individual rice grains so each is 60 percent (or less) of its original size. It’s a step that’s key to making a refined finished product. “It has a green apple tartness with a super-refreshing finish,” DiPasquale says.

Posh plate: DiPasquale adores pairing the sake with Hello Kitty Caviar Service. Soba waffles, made from nutty-tasting buckwheat flour, are shaped like the Sanrio character’s head, and come with smoked trout roe or Island Creek White Sturgeon Caviar. The glossy cured eggs arrive with green onions, whipped crème fraîche, and wasabi tobiko, plus a mini pitcher of miso-maple syrup.

The sake is a winner with the light-hearted creation. “It’s clean, light, and refreshing after you’ve had such a rich dish,” enthuses DiPasquale. “It’s really not fussy.”

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