From Homemaker To Master Sake Somm

We speak to:

Janice Chi

Sake Sommelier, Ishinomaki Grill, Ki Teppan and Rogama, Table 33

What’s the future of sake?

  1. We are rushing through a lot of labels and taste profiles, but some people don’t know what they are drinking. Let’s rush less and find out more
  2. We need to focus on how to share the process and production of sake, to bring about more appreciation and respect for the art and culture of sake
  3. We need more sake sommeliers to unite and be serious about educating the consumer


After some 20 years as a homemaker, Janice Chi found herself stepping into her husband Chi Pin Han’s restaurant Ishinomaki Grill to help out when the restaurant manager left. Putting together the sake programme was one of the important tasks, and she found herself drawn to the beverage the more that she interacted with guests and distributors.

“Initially I learnt about production, but along the way, I realised that rice, yeast and water all play an important part,” she recounts. “The role of terroir made me feel like there’s always more to know, so I took more courses just to go deeper into it.”


Janice is most recently a certified Master Sake Sommelier, one of only 3 women who have passed the examination by the Sake Sommelier Academy (SSA), along with a slew of other certifications such as the WSET Level 3 in Sake. She is currency studying for the J.S.A. Sake Diploma International certification by the Japan Sommelier Association. 

With the success of their two restaurants Ishinomaki Grill and Ki Teppan and Rogama, both at Palais Renaissance, Janice and Pin Han decided to open a dedicated sake bar as well, Table 33. This is where Janice showcases over 100 sake labels, mostly of the craft category that includes unfiltered, unpasteurised and undiluted sakes, also known as the 3U category. She also experiments with ageing and warming the sakes to coax out different flavours and experiences. 


If you go to a sake bar, you can start with your preferred style. Fruity, dry, sweet, etc. But if you sit down and dine, pairing is so important. Sake has a delicate taste and you might miss out the taste of it,” says Janice. “We are still at a young level of understanding and drinking sake. I would love to see customers asking for sake made with omachi rice, or yeast #7. There’s still room for more knowledge, and more sake sommeliers to help customers.”


Tips for pairing sake in Janice’s monthly classes (open to the public):

  1. For Southeast Asian cuisines like Thai, Indian, or local hawker food, I play with temperature. Just don’t overheat the sake, which will take a bit of trial and error
  2. The trickiest flavours to pair are mala, sancho pepper, and garlic as these have very heavy flavours. Try to go easy on these in your dishes
  3. For fish, it depends. If you have toro, you will need high acidity, but with white fish, then something a little sweeter. And if it’s uni, a dry sake to cleanse the palate (also their umami levels complement well)
  4. We are collecting our tasting and pairing notes and will compile 150 of these pairings into a book, hopefully by the end of the year.

Trade professionals: You are invited to attend Sake Matsuri’s Trade Show on 10 May 2024 at the iconic F1 Pit Building! Pre-register below for free.


Sake Matsuri Trade Show

Date: 10 May 2024
Time: 11am-5pm
Venue: F1 Pit Building, Garage, 1 Republic Boulevard
*Pre-registration is free, $50 for on-site entry
**Open to trade professionals only

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