Alyssa Mikiko

12.06.22

This week on the journal, we chatted with Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale, who launched Boston's first Sake Bar, 'The Koji Club,' in a restored property in 2020 with a vision to bring great food and drinks to the community... plus a brand new Karaoke pop up called "She's So Lucky" in a former art gallery next to the bar, an evening reminiscent of a night out in Tokyo! Read more to learn about The Koji Club, the elements of the craft and where you can get your hands on some great sake in NYC!

Thank you Alyssa!

Photo Credit: Adam Parshall

So, you opened the Koji Club, Boston’s first Sake bar! Can you tell us a little bit about opening the space and what you envisioned when creating it?

The Koji Club is a safe space to celebrate, learn about and drink good sake. The vision for the club was to create a calm, glowing, comfortable bar for all folks to gather and try something new and/or be reintroduced to sake. We wish we could buy everyone plane tickets to Kyoto but instead we transport you with the bar.

I can laugh about it now, but I planned to leave my job in February of 2020 to open a bar! I had been dreaming about opening a sake bar for over 10 years and thought the time was right… and then we went into lock down.

I launched The Koji Club in June of 2020 as a pop up. At first through the amazing and super acclaimed natural wine bar, Rebel Rebel in Somerville with the support of my dear friend Lauren Friel and then longer term with OddFellows Ice Cream Company in Boston and Brooklyn.

Now we are in the Charles River Speedway, which is a community center in a restored old property. The space came with its own charm (and ghosts!), and I designed the bar with them included. It's only 250 square feet, so each detail was chosen to serve our guests and make them feel comfortable.

What is (one of) your favorite sake choices and how can we get some?!

Sake has only 4 ingredients: rice, water, koji and yeast. The koji changes the starch from the rice to sugar. The yeast ferments the sugar to alcohol. It’s a beautiful process to study. Currently, I am crushing on sake that uses alternative yeasts, for example, yeast from flowers (think strawberry blossoms and sunflowers) and yeast from olives. Nature is magic and these beverages are proof. My current favorite is Kawatsuru Olive… it tastes like a low ABV version of the Olio Martini from Frank’s Wine Bar in Carroll Gardens.

New Yorkers are so lucky! You have impeccably curated sake shops like Sakaya in the East Village and Bin Bin in Greenpoint. You also have two sake breweries, Kato Sake Works and Brooklyn Kura. Additionally, you live among some of the best sake bars in the world like Sake Bar Decibel. A sake lover's dream.

My highest recommendation is to add sake to your dinner tables this holiday season. You will be pleasantly surprised. Sake is the most food friendly cheerleader.

You have some pretty amazing looking snacks available at the bar like the ‘Japanese Curry Empanada.’ How was the menu created and who is your chef?!

I am the chef but my team and I work together to design the food menu. The recipes are ours with the exception of my mom's cucumber quick pickle recipe (Candy's Cukes... my mom's name is Candy). My Japanese curry is wrapped up in delicious empanada dough in partnership with my neighbor "Super Bien" which is a grocery-bar selling Buenas brand empanadas (by the same owner), delicious snacks and South American natural wine.

What does the future look like for the Koji Club? Any plans of bringing it to NYC?

The future is SINGING! We just launched a karaoke pop up called "She's So Lucky" in a former art gallery next to our bar. She is dressed with a 30" disco ball, dramatic lighting and Holiday decorations to set the stage for you and your besties to sing your heart out. After the past few years of virtually gathering, I feel like we all need a little karaoke this holiday season. We definitely have plenty to sing about. I just got back from a week in Tokyo and sang karaoke every day… It was cathartic, joyful and energizing.

I would love to bring the club to New York. First stop? YOUR SHOP!