Sake & Soju Journey with Chef Engin: The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge

Photographed By: Joseph   Nardello
When I first sat down to interview Chef Engin Onural of The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Would he be open to questions? Hospitable? Kind? He was all of these things and more. Even with all of his success at a young age compared to most of his peers, he continues to see his guests as VIPs. They are VIPs to him – each and every one. “I enjoy people, ” he admits, “and this is my home.” Chef Engin and I discussed the success of his sake lounge, as well as his methods for creating the ingenious dishes of his sushi bar. The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge
Photographed By: Joseph  Nardello
“Sake is a different world, ” says Chef Engin. The drink is solely served in a bottle at The Venue, fermented and made of polished rice. The higher grade of the sake depends on how much the rice is polished. Soju, on the other hand, is distilled, and like a lighter version of vodka – about 20-25 percent alcohol. It’s great on the rocks or in cocktails. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a delightfully smooth shot of soju courtesy of Chef Engin and The Venue, as well as a tasty Tokyo Mule – a soju cocktail with mint. The Venue doesn’t employ a bartender; the servers are responsible for making drinks and are trained to know what sakes and sojus go well with certain dishes. “They know what to offer, ” says Chef Engin. “They know how to listen.”
There are different types of sake, and Chef Engin pairs them accordingly with his dishes. He serves his favorite, junmai ginjo – with more earthy roots – and junmai daiginjo. Of course, he is well versed in all types of sake as a sake sommelier. He received the title from Japan some years ago and holds the first level of three degrees available. “Since sake is part of my passion, ” he says, “it has a positive impact on my business.” When it comes to looking for what type of sake to pair with your meal, he says it depends on “spicy versus sweet, ” and his staff is more than happy to help. When glancing over the drinks list at The Venue, sakes are the first listed, so it is plain to see what is the house favorite. The V
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