The stars were aligned and luck was on her side when Sarah Stein fell in love with a small vacated space she found in Wilmersdorf and reimagined it as Nomu, a contemporary sake bar and Japanese restaurant. Born and raised in San Francisco, Sarah grew up surrounded by top notch Asian foods and fell in love with Japanese cuisine and libations – so much so that she became a certified sake sommelier and shochu adviser. If you are a sake connoisseur yourself, you will immediately notice the traditional sugidama (cedar ball) hanging in the window when you arrive at Nomu. Sake breweries in Japan hang this ball of fresh green cedar branches to indicate that production is underway. The cedar slowly turns brown, reflecting the maturation process of the sake. When it turns completely brown, customers know the sake is ready.
Inside, the entire ceiling is covered with square masu cups made from Japanese cypress wood and oversized origami-inspired lights. From every corner of Nomu, you sense Sarah’s love and respect for Japanese craftsmanship: from custom-made ceramic wares and the two norens (traditional fabric dividers) hanging in the doorways to the handmade happis (kimono-style jackets) worn by the staff. This attention and care is also reflected in the standard of the sake and food. The selection includes over 30 handcrafted sakes, ranging from fruity and earthy to sparkling and sweet. They’re hand-selected by Sarah and many are sold nowhere else in Europe. Just ask sommelier Yurina Yokoi for recommendations or opt for the sake pairing with the seasonal six-course Omakase (chef’s tasting menu). Chef Shinya Matsumoto uses his decade-long experience to create delicate and authentic fare that includes difficult-to-find ingredients like ginkgo nuts, myoga, edible shiso flowers and kinome (Japanese pepper leaves). Dishes include octopus carpaccio with wasabi sauce, ankimo (a monkfish dish), lightly charred wagyu nigiri-sushi using imported Tanba-gyu beef, mackerel oshizushi (pressed sushi rolls), and uni tempura. The innovative menu is topped off with exceptional service and an intimate atmosphere that epitomizes Japanese hospitality. If you are looking for an authentic Japanese spot in Berlin, you’ve found it.
Text: Rei Matsuoka / Photos: Rene Riis & Yuto Yamada