Not whiskey; takowasabi, Murasaki Sake Lounge Credit: Mike Sula

A few weeks ago I pointed out that the tightly focused booze list at  Kitsune doesn’t quite stand up to the wildly imaginative food at Iliana Regan’s izakaya. If you have ambitions of washing down your okonomiyaki with any Japanese whiskeys, you only have a choice of two: Nikka’s popular Coffey grain and Taketsuru expressions. Oh well—it’s a midwestern izakaya, after all. You’re probably better off swilling Daisy Cutter anyway.

<i>Hiyayakko</i>, Murasaki Sake Lounge
Hiyayakko, Murasaki Sake LoungeCredit: Mike Sula

Japanese whiskey is a booze category that hasn’t quite caught on in this town the way, say, mezcal has—it’s often lighter than our bold American whiskeys, and way more expensive. The Boka Group’s Momotaro is the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating this, with some 26 bottles available, a few priced at more than $100 a pour. Conversely, you don’t often hear folks mention Murasaki Sake Lounge, an unassuming eight-year-old Streeterville spot that for all intents and purposes is pretty much an izakaya. They have a slightly smaller selection of 21 bottles, but they make up the deficit in diversity and relative affordability—friendlier than the more diverse list at Yusho, and featuring a few brands that don’t show up on Momotaro’s list, like Togouchi, a whiskey distilled in Scotland and aged and blended in Japan.

Okonomiyaki, Murasaki Sake Lounge
Okonomiyaki, Murasaki Sake LoungeCredit: Mike Sula

But as the name implies, Murasaki’s mainly about the sake, with more than four dozen varieties, listed with helpful tasting notes, available hot or cold by the glass, decanter, or bottle. Japanese beer, shochu, and shochu and sake cocktails round out an impressively varied selection.

Ramen, Murasaki Sake Lounge
Ramen, Murasaki Sake LoungeCredit: Mike Sula

Naturally, there’s no eating without drinking, and the food menu is fairly straightforward (relative to Kitsune’s), featuring snacky, absorbent bites, like cold tofu showered in bonito flakes, appropriately custardy takoyaki and okonomiyaki, pro forma tonkotsku ramen and curry rice, and more texturally challenging snacks like ochazuke—cold, raw octopus dosed with sinus-scouring wasabi.

いただきます, or rather, 乾杯!