The Koji Club, Boston’s Fantastic Sake Bar, Gets National Acclaim

The rest of the country is catching onto one of our best new bars, thanks to recent highlights in Esquire and Condé Nast Traveler.

A small bar features 8 translucent amber stools, ash wood, and a dark blue backbar.

The Koji Club. / Photo by Kristin Teig

Spring is here, and you’re sitting on a translucent amber Charles Ghost stool at a curved ash wood bar, sipping a sake that tastes like “a bouquet of fresh flowers, including cherry blossoms,” garnished with a locally made mini popsicle. You’re snacking on Saltines spread thick with cream cheese and green pepper miso, and you’re considering splurging on caviar service with a side of seaweed-and-salt potato chips.

See all »

This is the Koji Club, Boston’s only dedicated sake bar. With roots as a pandemic-born virtual sake club, the delightfully cozy space opened at Brighton’s Charles River Speedway early last year, courtesy of sake expert (and Best of Boston winner) Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale. It quickly found its way into the hearts of local lovers of the beverage and newbies alike, and us, thanks to DiPasquale’s sparkling hospitality and knowledge, and lately it’s been gaining recognition on the national stage, too.

In late April, Condé Nast Traveler dropped its 2023 “hot list” of the best new restaurants worldwide, an exciting collection of 21 international destinations, from a modern Japanese restaurant in Buenos Aires to a fine-dining restaurant championing local sourcing in Rwanda. Fortunately the Traveler team used the word “restaurant” loosely, also including spots like a Taiwanese cafe-bar and, yes, Boston’s own Koji Club. It’s “as cozy and authentic as anything you would find in Japan,” writes Todd Plummer, praising the staff’s “encyclopedic knowledge of sake’s multiverse.”

And this week, another big hit: Esquire released its latest list of the best new bars around the United States, and there’s the Koji Club, listed among a pair of intimate lobby bars at a Baltimore hotel, a ceramicist’s-workshop-meets-wine-bar in Brooklyn, and a San Diego spot that “looks like astronauts on acid crash-landed on a tropical planet and decided the first order of business was to set up a bar.” (Be right back, booking a flight.) The Koji Club “felt like a world away here more Tokyo than Beantown,” writes Kevin Sintumuang. “There was only one other person there that evening, but within minutes we all started to feel like friends deep into a sake journey.”

It’s a journey for sure. The spring menu takes drinkers from sake made using flower-derived yeast to classic junmai options to “hometown heroes” from spots like Massachusetts’ own Farthest Star Sake. The tasting notes are a delight, too: “like drinking the whole strawberry, stem and all”; “a dreamy tangerine creamsicle.” Some come directly from the staff, while others are crowdsourced from customers.

“I have always loved [the Esquire list] as a compass for where to get a great cocktail when I travel,” DiPasquale tells Boston. “It is such a refreshing moment to see the Koji Club and Rice Vice from Proper Sake Co. in Nashville represented here. As one of my bartenders said, ‘When we win, the community wins’—in reference to Boston but also the whole sake community.”

DiPasquale notes that the team will be celebrating at Bubble Bath at High Street Place downtown on June 5, where she has a guest sommelier shift at 5 p.m. Instagram’s the best place to get other updates on events at the Koji Club or pop-ups elsewhere. Some regularly occurring things to keep in mind: The Wicked Thrawl, a tea pop-up, is onsite with teas and snacks on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and will soon evolve into its own space at the Speedway as Rite Tea & Espresso Bar), and bento boxes from Cambridge’s beloved Cafe Sushi are available on Thursdays.

Walk-ins are welcome, but the Koji Club also accepts limited reservations via Tock—maybe a good idea to plan ahead, given the national attention and the fact that the bar is a 250-square-foot nook (plus a bit of seasonal patio seating, including a covered area under a disco ball). We’ll see you there, sipping on a namazake junmai ginjo sake that tastes like “eating a handful of salty sunflower seeds.”

A smiling woman wears glasses and a dark blue shirt that says "the Koji club" and sits behind a bar.

Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale at the Koji Club. / Photo by Kristin Teig

Charles River Speedway, 525 Western Ave., Brighton, Boston,