Sake Martini

Shogun, 10550 Baptist Church Road; 314-842-8889


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These must be heady times for Asian-American men with a love of performance, a knack for cooking and superior hand-eye coordination. Japanese performance grills are all over the place. A man with good hands is in high demand. A few weeks back, at about the same time that RFT food critic Ian Froeb was getting shrimp thrown into his mouth at Oishi, we were in south county sipping on a sake martini the color of brushed copper and watching a warrior guy toss a raw egg into someone's lap.

Drink of the Week has avoided the whole trend, but we were very much looking forward to a little knife theatrics. We like steak juggling a heck of a lot, and have been waiting our whole life to see a real-life onion volcano. Plus, we had a party to attend.

At Shogun on Baptist Church, it's Rob's birthday, and he's wearing a chopstick crown. To wit: A headband is securing in place eight or so chopsticks, which poke up to the sky like spires on a cathedral. Ribbon is wrapped around the chopsticks, and Birthday Boy has bejeweled them with chunks of shrimp, broccoli and chicken. He's a perfect center of attention — so dashing, in fact, that cameras flashed around him as though Paris Hilton had just pulled up her skirt. Tomorrow morning pictures of the Shrimp King will be on every screen in the city.

And what a party! Twenty-eight people strong, we were overwhelmed with fireworks and laughter. People sipped warm sake and cold beer, ate cupcakes and cookies, tossed back wicked amounts of fried rice and grilled meats. At one point the lights went low, pots and pans started clanging and the whole Shogun crew paraded in to sing a birthday song to Rob. They sure know how to celebrate in south county. We've heard, in fact, that it's the new downtown.

But the cooking thing, honestly, wasn't very impressive at all. The true shoguns must be over at Oishi, or headed to the big time at Benihana, because our guy was just so-so. Other than a lot of Butthead-worthy oil-and-flame experiments and some mediocre spatula twirling, the whole thing reeked of a Charlie Chaplin skit, with clumsily juggled seafood, eggs plopped on laps and steaks assaulted. Flying shrimp banged into walls like bumblebees. We're lucky somebody didn't lose a limb.

We're betting there wasn't much juggling going on at the bar, because the martini was great. It slid down our throat like water. A blend of Gekkeikan-brand sake and plum wine and served in an elegant stemmed glass, it was perfectly chilled, well balanced, with a distinct fruitiness. The stunning color arrives via the plum wine, which contrary to the logical machinations of your mind, isn't purple but an otherworldly golden color. The plum adds a welcome tartness, and expands the drink. It's a cocktail worthy of the Shrimp King, which is no small feat.

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