How did a teen in Calgary eventually become a ‘Sake Samurai’? (And what even is one?) When taking a look at the long list of accomplishments of Elliot Faber — perhaps best known for his work as beverage director at Yardbird and Ronin — it’s clear just how deserving he is of the exclusive honour.
The moniker Sake Samurai may sound whimsical to western audiences, but it’s a prestigious award created by the Japan Sake Brewers Association Junior Council in 2005 — and bestowed on Faber in 2016. It’s a title that only few people (and few foreigners, in particular) have received since its inception. The award is reportedly only given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the understanding, appreciation and promotion of sake across the globe.
To reach this level of recognition, Faber has indeed cultivated an extensive career based on the Japanese rice liquor, though he is also certified in wine and sake alike. Between seeing through multiple F&B concepts to co-authoring a book on sake, you could say the momentum truly began when he moved to Hong Kong in 2011 to be a part of the opening of Yardbird.
He is the founder of Sunday’s Distribution and The Kura Collective, which distributes his curation of wine, sake and spirits. He has his own label of sake, whisky and shochu, Sunday’s Spirits, created in collaboration with various producers in Japan. In 2017, he opened Sake Central at PMQ — a hub for all things sake, with a retail front and a 16-seater bar that serves intimate tastings and rotating tasting menus by guest chefs. Just this year, he opened its sister concept Saketen, tucked away in SoHo’s newest lifestyle building, H Code. Showcasing the best of 10 sake breweries across Japan, it is only the latest in Faber’s impassioned work to celebrate Japanese culture through food and drink.
Before we dropped in for a Daiginjo, we caught up with Faber with 27 Questions to learn more about what makes a man a samurai.
Name: Elliot Faber
Neighbourhood: Sheung Wan
‘Make each bite taste like the first.’
I’ve experienced food from so many incredible chefs over my last eight years in Hong Kong (Matt Abergel, Daniel Calvert, Danny Yip, Yoshiharu Kakinuma, Umberto Bombana, Jowett Yu, Richard Ekkebus, Taichiro Motoyama and Erik Idos, not to mention all of the incredible chefs who have collaborated with us at Sake Central) and I’ve realised that it really comes down to who you are with at each of these special meals.
I look up to Raphael Holzer, creator of Fernet Hunter and the tallest man I know.
Gas Pump Attendant at the Husky Gas Station in Lakeview, Calgary in Canada.
It really depends on the place and the moment. It could be sake, beer, wine or whisky. If I have to default, it would be a highball of some sort.
Las Vegas in May — a minivan!
I’m always ready, any time of day!
The Margherita Pizza at Bacar in Okinawa.
I try my best to make every failure a lesson learned so in that case: no regrets!
The Moon, first class.
Industrially produced mayonnaise.
Ketchup Chips — check out the limited edition Ketchup Doritos.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
Family time and a stop at Sake Central because it is open on Sundays!
The Rosita’s Deluxe pop-up on 8th October, 2017.
Not complaining about the heat and humidity on a regular basis. It isn’t going away!
There are many, but my favourites are Rapper’s Delight and Lose Yourself.
Anything involving ice hockey from when my parents used to wake me up at 5:30am for practice to winning championships and all of those road trips!
Fresh air, far away from the city.
It wasn’t the teacher but it was the lesson I learned early on when studying wine: the more you learn, the more there is to know. This lesson has inspired my whole career.
The salt shaker trick — where you balance a salt shaker on a grain of salt. Oh! I can also eat a marshmallow while it is on fire!
Can I get it to you tomorrow?
Not on my body.
Too many, almost always Vans.
I don’t ever need to be alone, as long as I have the right companion.
I thought I’ve been dreaming this whole time!