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Sake Sommelier: Daughter of Rice owners hones skill
Windy Ho

About this article

This article was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of M: North Atlanta magazine, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.

Windy Ho was a junior in high school when her parents, Lei Ho and Jeff Chai, decided to move to Cumming and open Rice Restaurant and Sushi Bar.

Ho’s mother was a certified sushi chef and her father was a Chinese chef. They were passionate about food and family and wanted a restaurant that reflected both.

That was in 2005. Eleven years later, Rice is still a favorite spot in Forsyth County.

Ho said her mother, besides a passion for sushi, has also always had a strong interest in sake. And she passed that down to her daughter.
“I loved sake early on and was so excited to learn more about it,” Windy Ho said.

After receiving professional training as a bartender, Ho decided she wanted to expand her knowledge of sake and become a sake sommelier.

After extensive training in New York City, Ho will receive her official Sake Sommelier Certification from the Sake School of America this summer. That will make her one of just 80 to hold that distinction in the United States.

“There are so many types of sake, and I want to show sake is so much more versatile than many think,” she said. “You don’t have to just drink sake with sushi. It actually pairs very well with meat, chicken or pasta as well.”

While many may think sake is only served hot, there are numerous varieties meant to be served chilled, Ho explained, making it the perfect beverage to enjoy in summer.

A few years ago, the family looked at expanding and last December opened Eight Sushi Lounge, an upscale restaurant in Midtown Atlanta.

“The concept for Eight came from a combination of everyone’s passion and their unique skills,” Ho said. “My mother’s eye for detail, sharp taste, love for sake and sushi; my father’s eye for art, creative new ideas, putting dishes together; my brother Handy’s knife skills as a certified sushi chef; and even my little sister, Nicole, who was able to bring my father’s vision of a logo for Eight to reality.”

As for her, Ho said she has a love for business and an eye for detail when it comes to customer service. Of course, there is also her love and knowledge of sake, which helps Eight and Rice stand out.

“We were able to travel to various distributors and find sakes that are incredibly hard to find,” she said. “In fact, we will have some that are not available anywhere else in all of Georgia.

“At Eight we offer flights of sakes, so you can enjoy a progression from appetizer to entrée and even to enjoy with dessert.”

While most sushi restaurants offer one or two types of sake, Ho said Rice and Eight have many to choose from and she is always on the lookout for new ones.

“We have sake that was produced using the most traditional methods and also some from the most futuristic method of centrifuging the sake,” she said.

Ho said her family takes pride in both restaurants.

“We have always believed in doing our best and serving the very best quality,” Ho said. “And we always want to have an atmosphere that is one of family.”