Thursday, December 07, 2006

10/21/06: Mutual Trading Food and Restaurant Show

On this day, was invited to attend the Mutual Trading Food and Restaurant Show as a member of the trade. I was really looking forward to this, since Mutual Trading carries some of the top-notch saké selections. So what if it meant I start tasting sakés starting around 11 am?! The good thing is, this is technically a "Food and Restaurant" Show, so there's plenty of yummy food to help my cause.

This was a fun event overall. There were great artisinal food ranging from fine nori, red saké vinegar, purple potato vinegar, sea salt, miso, and real wagyu. In addition, there were fine display of kitchenware, plates, and knives. We won't mention the fact that I got bit drunk and carried away, resulting in a purchase of table top personal hibachi and engraved Japanese knife! (It's a real good thing I am not an angry drunk.)

Without further ado, here are the top sakés out of many fine selections (which excludes Dassai, as I wanted to mention other brands.):

Gold Medal: Sudo Honké "Sato No Homaré" ("Pride of the Village") Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadaho, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: Sudo). Sudo Honké is the oldest brewery in Japan, having established in 1141, and the current President represents the 55th generation of the founder. With such history, it comes as no surprise that "Sato No Homaré" is less fruity and more traditional style of Junmai Ginjo, as the flavors include subtle yet complex balance of cream, vanilla, grain, spices, amami, and umami (Note: the picture is for Yamadanishiki version; the one I tasted has black label.). Interestingly, their highly touted "Kakunkō" Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadahō, Seimaibuai: 28%, Yeast: Sudo) is a very juicy and fruity style, as it resembles biting into a ripe pineapple with honey and spices drizzed on top. However, what ties the two sakés together is the fact that the flavors tend to intensify on the second sip, a rare trait. These are truly connoisseur's sakés.

Silver Medal: This was a very difficult choice. I decided to go with a saké from Muromachi Shuzo (Japanese-only website) of Okayama, an underrated area that produces great sakés. In a slight edge, I am going with the Muromachi "Jidai" ("Era") Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Omachi, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: N/A) over their "Bizen Maboroshi" ("Mirage of Bizen") Junmai Ginjo (SMV: 3, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Omachi, Seimaibuai: 58%, Yeast: N/A). Both use Omachi rice, which is father strain to the famed Niigata rice Gohyakumangoku, as well as Aiyama and Tamazakae. Omachi gives Muromachi Jidai strong aromatic nose of pineapples, soft and round apporach, palate of ripe pineapples and lychee, with a mildly long finish. By comparison, Bizen Maboroshi was lighter and focused on thje palate, but I liked the umami-laden long finish better.

Bronze Medal: To give you the idea of the quality of the competition, the legendary Born "Yumé Wa Masayumé" Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 35%, Yeast: Kato #9) took Bronze here. This is their top offering, an aged Junmai Daiginjo stored at -8C (18F) for 5 years before the release. With the chilled aging, it helped retain clarity of the saké, and effect of aging was evident in the very smooth, round, and light mouthfeel. In addition, the passage of time did not thin out the aroma and palate, as I would consider it aromatic and fruity.

I have to say that I am very impressed with the quality of Mutual Trading's portfolio. There were many fantastic sakés that could placed within top 3, and it should be known that the final determination was significantly biased by my own palate. I'd advise you to try some of these sakés for your self, and see how they stack up!

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