Sunday, August 26, 2007

8/22/07: Chanto Tasting

Since I was inspired by this event at Chanto last month, I decided to attend the August version of the event as well (I was pre-occupied during their July event.) So what if Chanto is bit of a detour from my Midtown- to- Queens commute home, and it was a Wednesday night... we all need a weekend in the middle of the week, right?

It seems that Chanto runs "Triple Delight" event each month featuring saké, tuna chef display, and Geisha-style dancing. To keep things interesting, there is a revolving theme in saké. In June, it was Shichiken and their saké making clinic; in July, it evidently featured Dassai. For August the theme was "Japanese Premium Saké Collection," featuring 6 daiginjo-grade saké and 4 shochu selections. It was quite a bargain at $65 (includes tax and gratuity)!

My friend Hideo joined me for this event, and not surprisingly, Timothy showed up with Scott as well. While the last event involved lot of movement by the customers depending on what was being highlighted at the moment, this event was a sit-down format. Being one of the first ones on the premises, Hideo and I situated ourselves to a table by the window, strategically within striking distance of the pouring station and with premier view of the Maiko dance.

For tasting, my initial inclenation was to focus mainly on saké, and try the unfamilar/less frequently tasted selections first. However, when I saw Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: Iwate #2), I had to pay my respects to Kuji-san. With its ripe profile, it also wasn't a bad choice to kick off the evening. This was accompanied by some delecable appetizers.

Next, I had Kubota Senshin (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.3,Rice: Takanenishiki, Seimaibuai: 28%, Yeast: N/A). In one of those rare instances, I wasn't sure what to quite make of this saké. Based on the brand name and seimaibuai, I was expecting a expressive, fruity, and with good structure, but in reality, this turned out to be mellow, smooth like water, and without much impression otherwise. In short, this was as un-Kubota as I have tried. My second visit later in the evening confirmed that the virtue to this saké was the umami-laden flavor and finish.

The sushi chefs started their craft, and we were served "akami" first, both as sashimi and sushi. While my sights were set on "chu-toro," I was surprised by the tenderness of akami. Chu-toro was very good, with well-defined marbling. It did have some of those fatty stripes, which did provide extra texture.

Unfortunately, the next two sakés did not pair all that well with tuna: Born "Tokusen" Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: N/A) and Go-okunen Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +6, Acidity: 1.2, Rice: Yamdanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: N/A). Both had the oxidized nose of dried fruit for different reasons. Born is actually a Koshu, having been aged in a controlled temperature for two years. As a result, the flavor showed mild flavor of caramel moreso than fruit. Go-okunen is from Ehime, and it definitely had "Shikoku-ness" with its mellow but fuller mouthfeel that belie Acidity of 1.2, and more of the sherried flavor on the palate.

As the Maiko dance began, I tried Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo (SMV: 1.5, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Hattan and Omachi, Seimaibuai: 50%,Yeast: N/A) which, like the other Daiginjo, had more of the riper approach. While the flavor wasn't as flamboyant as Nanbu Bijin, it was deep with firmer finish. I rounded up the first round of saké selections with the incomparable Dassai 23.

Of the four shochu selections, I decided to try two: (Tori Kai rice) for its saké-like flavor profile, and Hozan "Ayamurasaki" (sweet potato) for curiosity. From my past experiences with Hozan proving to be a revelation, I had to try the limited edition made from a purple potato. For my palate, Ayamurasaki is the best of the lot, as I enjoyed the intense yet soft nose of potato, and soft and full texture that brought pretty intense spiciness towards the finish.

As they say, you shouldn't increase your alcohol percentage over the course of the evning. I gladly heeded that advice by going for round two on sakés.

No comments: