Monday, September 24, 2007

9/15/07: Shichiken Tasting at Saké Hana

Today was another treat at Saké Hana, as it welcomed Shichiken Brewery for a tasting session which was first of its kind. Toshi and Kitahara-san designed a three part tasting, including sake making lecture, experiencing saké at various temperatures, and testing sake-food pairing. Joining me this evening were my friends Tony and Hideo, and of course, Tim was on the scene. I also met Hiroko, one of the proprieter for Sakaya, the all-saké retail store slated to open in November.

The evening featured only one saké, which under a normal circumstance may be boring. However, in this context, it was very appropriate and effectiv. The evening kicked off with a Saké Sangria using Shichiken Junmai Ginjo, with lychee in the glass. It was very refreshing and (being a purist I have to add) surprisingly good as clean yet subtle nature of the Junmai Ginjo was a nice complement to the fruit.

The saké brewing lecture is a topic I am familiar with, especially for Shichiken. The key differentces from the earlier tastings were that thsis process was compressed to 30 minutes.

In the next phase, the sakés were served in five different temperatures: 131F "Tobi-kiri-kan" (extra hot), 104F "Nuru-kan" (lukewarm), 86F "Hinata-kan" (sunlight warm), 59F "Suzu-hie" (Cool breeze), and 41F "Yuki-hie" (snow cold). I though the two best temperatures were 50F and 86F, as they were the right tempeature to allow just the right expression to emerge. 41F was bit too cool for this saké, resulting in the flavors to become too focused. A lot of people liked 104F as it brought out some sweetness, but at 131F, it's tough to appreciate this saké's finer points as grainy sharpness of alcohol became predominant.

While it goes without saying that saké selection is usually the key to any saké tasting (can I state anything more obvious?!) the food was extraordinary, and generated just as much conversation. The pairing featured umami-rich Tuna Parmesan (with tomato sauce), Tuna Tataki (With saké ponzu sauce), the peppery Tuna Au Poivre, marinated Beef Satay, and Red Hot Yellowtail Roll. Personally, Tuna Au Poivre with the pepper cream sauce was the absolute winner, even better than the traiditional Steak Au Poivre using Filet Mignon.

At this point, pairing exercise didn't work too well. With saké at five different temperatures floating around, ever changing by the minute, combimed with five different dishes, meant that there were 25 different combinations one could try. At that stage, I just decided to forego the pairing exercise and just go with the flow and enjoy the evening. Afterall, that is the why we do this in the first place!

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