Sunday, October 07, 2007

10/1/07: Saké Day Part I: Mutual Trading Restaurant Show

This was the second time I am attending Mutual Trading's Restaurant Show. Last year's event was tremendous, and no, I did not get drunk and buy a Masamoto knife this year (although I was mightily tempted...)

MTC carries some of the top brands of selections, including Dassai, Sudo Honké ("Sato No Homaré"), Born, and Nanbu Bijin among others. Today, the first booth I saw featured familiar face, as Chizuko from Sakagura Restaurant was helping with Asamai Brewery, "Ama No To" label. (More on their saké and brewery on the 10/2 entry coming up...)

First order of business was to seek out Kuji-san, but he was out to lunch, so I started to whet my appetite by visiting Born booth. The highlight was the super premium "Yumé wa Masayumé" (Dream Come True.) Their special release, a 2 year-old koshu called "Hoshi" (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: Kato #903), was very good with mild approach, smooth texture, and rich finish with umami. Interestingly, the kanji for hoshi "地球" denotes earth. I wasn't overly keen on their Genshu, which is made in the sweeter style with longer finish.

After trying fantastic saké selections from Bizen Muromachi, I met up with Kuji-san. Timothy stopped by, so there here's the picture of them. We reaquainted our palate with their fruity Daiginjo that we tried relatively recently, followed by their Tokubetsu Junmai. ALthough I've had their Tokubetsu Junmai on several occasions, most notably at this event, I noticed a difference in flavor of this vintage- it has lost some of the koji-like earthiness with more fruity notes. When pressed, Kuji-san admitted that they changed the production to cater to the changing trend of the consumers. Checking the website after the fact, there is one notable difference from 2006: SMV was lowered from +7 to +4.

The most educational part of the day came courtesy of Mr. Aisawa from Take No Tsuyu Brewery in Yamagata. Majority of their selections were from "Hakro Suishu" series, all made in the similar manner: Nama Genshu, Fukuro-tori, Muroka (unfiltered), and polished to 55%. This proved to be ideal lesson in "sakamai" (saké rice), covering anything from Dewasansan (subtle, mildly fruity) to Miyamanishiki (subtle, round, balanced), with rarer rice such as Kame No O (gentle, mild, celery), Dewa No Sato (subtle, refreshing), Kyo No Hana (subtle, ricey, long finish), Kairyo-Shinko (subtle, round, deep umami) in between. My favrorite happened to be a blend, the combination of Dewa-san-san and Miyamanishiki, memorable with its balance of softness, earthy umami, fruitiness, and roundness. Another treat was Mr. Aisawa using "仕込み水" or their low-alcali soft water to rinse the glass and cleanse palate in between. As if that were not enough, he finished the lecture with his dry style koshu. This Japanese site offers good catalogue of Take No Tsuyu selections.

After such comprehensive lesson, the time was right to visit food section, where I bumped into Lefty.

Upon coming back, I greeted Sakurai-san, and tried few other sakés. Admittedly, my palate wasn't functioning at 100%. I did notice that there were more recent increase in dry style saké, including Taruhei Brewery. Ambling along, I bumped into Rocky and Keiko Aoki, whom I haven't met in about a year. Later on, I saw my friend Chie-san who works for Chopsticks Magazine, and we proceeded to try some interesting cocktails including tomato- based shochu drink, and daikon radish-based shochu drink.

I also reconnected with Lefty, and decided to cap the day by visiting Sakagura for their Saké Day festivities... (continued in Part II)

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