Tuesday, February 05, 2008

2/3/08: Dassai Tasting at Sakagura

February third was an important day. Yes, there was that football game called Super Bowl. But more importantly(?!), there was the Niju-San No Kai ("Event of 23") held at premier saké bar/restaurant, Sakagura. This event is a playful reference to both the date (2/3) and the name of Dassai's "Polished to 23%" Junmai Daiginjo (磨き二割三分). I had the priviledge of translating for Sakurai-san.

The event featured four versions of "23" in total, first three of which are available only in Japan. The first selection was the "Centrifuge" (遠心分離). While the traditional pressing method involves extreme pressure to extract every ounce of fluid, the use of Centrifuge machine helps allow the very best part of the saké to be separated. What does this mean for us? A saké that is softer and rounder on the approach, with gentler finish. Interesting Fact I: Centrifuge machine can process only 40L/cycle (1 hour); at most, they can yield 300L of saké/day.

The second selection was the unpasteurized Nama version, which also was lightly cloudy. This is the New Year's limited release. The Nama element adds vibrancy to the texture, and presence of the lees adds more depth and noticeably longer umami-laden finish. The grapefruit-like flavor was perfect accent to Grilled Live Snow Crab. Interesting fact II: Centrifuge machine spins at the rate of 3,000 RPM ; however, the machine can be adjusted to rotate at upwards of 20,000 RPM which can cause fission. Because Centrifuge can be classified as WMD, it cannot be exported outside of Japan.

Third selection was the Sparkling Nigori (発泡にごり酒, the limited Christmas release that was inspired by the vision of people drinking Champagne with cake over Christmas.. The effervescence also allows the saké to be paired with richer food, such as the Fried Monkfish with Thickened Sauce. Interesting Fact III: while most saké is fermented in open tank, releasing carbonation in the process, Sparkling saké goes through second fermentation in a bottle to retain the bubbles.

Before the last saké, I shared some stories from my visit to Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Dassai is brewed over a slide show. (Note to Yamaguchi Tourism entity: I accept commission in the form of cash and personal checks.)

The last selection was the flagship "23" Junmai Daiginjo. As Sakurai-san said, this is a no-frills, straight-forward saké made to highight the essemce of their brewery. His mantra is, "don't think, just enjoy." With fruity flavors and firmer finish, it was the perfect accompaniment for Sea Urchin Chirashi-Sushi. Interesting Fact IV: Yield rate using Centrifuge is 50%, while Yabuta used for the flagship 23 yields significantly more at 80%.

Afterwards, all heck broke loose including foodfight that claimed Sakurai-san as casuality. Actually, that is an exaggeration, but let me explain. In Japan, we welcome Spring season (立春) by going through a type of cleansing ceremony called Setsubun (節分) the night before. Usually, Spring begins on 2/3 of each year, but on a Leap Year, Spring begins on 2/4. As 2008 is a Leap Year, 2/3/08 is the day to traditionally celebrate Setsubun.

The purpose of the ceremony is to symbolically drive away misfortune and ill-health by pelting the "demon" with pan-roasted soy beans while chanting "Demon out! Fortune in!" ("鬼は外、福は内!”) It is also a custom for people to eat number of beans corresponding to their age. (Some say eat one more than your age for additional luck.) Well, we needed the "Oni" devil. Mr. Urbansaké volunteered, but did not pass the audition as "Oni" don't really have blonde hair. However, we did have someone from Japan in town...

A Gaijin Oni?!

This is more like it! (Poor guy!)

Crowd huddles around the bottles

KC, Kadoi-san (Sakagura), and Sakurai-san

1 comment:

Una Vailable said...

Great evening. Nice to meet you and enjoy the Sake. Please post about upcoming events. Thanks.