Monday, September 29, 2008

9/27/08: Mutual Trading Restaurant Show

The Saturday following Joy of Saké is the Mutual Trading Company's Food and Restaurant Show. My third visit unveiled some surprises.

Here's what transpired:

My first stop was Nanbu Bijin booth, hoping to pay my respect to Kuji-san. Unfortunately, he was still on a plane. What had arrived, however, were two versions of All-Koji, the 2004 and 2008 vintages. The 2004 was smooth and mild, while 2008 showed more earthiness and briskness.

It didn't take me too long to find a friendly face in the form of Aisawa-san. Also shown is the Hakuro Suishu Nama Daiginjo, recipient of the Gold Medal for National Saké Appraisal. This was an excellent saké, with outstanding softness, depth, and balance.

Unlike last year where he brought his entire Hakuro Suishu Nama Genshu series, Aisawa-san showcase a more focused portfolio. From JOS, I gained much appreciation for Hakuro Suishu Junmai Ginjo made in Muroka style using the local Dewa San San rice (pictured left), while Také No Tsuyu Junmai is one of the best-valued saké on the market. The 10 year Koshu was a pleasant surprise (2nd from the left).

"Onigoroshi" is one of those ubiquitous label on the market. Michinoku Onigashima from Miyagi is one of the standouts, with a very light and dry style suitable for both chilled and warm serving conditions.

As it was approaching 11:00 am for the Dashi Seminar which I was dying to attend, I was going to leave the saké room and head to the seminar room. However, right on the way was Hakkaisan, with Kubota on the next booth. I could not say "no," and tried those selections as well as Kikusui, Sharaku, and Tengumai. Tragically, as I was in the rush, I didn't have the luxury of taking the picture, and forgot to take the picture after the seminar.

After the seminar, I stopped by Komachi Shuzo from Gifu, creator of Nagaragawa "Symphony" Sparkling Nigori Namazaké. Like the famous Shirakawago from Gifu, Nagaragawa was a richer and drier style of Nigori. What is fascinating is that the brewers play music throughout their brewing process. The music, kind of repetitious "healing music" sends constant vibrations to the water rearranging molecules in organized manner. The brewers believe this is an ideal condition for fermentation. As a result, their heavier- style Nigori is light and clean on the palate.

It did not take long for me to spot this perennial powerhouse, Born's Yumé Wa Masayumé Aged Junmai Daiginjo. The careful aging process over five years is reflected in the very smooth, mellow, and delicate flavor.

Any time I see Kato-san, he is with beautiful women. This time, he is with his daughter. (Must be the water!)

Another pretty thing was the packaging for Hyozan, where 3 bottles create a mini-iceburg.

I was introduced to Muromachi Shuzo two years ago, and really introduced me to the wonders of Omachi Rice. This time around, they even had Shochu made from Omachi to try (fruity elegance on the palate, with soft minerally finish.)

The famed Tama No Hikari from Kyoto also has saké made from Omachi, in the form of their Junmai Daiginjo. Tama No Hikari was notable for their softer, earthier approach.

Around the corner, with a nice view of lower Manhattan, was the bar area with Shochu selections.

There were quite a few selections to choose from...

I opted to try two different Hozan series. Beniazuma (left) was cleaner style with pronounced depth and driness, while Shiroyutaka was milder, softer, and rounder in style.

Another new discovery today was Synchro Coffee Shochu. Tasting full of coffee beans with dry finish, it mixed well with Japanese yogurt flavored beverage, Calpico.

Next to the Shochu Bar was seminar room. Upon entering the room, I found Toshi from Saké Hana getting ready to conduct a presentation.

The topic of the lecture was on increasing saké sales. Opening remark was made by Kohiyama-san from Takasago Brewery in Hokkaido.

One of the many highlights is tasting sakés from the oldest brewery in Japan and maker of Sato No Homaré label, the incomparable Sudo Honké. The new discovery was Hana Awase Junmai Ginjo Nama. Gentle and subtle in style, yet slightly more expressive than Yusura also made in the Junmai Ginjo Nama fashion.

Before long, some very prominent figures gathered around. From left to right: Sudo-san, Mukai-san (food blogger, author), Ishiguro-san (consultant), Sakurai-san Sr. (Dassai), Kato-san (Born), and one lucky saké blogger. (Mr. Urban Saké is behind the camera.)

In retrospect, there aren't too many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, that's for sure!

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