Monday, January 28, 2008

1/26/08: Spring Nama Tasting at Union Square Wines

Few days ago, I received an email from Imanishi-san of Harushika Brewery. He told me that he would be in NYC. To be specific, he will be at Union Square Wines & Spirits as a part of Namazaké tasting conducted by Japan Prestige, along with selections from Koshi No Homaré, Shutendouji, Ichinokura, and Kamikokoro.

Here are the quick reviews:

* Koshi No Homaré Junmai Nama Genshu (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.7, Rice: Gohyakumangoku) from Niigata. This is a very focused and deep style, with long finish. No mistaking that you are drinking a Genshu.

* Shutendouji "Oo-oni" Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.7, Rice: Gohyakumangoku) from Kyoto. COmpared to Koshi No Kanbai, rounder, softer approach wth wider flavor range. Balanced elements of rice, fruits, and earthy hints of mushroom. Balanced, complex, and dry, Oo-oni remains a perennial favorite Spring Nama of Nihonshudō.

* Ichinokura Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu Nigori (SMV: -1, Acidity: 1.8) from Miyagi. Asami-san was back in the States, unvailing a first-time available saké in the States. This is an unpasteurized and undiluted cloudy-style saké, notable for very vibrant, semi-sparkling sensation and deep flavor that seemed drier than the SMV of -1. I immediately wished there was a tempura to go with this saké.

* Harushika Shiboribana Junmai Ginjo Nama (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.4) from Nara. Only non-Genshu of the lot, Harushika came across as more refined, gentle, with balance of fruits and some mushrooms.

* Kamikokoro "Toukagen" Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu(SMV: -11, Acidity: 1.4) from Okayama. Fruitiest and least dry of the lot, this would be perfect saké for before or after dinner, or quite possibly, on Valentine's Day.

* In addition, Kamikokoro had a saké I have never tried before: Koi Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.1, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%). The bottle is made for Koi restaurant, and stylistically, it does not feel like Yamadanishiki-at-40% fruity saké, as the flavor is milder and has moe elements of rice and some rusticness that provides complexity.

Thank you to all the brewers for their efforts and enthusiasm. I hope to see them in Japan one of these days!


On the way home, I stopped by Sakagura, because... it was on the way home. After touching base with Kadoi-san regarding the upcoming Dassai Tasting, it was time for dinner.

I ordered the elusive Azumaichi Junmai (alas, Junmai Ginjo continues to be even more elusive) from Saga. Wih balance of steamed rice and fruits on the palate, Azumaichi Junmai is one of the under-the-radar saké that I enjoy.

For the dishes, I had Chicken meat balls (鶏のつくね), Spanish mackeral wrapped rice balls (サンマのおにぎり), and picked plums from Wakayama Prefecture (紀州の梅干). While the saké was too bold for chicken and rice balls, it was perfect for mildly sweet and tart umé pickled plum.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Upcoming Event: 2/3/08 Dassai Tasting at Sakagura

Sure to be a fun evening coming up... even better than watching the Super Bowl!

(especially if you're a Jets fan.)

Please read below for details.


SAKAGURA AND ASAHI BREWERY PRESENTS"NIJU-SAN NO KAI" on Sunday, February 3rd. Sakagura cordially invites you to "NIJU-SAN NO KAI" - the first Sake Tasting Party of 2008. The phrase NIJU-SAN NO KAI is a play on words, and refers to the numbers "2" and "3". These numbers relate to the date of the event (2/3/2008), as well as our featured sakes made from rice grains polished to 23% of their original size.

We will welcome Mr. Kazuhiro Sakurai, executive director of Dassai, Asahi Shuzo ( ) and Mr. Kiyoshi "KC" Shinozaki, "Nihonshu" consultant ( "NIHONSHUDO NYC" Blog as the special guest lecturer.

The four sakes that have been carefully selected (including ones yet-to-beintroduced to the New York market) for this event are:

*NI-WARI SAN-BU: It is made with rice that has been milled so that only 23% of the original size of the grains remains. This is the highest degree of milling of any sake in the world.
**SHIBORI TATE: Fresh squeezed
***ENSHIN BUNRI: A centrifuge machine
****HAPPOU NIGORI: Sparkling unfiltered sake

In addition, in a joint effort with executive chef, Akinoubu Suzuki, authentic Japanese cuisine will be featured for pairing with the sake.

Menu (subject to change):
Three kinds of fresh white fish sashimi imported from Japan
Grilled Live Snow Crab
Lightly Fried Monk Fish Served with Vegetable Thickened Sauce
Sea Urchin "Chirashi" Sushi

Serving is limited to 20 guests. Prompt reservations are recommended for an evening not to be missed!

Admission: $50 (excluding tax and tip)
Seating: 20 guests
Time: 6:15 PM to 8:30 PM
RSVP Time: Mon-Fri 3:00-7:00 Sat-Sun 5:30-7:30
RSVP hotline: 212-953-SAKE (7253)
*Please note that a credit card number is required
*48-hour Cancellation Policy


Thursday, January 24, 2008

1/12/08: One day in a life of...

Today, I felt like a true New Yorker. Waking up with no agenda aside from stopping by Sakaya to greet Kuji-san from Nanbu Bijin, I had absolutely no expectations coming into what seemed to be an ordinary Saturday.

Since the in-store tasting began at 4:00 pm, I decided to see if Hideo was interested in coming Downtown. No dice, but I got invited to hang out at his place after the tasting. All I had to do was pick up 2 bottles of saké. Suddenly, my evening was beginning to take shape. Let's see what unfolded..

We were in for a treat, as Kuji-san brought over 4 bottles of freshly squeezed Tokubetsu Junmai Namazaké specifically for Sakaya. One bottle was for tasting. As he poured me the glass, the conversation went like this:

KC: "Mmmm... YUM!"
Kuji-san: "Here, would you like more?"
KC: "You know I can't say no!"
Kuji-san (pouring a generous glass): "We just squeezed this FEW WEEKS AGO! I am sure this is THE FRESHEST saké in New York right now!"

Cleaner than the regular Tokubetsu Junmai, two words to describe the saké would be "fresh" and "balanced." Fortunately, there was one bottle left for sale, and it was mine.

With the first bottle chosen, I had one more bottle to select. As Sakaya carries some unique sakés, I decided to take advantage of that fact and chose Hana Tomoé Junmai Ginjo from Nara. This, too, happened to be the last bottle in the store.

As I was bidding adieu, Kuji-san told me that he would be heading over to Saké Hana with few couple of people from NY Japion after 10:00 pm, and extended an invitation for me to join if I am in the area.

I got to Hideo's around 6:30 pm, two bottles in my hand. Hideo's friend cooked healthy vegetable-centric dishes, which were perfect for the sakés. We had a belated toast for the New Year with the Nanbu Bijin Nama. The dishes went very weill with the saké; it's always a plus when you can have saké, and enjoy munchies that are healthy.

The next bottle, Hanatomoe Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +6, Acidity: 1.7, Rice: Bizen Omachi, Seimabuai: 50%, Yeast: Assoc. #9) was partly chosen because my recent trip to Japan was still on my mind, and this was brewed in Nara. The saké was very good, with soft and round approach leading to a deep, balanced flavor. When we finished the bottle, it was time for me to meet up with Kuji-san at Saké Hana.

The evening, somewhat blurry at this point, was fun. Joining Kuji-san were Mori-san from Saké Bar Decibel, Tomoko-san from Chopsticks, and Hiroko-san from NY Japion. Basically, we talked saké. When Kuji-san spoke...

...the girls were enchanted.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

12/31/07: New Year's Eve

For the second year in a row, I decided to count down to the New Year's at Saké Hana. Before the countdown, my friend Anthony joined me for dinner at Sakagura. Here's what transpired...

We started the evening with Dewazakura Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Dewasansan, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: Yamagata). Fresh, mildly fruity, with flavor that's more upfront with shorter finish.

Timothy was in the house!

The first dish I ordered was Gindara (cod) Yuan Yaki. Brilliant dish.

Gindara was followed by Ebishinjo, shrimp ball with almond crust. I also had Buta No Kakuni, or stewed pork belly, a must-have.

While waiting for Toshi Koshi Soba (year-end soba), Mike Cunningham stopped by. He was generous enough to share a bottle of Miyasaka Junmai with us.

With Mike and his trademark hat.

At Saké Hana, we decided to go with the special set: Dassai 23, Tsukasabotan Space Saké, and Tedorigawa "Kaledoscope" Daiginjo. This was the first time I had Kaleidoscope (SMV: +6, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: Kanazawa), which was a limited production (400 bottles/year) Namazaké made in the Shizuku style. As expected of the competition-style saké, this was very intense with long finish.

A lot more happened at Saké Hana. Rick and Hiroko was there, as well as Ryan and Josh. There was a Lefty sighting. Alas, by this time, my camera was put away for good, so as they say, "what happens in Saké Hana stays in Saké Hana!"

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

12/27/07: Joto Saké Tasting at Sakaya

Sakaya held their second in-store tasting today, featuring three sakés from Joto Saké's portfolio. My motivation to visit were to thank Henry for arraging my visit to Tomita Shuzo, maker of Shichi Hon Yari, and pick out a bottle for my dinner. Fortunately, Henry was at the tasting, as well as my friend Harris Salat.

In addition to the standard tasting, Henry had two selections that were not available in the States yet. Yuho Junmai Ginjo (SMV:+5, Acidity: 1.7, Koji Rice: Yamadanishiki, Kaké Rice: Miyamanishiki, Seimaibuai: 55%) from Ishikawa was clean, focused, and balanced Junmai Ginjo with good depth and long umami on the finish.

The second bottle was Yuki No Bosha Yamahai Junmai Ginjo (Seimaibuai: 50%). This to me was half- Yamahai and half- Yuki No Bosha - there were slight earthiness, depth, and umami from Yamahai process, and restrained fruitiness of the Yuki No Bosha style.

Harris with Midori-san from Joto Saké.

Harris, Rick, and Henry.

I decided on Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Ginjo to pair with my dinner, leftover roast beef from Christmas. This turned out to be the perfect pairing.