The Aromas of Sake | Sake Event @ Bar Zingaro

The Aroma of Sake

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Before even taking a sip, the aromas of sake which emanate from the cup give us our first sense of the flavour that awaits. And these aromas are as captivating as they are varied: fruit, spice, fresh herbs, caramel, cereal and even yoghurt are just some of the notes you may encounter.

But how can a beverage made from rice have such extraordinary range of fragrances?

The answer is in the kobo, or sake yeast. Learning a little about yeast can help you pick out the aromas and flavours in sake, and guide you towards discovering what types of sake best suit you.

Come and delight your senses with Rebekah Wilson-Lye, as she explores the aromas of sake through a guided tasting of beautifully crafted sake from seven innovative breweries.

<Reservations>  SOLD OUT
Please email your name and phone number to the address below:
info@bar-zingaro.jp
Entrance fee of JPY2,000 (to cover the sake tasting and a plate of cheese and ham) will be collected on the day of the event.

We look forward to seeing you at Bar Zingaro!

http://bar-zingaro.jp

Special thanks to my sponsors for this event, Atilika Inc.Atilika Inc

カップに口を近づけると、ふんわりとしたお酒の香りが嗅覚を刺激します。
お酒のアロマは様々に変化するのは、フルーツやスパイス、新鮮なハーブ、キャラメル、シリアルやヨーグルトといった馴染みのある香りを含んでいる からです。

しかし、お米から作られた飲み物が、なぜそのような特殊な香りになるのでしょうか?
答えは酵母です。
酵母について知る事で、お酒のアロマや風味を感じ取るができ、あなたにぴったりのお酒を見つける事ができるようになります。

日本酒ソムリエ(SEC certified Advanced Sake Professional) であるレベッカ・ウィ ルソンライと一緒に、お酒の香りを楽しみましょう。
今回は7種類の斬新なお酒をご用意しました。
お酒の試飲を通じ、皆さんを香りの世界へご案内します。

<ご予約方法>
下記のアドレスにお名前とお電話番号をお送りください。
info@bar-zingaro.jp

<イベント参加費>
一般:¥2,000
留学生:¥1,000
(日本酒試飲とチーズ&ハムのプレート代込み)
を当日お支払いい頂きます。

——
皆様のご来場お待ちしております!

http://bar-zingaro.jp

Fuglen Sake Flight: The Autumn Harvest

The harvest season is here, and what a bummer crop it is! Around the country we are enjoying the rich array of nature’s abundance; tables heave with with fresh produce, new season rice, ripe fruit, and some of the fattiest, tastiest fish of the year. Autumn is indeed shokuyoku no aki – the season of hearty appetites.

Autumn has also long been regarded as the prime season for drinking sake, and the reason is that as the temperature chills and the leaves turn golden, crimson colours, breweries around the country finally release their fully matured brews.

The fresh autumnal sake is known as hiyaoroshi, and sometimes, more poetically, as aki-agari – ‘the autumn yield’. And like the madness surrounding the release of Beaujolais Nouvelle, there is always a lot of eager anticipation for the arrival of hiyaoroshi, which is officially released on September 9th. Hiyaoroshi, refers to sake that has been pasteurised only once before it is stored & then matured throughout summer. It is prized for its harmony of lively nama freshness and ripe autumnal flavours… the perfect beverage for pairing with the season’s harvest fare.

This month at Fuglen we will be celebrating the bounty of the season with a tasting flight of three rich and settled autumnal brews: Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi, Yamagata Masamune Junmai-Ginjo Aki-agari and Senkin Akatonbo Yamahai Kame no O Hiyaoroshi. Cheers!

Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi

山和 純米吟醸 ひやおろし

Yamawa Hiyaoroshi

A refreshing and easy to drink sake with a mellow, savoury nose and a smooth, supple flavour that lingers in the finish. Its nicely pitched acidity make it an the ideal companion for comforting autumnal fare. Drink it straight from the fridge and then enjoy the subtle shifts in flavour and aroma as it warms to room temperature.

Yamawa Shuzo, Miyagi – 山和酒造、宮城県

Sake rice: Nagano Miyama Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 50%
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 17-18%

原料米: 長野県産 美山錦
精米歩合: 50%
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.7
アルコール度 17-18%

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari Junmai-Ginjo

山形正宗 秋あがり 純米吟醸

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari

A gentle, refreshing fragrance, with faint notes of ripe fruit. The aroma is beautifully complemented by the calm, sweet richness of the Yamada Nishiki rice, which swells and reverberates across your palate.  And the finish – ah! It ends with the clean, sword like cut which is so characteristic of  Yamagata Masamune’s style. Carefully matured at low temperatures, this sake has a wonderful harmony of freshness and soft, settled flavour. 

Mitobe Shuzo, Yamagata – 水戸部酒造、山形県

Sake rice: Banshu A-Grade Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 55%
Yeast: Kumamoto Kobo (Also known as #9)
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.55
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 播州特A山田錦
精米歩合: 55%
酵母: 熊本酵母 (9号)
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.55
アルコール度 16%

Senkin Yamahai* Kame no O Hiyaoroshi

仙禽 山廃 亀の尾 ひやおろし

Senkin Yamahai Hiyaoroshi

Enter the dragon(fly)! The Akatonbo Hiyaoroshi is the latest creation of  Senkin’s genius Usui brothers. And what a stunning debut it is. Comforting notes of vanilla custard, caramel & dried fruits emanate from the glass and infuse harmoniously with the rich & mature flavour.  The palate is juicy with Senkin’s trademark sweet-acidity, and while its got some impact from the alcohol, its a punch with a velvet glove. Warm and nostalgic, this sake evokes images of an autumnal crimson sunset.

*Yamahai-shikomi is a traditional brewing method in which the yeast starter is made in a way that allows wild yeast and bacteria to be present, for a time, in the fermenting mash. It often produces a gamier, rustic flavour.

Senkin Shuzo, Tochigi – 仙禽酒造、栃木県

Sake rice: Tochigi grown Premium Grade Kame no O
Rice polishing rate: 80%
Yeast: Private
Nihonshudo: Private
Acidity: Private
Alcohol: 17%

原料米: 栃木県さくら市産亀の尾特等米
精米歩合: 80%
酵母: 非公開
日本酒度: 非公開
酸度 非公開
アルコール度 17%

 

Sake: A Taste of the Seasons | Morgan Salon 03

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Click on image to view flyer

SEPTEMBER 28, 2014 (SUN.) 5PM~7:30PM 

ICHI FOR THE MICHI is please to announce this exciting collaboration with world renewed musician & photographic artist, Morgan Fisher. Come and join us for an evening of seasonal sake and live music!

For those of you who missed my last presentation at Bar Zingaro, this is your chance to explore seasonal sake through a guided tasting of fresh summer and autumn offerings from seven innovative breweries.

Then, the evening’s host, Morgan Fisher, will delight and inspire you with his unique brand of musical improvisation

MORGAN SALON is an ongoing series of cultural events held in the intimate surroundings of British musician Morgan Fisher’s personal studio.

www.morgan-fisher.com

Seats are limited to 30 people,  so reservations are essential.

Please email your name & contact number to morgan@gol.com

MORGAN SALON 

〒168-0063 Tokyo, Suginami-kuIzumi 2-2-4

Five minutes walk  from Daitabashi Stn (Keio Line). A map with be sent on confirmation of your booking. Door opens @4:30pm.

¥3,000

(Ticket incl. a selection of French cheese & bread)

旬の日本酒利き酒会とライブイベント

2014年9⽉28日 (日) 17:00~19:30

SEC (Sake Education Council) 公認日本酒上級プロフェッショナルソムリエのレベッカ・ウィルソンライと一緒に季節の日本酒を楽しみましょう。7カ所の革新的な酒蔵からの日本酒を解説つきでテイスティングいたします。

ホストのモーガン・フィシャーのオリジナル即興演奏も同時に楽しめる豪華な企画です。

www.morgan-fisher.com

「モーガン・サロン」はイギリス人音楽家・キーボード奏者モーガン・フィッシャーの自宅兼スタジオで行われている、30人程度の観客を想定したこじんまりとしたカルチャーイベント・シリーズです。

皆様のご参加をお待ちしています。

予約はメールでお願いします: morgan@gol.com

お名前・連絡先・電話番号を添えてお送りください。

MORGAN SALON

〒168-0063 東京都、杉並区、和泉 2-2-4

京王線代田橋駅から徒歩5分。16:30 会場

参加費:3000円 

(フランス産チーズ付き)

Sake: Decoding the Grades |Tasting Event @Bar Zingaro

Sake Decoding the Grades

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The sake boom is here, and suddenly everyone has a developed thirst for this superlative brew.
But for newcomers, the dizzying array of labels on the market, and the baffling terminology mean that sake can be intimidating to approach.
One of the easiest ways to navigate the options is to become familiar with grades sake is divided into.

This month at Bar Zingaro we will decode the classifications of premium sake, the variances in their production, rice milling rates, fragrances and flavour profiles. Getting to grips with these basics will not only give you more confidence, it will take some of the guess-work out of ordering.

Come and indulge your inner sake geek with Rebekah Wilson-Lye, a SEC certified Advanced Sake Professional, as she gives an introduction to the sake grades, along with a guided tasting of sake from 7 innovative breweries.

For ongoing updates, join the event on Bar Zingaro’s event page.

<Reservations>
Please email your name and phone number to the address below:
info@bar-zingaro.jp
Entrance fee of JPY2,000 (to cover the sake tasting and a plate of cheese) will be collected on the day of the event.
Entrance fee of JPY1000 for international students.

We look forward to seeing you at the event!

日本酒ブームの到来により、近頃急速に日本酒への熱狂はどんどん高まっています。
しかしながら日本酒ビギナーの人にとっては、めまいがするほど市場に出回るラベルの多さと難しい専門用語に道を阻まれ、日本酒は敬遠されがちです。
それを打破する最も簡単な方法が、日本酒のグレードについて知るという方法です。

今月は、Bar Zingaroでプレミアム酒の分類、生産地、精米率、香りと風味の特徴について解説します。
日本酒の基礎知識を得て自信を持って頂いた後は、少しチャレンジもしていただきます。

日本酒ソムリエ(SEC certified Advanced Sake Professional )レベッカ・ウィルソンライと、日本酒の夜を楽しみましょう。
今回は7種類の斬新な日本酒をご試飲いただき、彼女がそのグレードについて解説します。

<ご予約方法>
下記のアドレスにお名前とお電話番号をお送りください。
info@bar-zingaro.jp

<イベント参加費>
一般:¥2,000
留学生:¥1,000
(日本酒試飲とチーズプレート代込み)
を当日お支払いい頂きます。

皆様のお越しをお待ちしております!

 

夏酒: A Taste of Summer | Tasting Event @Bar Zingaro

Click on image for event flyer

Click on image for event flyer

With the oppressive summer humidity showing no signs of abating, there is no better time to dive into a fresh selection of this season’s natsuzake.
This refreshing summer sake’s is designed to beat the heat, and revive natsubate fatigued constitutions. Come and cool down with Rebekah Wilson-Lye, a SEC certified Advanced Sake Professional, as she gives an introduction to sake’s seasonal styles, along with a guided tasting of natsuzake from seven innovative breweries.

<Reservations>
Please email your name and phone number to the address below:
info@bar-zingaro.jp
Entrance fee of JPY2,000 (to cover the sake tasting and a plate of cheese) will be collected on the day of the event.
UNIVERSITY STUDENT DISCOUNT: JPY1,000 Entrance fee!

We look forward to seeing you at the event!

うだるような蒸し暑さが、まだまだ収まる気配を見せないこの頃。
夏酒の爽やかなセレクションに挑戦するには、とっておきの時期です。
清々しい夏の酒は、暑さを吹き飛ばし、夏バテで疲れた体を生き返らせるでしょう。

Bar Zingaroにて、日本酒ソムリエ(SEC certified Advanced Sake Professional) であるレベッカ・ウィルソンライとクールダウンしましょう!
今回のイベントでは、季節にぴったりな酒の紹介レクチャーのほか、レベッカ指導のもと、これまでにない7つの酒蔵からの夏酒のテイスティングを行います。

<ご予約方法>
以下アドレスへお名前とお電話番号をお送り下さい。
info@bar-zingaro.jp
当日参加費¥2,000(チーズ付き)を頂きます。
当日参加費・学割¥1,000(チーズ付き)を頂きます

皆様のご来場お待ちしております。

Fuglen Sake 101: Natsuzake – Summer Sake Flight

When the hot, humid days of summer arrive, brewers around the country wrap up production for the year and take the opportunity to enjoy a well deserved break. By now, the first batches of new spring sake have already been released, and the rest is settling & aging in tanks, so the market goes a bit quiet as everyone waits expectantly for the release of the year’s fully matured sake in October. But fear not, there is still plenty of great sake to look forward to during the summer season. It’s around this of year that pretty blue bottles of lively and intensely fruity summer namazake begin to appear in the refrigerators of good sakaya. These sake tend to be light, refreshing and, due to lower alcohol levels, eminently quaffable – perfect for quelling the meanest summer thirst.

This month at Fuglen, ICHI FOR THE MICHI has selected three breezy summer sake for you dive into.

Fuglen Summer Sake Flight

石鎚  夏純米 槽搾り

Ishizuchi Natsu Junmai Funeshibori*

Clean and refreshing, with Ishizuchi’s characteristic spring water-like minerality. An aromatic ginjo nose, with a light body that spreads nicely across your palate. Beautifully balanced, with notes of sweet rice, flinty stone, and a lingering crisp acidity. Slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune to produce a fine-grained texture.

Ishizuchi Natsuzake

石鎚酒造 (愛媛県)Ishizuchi Shuzo (Ehime) 

Ishizuchi Shuzo is a small, family run brewery founded which was founded in 1920, near Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture. The name of the shuzo comes from Ishizuchisan, a mountain significant for being the tallest in the Shikoku region, as well as the source of the rich spring water which is used to create their sake.

This tiny brewery is run by four members of the Ochi family, who devote themselves to producing a small amount of high quality sake made with time-consuming, labour intensive techniques. Their sake is fermented for 40 days at a low temperature, then slow-pressed using a slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune press. The result of this careful process is a finely textured sake with a smooth, clean flavour.

Sake rice: Locally grown Shizuku Hime
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Nihonshudo: +3
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 愛媛県産 しずく媛
精米歩合: 60%
日本酒度:+3
酸度: 1.7度
アルコール度: 16%

*Funeshibori 槽しぼり – Sake that has been pressed in a traditional wooden ‘fine’ box press.

Taka Natsu Junmai Happo Nigori** Namashu

貴 夏純米 発泡 にごり* 生酒

Lively and delicious! This happo-nigori’s light effervescence and cloudy appearance is reinforced by a fragrance of sweet Calpis and fresh grapes. On the palate the gentle sweet rice flavour swells and then pulls back to leave a refreshing dry finish. It’s delicate bubbles and nicely pitched acidity create a light, cool and refreshing summery feel.  - the perfect partner for convivial drinks on a hot summers night. 

Serving suggestion: Enjoy in a champagne flute, and pair with grilled meat & vegetables.

Taka Happo Nigori

Nagayama Honke (Yamaguchi) - 永山本家 (山口県)

Located in Ube City, at the south-western tip of Honshu, family run Nagayama Honke has been brewing its sake since 1888, with the mineral rich water from Shimofuriyama.

Under the leadership of fourth generation kuramoto, Takahiro Nagayama, the brewery is moving forward with a new, progressive vision. He is also one of the growing number of young kuramoto who are taking on the duel responsibilities of being a brewery’s managing director, as well as its master brewer.

Committed to producing only junmai sake, made with the best of the regions natural resources, Nagayama-san keeps production yields low in order to the quality high. The brewery is invested in supporting local agriculture, and contracts local rice farmers to supply sakamai for the brewery. Nagayama-san has also turned his hand to farming – cultivating his own Yamada Nishiki in the fields that surround the kura.

“Taka” (meaning noble) takes its name from the first kanji of the man who created it. The stylised font of the 貴 character, which Nagayama-san wrote himself, reflects his strength, passion and slightly wild personality. Since launching the label in 2001, Taka has become one of the darlings of the sake world, and for good reason. Its characteristic mellow flavour, and nicely chiselled acidity, favors wide range of delicious cuisine, and lends itself to a night of delicious fun.

Sake rice: Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: +-0
Acidity: 1.6
Alcohol: 15~16%

原料米: 山田錦
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: +-0
酸度 1.6
アルコール度 15〜16%

**Happo Nigori 発泡にごり – Sparkling cloudy sake. Sake that has some residual rice lees – ori -remaining, and has undergone secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker Junmaiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu***

玉川  Ice Breaker  純米吟醸 無濾過生原酒

Ice Breaker by name, Heat Breaker by nature. Don’t be mislead by its fresh, pretty fragrance, this rich and flavoursome muroka nama genshu has plenty of punch. Delicious straight out of the fridge, or it enjoy over ice to soften the impact of its amped up alcohol level. Revitalising, tasty and eminently quaffable – the perfect thirst-quencher for the hanabi & summer festival session.

Serving suggestion: On the rocks. Perfect for enjoying with barbecued fare.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker

Kinoshita Shuzo (Kyoto) - 木下酒造 (京都県)

Kinoshita is an extraordinary brewery. And that’s not so much due to the award-winning Tamagawa sake they produce, or the old school brewing techniques they use, – as it is for their toji (master brewer). Philip Harper has the distinction of being the first and only non-Japanese to attain the rank of master brewer. He’s also responsible for producing Tamagawa’s remarkably intense brews.

Although there may have been some suspicion (and expectation of failure) of a foreigner brewing the country’s national drink, since taking on the role of toji at Tamagawa’s, in 2007, Harper has won over the sake industry and the nation with his flavour driven, masculine sake.

The brewery’s mission is take fine rice, grown by farmers they have a direct relationship with to create their sake. The distinct flavour, for which Tamagawa is so renowned, is derived from Harper’s use of traditional brewing technique called ‘shizen shikomi’ or ‘stontaneous fermentation’, a natural brewing preparation used during the Edo Period, but which is not widely used today. By combining the best natural resources with labour intensive brewing techniques, and an exceptional level of skill, Tamagawa aims to brew great sake with integrity, heart and soul & to strive to produce sake that will delight and inspire.

Sake rice: (Koji) Nihonbare, (Kakemai) Gyohakumangoku
Rice polishing rate: (Koji) 50%, (Kakemai) 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: -2
Alcohol: 16~17%

原料米: (麹)日本晴、(掛) 五百万石
精米歩合:  (麹)50%、(掛)60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: -2
アルコール度 16〜17%

***Muroka 無濾過 – Uncharcoal filtered

Nama 生 – Unpasteurised (fresh) sake

Genshu 原酒 – Undiluted sake

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai, brewed with Hokkaido grown Ginpu sake rice – developed especially for cold climate conditions.

Shonzui 祥瑞 – Raising the (Natural) Wine Bar

Bio-organic, vin du naturel, shizenha, hipster juice – whatever the epithet – like them or not, natural wine is here to stay. IMG_6640 There has been much media fanfare surrounding the bevy of new natural wine bistros that have sprung up around the city; most notably Ahiru Store, Beard, Standing Bar Waltz, and – my local – Le Verre Vole. But this boom may didn’t happen in a vacuum, nor did it happen overnight. It was the result of pioneers like wine importer Francois Dumas and Shinsaku Katsuyama, a renowned restauranteur and bon vivant, whose passion and forethought broke open the market and brought this previously undervalued genre to the Japanese public’s attention.  In fact, if it weren’t for the efforts of these early Japanese enthusiasts some of the labels we enjoy today wouldn’t be on the market. In the early 90′s, when natural winemakers were struggling to find a market for their wine in France, it was Japanese wine buyers who came to the rescue, buying up to 80% of some of wineries stock, thereby establishing Japan as the biggest importer of natural wine in the world and saving cash strapped winemakers from certain financial ruin. IMG_7736 It would seem that the significance of these early vanguards is not lost on the new generation of bistro du vin owners. When I asked Le Verre Vole’s Ryo-san where he choses to dine out on one of his rare nights off, the answer was emphatic: Shonzui – a Roppongi institution run by the aforementioned Katsuyama-san.

Established in 1993, on the ‘right’ side of Roppongi (away from the sleazy strip clubs and gaijin watering holes of Gaienmai-dori), Shonzui has long held a reputation for its excellent wine selection and hearty bistro fare. In days of old, Katsuyama-san, whose unassuming and jovial character belies this incredible wine knowledge, worked the floor as both host and sommelier, serving rustic dishes inspired from his his extensive travels throughout the wine regions of France. festivin2012_0823_MwebThese days he has handed these duties over to a young talented team, so he can devote time to his new Chinese BBQ venture, “Lucky”, promoting natural wine through his Festivin project, and pursuing his other great love, jazz. Shonzui interior On a chilly spring evening, Ryo-san rallied the troops for an evening at his favourite dining room. We were a curious multi-national and multi-generational coterie, comprised of la families Le Verre Vole (including the angelic, 9 month old, Anjou) the babes of Standing Bar Waltz (wife and newborn – sadly Papa had to work), two Frenchmen, a Norwegian, and yours truly. We were warmly greeted by the dapper maitre d’, Tsubo-san, and immediately treated to a bottle of wine to kick off our festivities. IMG_7689 Complements of the house: a bottle of Gilles et Catherine Verge’s Pétillant Naturel Bulle à Zéro, from Viré, in the Mâconnais district of southern Burgundy. The vividly yellow appearance and slightly oxidised apple aromas of this semi-sparkling chardonnay were more reminiscent of a Jura-style than something I would associate with the south of Burgundy. I was later to learn that the Verges, who only make san soufre wine due to sulphur allergies, lift the lids of the vats during the vinification process to encourage oxidisation and to allow nutty flavours and cider aromas to develop. Is it me, or do the bourgeoisie seem to have terribly delicate systems these days? All cynicism aside, the zesty lemon honey and limestone flavours combined with a soft effervescency made it a pleasant enough start to the night. Kajiki maguroThe blackboard menu lists an array of simple, unpretentious and unabashedly meat-driven bistrot fare. But in all my visits I’ve never ordered from it. Instead, I seek inspiration from the counter, where a selection of proteins stand resplendent: whole Bresse chickens trussed and ready for roasting, enormous steaks of aged wagyu, and, on this evening, a huge cross section of kajiki-maguro (swordfish) – a welcome sight to someone with pescatarian tendencies. After preferences were sort, we sat back and relaxed as the kitchen went about plying us with plate after heaping plate of flavoursome rustic food. IMG_7690First up, “The Boucherie’s Plate”. Amongst the charcuterie assortment: roast pork, parma ham, roast pigeon hearts, terrine de campagne, cornichons, and pork rilette, which we liberally heaped onto crusty slices of freshly baked campagne bread. IMG_7710Les Vieilles Vignes des Blanderies 2006, a beautifully composed Chenin Blanc from Domaine Mark Angeli, in Anjou. Like the Verges, Angeli has demoted all of his wine to the humble ‘Vin de Table’ status in protest to the appellation’s rigid regulations and refusal to reduce the use of pesticides in the region. In fact, this became an emerging theme throughout the night. Kajiki saladThe kajiki-maguro appeared table-side in the form of a protein-packed salad made with rocket and home cured sardines. It was as generous in flavour as it was in proportion. IMG_7723Our lively conversation was briefly interrupted when a pot of live lobster was brought to the table for our inspection. Would this be to our liking? Indeed it would! Lobster Quickly dispatched by the chef, the lobster, along with two of its friends, returned grilled with a liberal saucing of herb butter. But where were the claws? Lobster gratinThey arrived atop a wickedly rich and decadent dish of oven roasted potato gratin. Swoon! EponaAnother Chenin, and yet another Vin de Table: Domaine Griottes’ Epona, from Lambert du Lattay, in the Loire. Made by Patrick Desplats and Sebastien Dervieux, two wild and wooly rebels of the natural wine movement, who espouse an ultra-traditionalist non-intervention method; no SO2 or additives, and  wild yeast fermentation. The Epona charmed with its subtle bouquet and fresh, mineral taste. A nice counterbalance to the rich creaminess of the lobster gratin. IMG_3865   An old friend from the North: Domaine Gérard Schueller. Somewhat of a firebrand, Bruno Schueller’s winemaking philosophy is based on bio-dynamics, but his idiosyncratic style and aversion to regulations, particularly those of the INAO, mean that his wine seems to defy easy classification. His minimal intervention approach; using only a tiny amount of SO2 at bottling, as well as lengthy fermentation & maturation periods results in vivid, lively wine with nice balance & depth. I’ve also noticed a bit of bottle variation  - possibly due to poor storage conditions post-dispatch from the winery.

Having enjoyed the Gewurtztraminer & Riesling from Schueller in the past, I was interested to try the Pinot Noir. Pale ruby in hue, with an abundance of fresh raspberry & rhubarb aromas. Slightly petillant with bright acidity and a distinct minerality – this is a great quaffing wine for a summer bbq… but sadly, lacked the body & structure to stand up to our hearty steak dinner. WagyuHoly wagyu! We were presented with two strapping sirloin cuts of aged Yamagata-gyu, each weighing around 900 grams. The red meat deprived Norwegian literally started purring at this stage. Steak Frites Steak Frites 2 IMG_7735La vache! Two heaving boards of perfectly rendered sirloin, cooked to the rare side of medium-rare, with simple accompaniments of duck fat roasted potatoes and dressed leaves. A reverent hush fell across our table as members savoured the pleasure of each flavour-releasing chew. From all accounts it was a succulent flavour-bomb of well cooked cow. Tsubo-san The mothers and babes bid us farewell, and with their departure the games began – Tsubo-san acting as our incorrigible enabler. Sensing our desire for something more robust, Tsubo-san appeared with a selection of more hearty varietals. After giving a detailed and eloquent description of each wine, a clear winner emerged… Les Balatilles Les Baltailles! This san soufre gamay, from the Beaujolis vineyard Domaine Phillipe Jambon, was an absolute stunner: rich and intense with dried fruit, bitter chocolate and umami flavours. In this instance its ‘vin de table’ moniker works well, because has it been labelled ‘Beaujolais’ one might have expected something much lighter and less structured in the glass. 2008 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères Valinière As with namazake, I find that when you drink natural wine the aroma and flavour are masked by the haze of it’s fresh unpasteurised character. I register that it’s a natural wine, rather than get any sense of terroir or grape. Not so with this 2008 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères Valinière. Clean and well balanced on the nose, with plum, dark berry and pleasant mineral notes. The flavour was a revelation. Made with 80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah, and aged two years in barrel, it was full and lush on the palate, with nicely integrated tannins and acidity. The clarity and precision of this wine are a testament to the craftsmanship of Didier Barral, a biodynamic vintner, who eschews the use of sulphur, filtering and fining. Definitely worth seeking out. Bacchanalia As the evening progressed, and more bottles were produced, the bacchanalia increased and soon the line between patrons and staff blurred. We took the ‘cheese course’ standing at the bar, the chef shaving slices of aged comte onto our hands in between slugs from his wine glass. Some Roquefort appeared and immediately disappeared, along with bowls of Shizuoka strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar. And on and on the wine kept following… IMG_3867 At 2am, red-cheeked and full-bellied, we reluctantly bid adieu to our generous hosts. It had been an evening of good honest food, vivid wine and exceptional hospitality – a night with good friends that will be indelibly etched in my memory.

At some point during the festivities, a marker had been produced and a drunken message was scrawled amongst the tributes on the wall. “Forget Michelin,” someone had written in wobbly cursive script, “this is the real star dining experience.” Someone may have been seriously sloshed, but as the saying goes, “In vino veritas!”

UPDATE: Sadly, Tsubo-san has departed from Shonzui. You will find him at Le Cabaret, working the floor with his usual charm.

 SHONZUI 

03-3405-7478

Sake: A Sense of Place | Bar Zingaro

ICHI FOR THE MICHI is pleased to announce that I will be holding a regular sake presentations at Bar Zingaro, in Nakano, from May 10th, 2014.

The evening will begin with a presentation of the theme Sake: A Sense of Place, followed by a guided tasting of sake from seven innovative breweries. We will also be serving a selection of cheeses and otsumami snacks for your enjoyment. Tickets cost ¥1,500, and includes all food & sake served during the event – bargain!

Due to limited space, reservations are essential. Bookings can be made directly with Bar Zingaro, or through their Facebook page.

Click on the image for more information.

Sake A Sense of Place

 

Fuglen Sake 101: Sakamai

When spring arrives, sake brewers around the country wind up production for the year, and farmers being the labour-intensive process of planting the rice for next year’s brew. But while sake can be made from table rice, only premium sake can be brewed from sakamai: rice which has been specifically developed for sake making.

There are around 100 different types of sake rice in use today, each with its own unique characteristics that will have a significant affect on the taste of the final product.

In this season’s flight we will compare sake brewed from three iconic grains: the majestic Yamada Nishiki; the pristine Gohyakumangoku; and, the granddaddy of them both, Omachi – the only pure strain of sake rice in Japan.

Aizumusume Junmai

Aizumusume Junmai - 会津娘 純米

A classic expression of Aizu grown Gohyakumangoku rice. Fresh yet restrained fragrance. Light bodied with a calm, clear flavour which spreads across the palate, then departs with a clean finish.

Takahashi Shōsaku Shuzo, Fukushima-ken – 高橋庄作酒造、福島県 

Sake rice: Locally grown Gohyakumangoku
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Nihonshudo: +2~+3
Acidity: 1.4~ 1.6
Alcohol: 15%

原料米: 会津産 五百万石
精米歩合: 60%
日本酒度:+2~+3
酸度: 1.4~1.6度
アルコール度: 15%

Jikon Junmaiginjo Yamada Nishiki

Jikon Junmaiginjō Yamada Nishiki Muroka Nama Genshu

而今 純米吟醸 山田錦 無濾過生原酒*

Yamada Nishiki’s rich, fragrant character gets amplified in this charming Junmaiginjō. Ripe melon & green apple aromas. A sweet, well-rounded flavour, enlivened by pleasant acidity, and a faint bitterness that lingers in the mouth.

Kiyasho Shuzō, Mie-ken - 木屋正酒造, 三重県

Sake rice: Yamada Nishiki locally grown in Iga, Mie-ken.
Rice polishing rate: 50%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: +1.0
Acidity: 1.2
Alcohol: 16.5%

原料米:伊賀産山田錦
精米歩合:50%
酵母: 9号
日本酒度:+1
酸度:1.6
アミノ酸度:1.2

Kaze no Mori Omachi

Kaze no Mori Junmaiginjō Shibori Hana Muroka Nama Genshu.

風の森 純米吟醸しぼり華* 無濾過生原酒

Kaze no Mori harnesses the rich, fruity, earthiness that is unique to Omachi in this superb Junmai. Lively & fragrant, with refined acidity and a smooth, round flavour that wraps the palate.

* ‘Shibori Hana’ is Kaze no Mori’s moniker for Arabashiri; a term linked to the pressing process. When the moromi (fermenting mash) is placed cloth bags and laid into a tradition fune box press, sake will immediately begin to run out due to the weight of the bags – without any pressure being applied by the press. This run-off sake is known as “arabashiri,” which means “rough run.” Kaze no Mori believes it is the most lively and fragrant section of pressed sake, hence the more flowery epithet.

Yucho Shuzo, Nara-ken – 油長酒造、奈良県

Sake rice: Omachi grown in Bizen, Okayama-ken.
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: No. 7
Nihonshudo: -4.0
Acidity: 2.0
Alcohol: 17.5%

原料米: 備前 雄町
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会7号系
日本酒度: -4.0
酸度 2.0
アルコール度 17.5%

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai or Yamahai Junmai, brewed with Hokkaido grown Ginpu sake rice – developed especially for cold climate conditions.

Sushi Sora, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo

Sushi Sora view

A sushi dinner in the lofty environs of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, paired with sake from a menu compiled by a champion sommelier: my expectations were as high as the restaurant’s 38th floor location.

Sushi Sora had enjoyed a blitz of media coverage throughout the summer, with superlative laden ‘reviews’ illustrated with beautifully composed images gracing the pages of advertorial magazines and “pay for content” international travel blogs. As tempting as it seemed, the cynic in me was not so easily swayed – I know a marketing push when I see one. Despite my reservations, Sushi Sora had the endorsement of my sushi senpai, Ninisix, who had enjoyed several lunches there and was keen to return for a dinner omakase with lashings of sake. Needless to say, I leap at the chance to join her.

The restaurant certainly delivers on wow factor. This is the epitome of lux-dining. With a swish of the sliding door, you are drawn into an elegantly conceived space with dark onyx walls and a sweeping view across the Tokyo skyline. But for me, the star attraction is not the illuminated spectacle of nearby Tokyo Skytree, but the elegant 8-seat blonde wood counter top made from a 350 year old cypress tree.

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Yuji Imaizumi (pictured) is the chef in charge of operations at Sushi Sora. Unfortunately, as the restaurant was fully booked, we were only able to secure seats in front of his assistant, Hironobu Sato, who seemed to be lumped with serving the foreign contingent. Our chef turned out to be a very friendly chap who, despite his apparent youth, had an impressive resume of experience; beginning in the kaiseki kitchens of Kyoto, before apprenticing at elite Ginza sushi shops Tsubaki and Ookawara.
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A present? The menu? Neither, in fact. I unwrapped the origami creation to discover a napkin. An elegant detail.
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The assistant manager, Kaoru Izuha, was the recent winner of the Kikizakeshi (sake sommelier) World Championship – an enormous feat for someone so young. She has used her impressive knowledge to compile sake list of 25 labels that pair best with sushi. I was interested to see that she had chosen to arrange the list by sakamai rather than grade – a nice touch given that rice is as fundamental to sake as it is to sushi.
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Sadly, she was not working the night we visited, but her well-trained staff were well versed in the range, and very generous with complementary tastings.

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We settled on the Masami ‘Sanka’ Junmaiginjo (Yamada Nishiki 45%), Miyasaka Shuzo – Nagano. 真澄 純米大吟醸「山花」(山田錦 45%), 宮坂醸造 – 長野  The complex fragrance of fresh green herb and ‘mountain flowers’ followed through in clean, refreshing flavour.
2013-07-29 09.56.39-1The vessel you drink from not only has an enormous effect on your enjoyment of sake, but also your perception of its taste. However, apart from specialist bars and izakaya, sake still is almost always served in tiny ochoko cups. While these are perfect for liberals sips and top-ups around an izakaya table, they do justice to the beverage they hold; their small dimensions restrict aromas from developing on the surface and make it difficult to impart the subtleties of refined grades. So it was nice touch to be offered a choice.
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There are three courses available at dinner (¥15,000~¥25,000), or you can order a la carte – as the blinged out baby oligarchs were doing to our right. After conferring with the chef, we decided on the ¥25K omakase, the only course that uni was offered in, with a request to focus on cured white fish, hikarimono and ‘red meat’ fish.
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In Japanese the word sora means sky – a fitting epithet for a sushi-ya with sweeping views of the Tokyo skyline. Sora is also used in the name of the Japanese fava bean, soramame, as its pods grow in the direction of the sky. As a cute tie-in with the shop’s name, we began with a chilled soup of soramame dashi. Velvety smooth, with the delicate sweet flavour of the bean supported by a subtle smokiness from the katsuobushi and kombu dashi. A delightful and refreshing start.
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Mizunasu (water aubergine) begins to appear on menus in the summer months, when it is enjoyed as a raw crudité. Ours was served with its traditional accompaniment, sumiso; a sauce made with white miso, sugar, vinegar and mirin. A fresh taste of the season.
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A heavenly fragrance filled the air as our chef grated fresh Shizuoka wasabi for our next course.
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An assorted tsumami plate of shiroshita-garei (marbled sole/flounder), from Oita, and iwashi (sardine cured in vinegar). The garei was exceptionally good; cured to perfection so that the tight sinew in the meat had softened and the kombu had imparted a soft fragrance into the flesh. The iwashi, however, was ghastly. Despite being cured in vinegar it had a funky, off fish smell. Shudder. At least we had solved the mystery of the unpleasant odour in the air.
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Shiroshita-garei no kimo (flounder liver), engawa (not pictured) and tako no ashi (braised octopus legs). Disaster! I was so engrossed in our conversation with the chef that I forgot to document the plate! Seeing the stricken look on my face, the chef kindly tried to find another piece of the engawa that I had scoffed, but alas, ours were the only pieces.

Engawa is the thin muscle of the dorsal fin which is located on the either side of spotted sole/halibut. This part of the fish gets more of a workout than the rest of the body, so the texture of the meat is chewier; the flavour more developed. It also has a higher fat content which makes it a prized delicacy at sushi-ya. At Sora, the fatty ribbons of engawa had been braised in sweet soy marinade, so that the meat unbelievably soft and more concentrated in flavour.

I have a particular fondness for fish liver, so was delighted to try the rich, silky smooth kimo of the garei we had enjoyed earlier.

The simmered octopus tentacles were less delightful. I found their slimy, gelatinous texture and the overly sweet marinade off-putting.

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Our final tsumami course consisted of Meiji maguro aburi (Aomori) and aji (Nagasaki). I am probably one of the worst offenders of eating unsustainable fish stocks, but even I had a quick intake of breath when I learned that the weight of this baby tuna was a mere 6 kilos. That’s a ‘throw back’ in my books. Sadly, this poor little creature had died in vain; the sinew was taut and difficult to chomp through and I was left an unpleasant, congealed fat aftertaste, which makes me think it was served too cold. There were definitely some problems with storage/refrigeration here. The aji, on the other hand, was very good.
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While the tsumami courses had been a bit hit and miss, Ninisix assured me that their nigiri was very good. The koshihikari rice they use is aged for 2 years, and seasoned with a blend of old red vinegar and kasuzu (vinegar made from sake lees).
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For the nigiri section of the meal we changed to a tokkuri of Hokusetsu Junmai (Gohyakumangoku – Kōji: 55% – Kakemai: 65%), Hokusetsu Shuzō, Sado Island, Niigata. 北雪 純米 (五百万石 – 麹: 55% – 掛: 65%), 北雪酒造 - 新潟県佐渡市.

Its restrained aroma, crisp and refreshing flavour followed by a clean, dry finish make it unmistakably a Niigata sake. I’m not particularly drawn to the tanrei-karaguchi style, but it does pair well with sushi.

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Shinko (baby kohada) from Shizuoka. Unlike ‘promotion fish’ like buri, gizzard shard decreases in value as it ages – a ‘demotion fish’ if you will. The fish of the spring season’s shinko causes a flurry if activity in sushi-ya, and the huge demand and limited supply means that prices are astronomical. Sato-san arranged the tiny butterflied fillets before us, each were the about the size of a small lime.
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Beautifully presented in intertwining ribbons, the shinko was soft, fragrant and delicately flavoured. Sadly, we found the shari to be overly soft and, again, the temperature too cool.
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While the foreigners next to us, who were eating the standard nigiri course, were being served magurozuke (marinated akami), our tuna was cut fresh from a block of hon-maguro, landed near Aomori.
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The akami was rich and fragrant, though my appreciation of it was slightly let down by the memory of chef clumsily dropping the nigiri on the counter as he was forming it.
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A seasonal offering of kisu aburi kombujime. Lightly seared (aburi), the whiting had been marinated between sheets of kombu (kombujime) to impart a delicate sweet flavour in the fish.
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We were the only customers eating the omakase course, so all eyes where on us when a box of Ezo murasaki uni (purple sea urchin), from Yagishiri Island, Hokkaido, was presented for our inspection. The ‘中’ kanji refers to its middle size while the ’1′ denotes its grade (the highest). It may just be internet rumor, but I have read that Sushi Sora uses the same uni supplier as Sukiyabashi Jiro.
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My hastily snapped photo does not do justice to the glorious flavour of this uni gunkan. Meltingly soft, rich and creamy, it was the highlight of the meal.
We were once again offered to choose our preference of neta for the final round. However, as we were underwhelmed by the rice, we opted to take the rest of the course as tsumami. For a nigiri maniac like Ninisix to opt out of continuing the sushi course, was a clear signal that things were very much amiss.
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The kuruma-ebi kimizu oboro zuke (Japanese prawn cured in sweet vinegar with minced egg yolk), was pre-cooked and served cold, so lacked the juiciness of prawns prepared à la minute. The awabi (abalone simmered and finished with a brush of tsume sauce) was good; the kohada okay. All in all, a fairly lackluster finish to an expensive omakase course.
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It must be said that throughout the evening our food was served on a wonderful array of plate ware. The final savoury offering of miso and junsai broth, was served in an elegant urushi-nuri (lacquer coated) bowl.
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We finished with the Dassai 39 Junmai Daigingō (Yamada Nishiki 39%), from Asahi Shuzō, Yamaguchi. 獺祭 純米大吟醸 磨き三割九分 (山田錦 39%), 旭酒造 – 山口県 - my favourite of their range. Befitting a sake of this refinement, we chose to have it served in champagne flutes. Lightly fragranced with notes of banana, melon and nashi pear, it has a clean, balanced flavour with an elegant dry finish.

For a sake menu that professes to be a selection of the best sake from small, family run kura (that explanation was only written in English, by the way), I had to laugh when I saw Kubota – the largest sake producer in Niigata – on the list. It’s also worth noting that Dassai, Masumi and Hokusetsu, which are indeed a family run kura, focus a lot of their sales on overseas markets. In fact, most of the sake on their list is readily available abroad. For example, Hokusetsu is the exclusive supplier to Nobu’s international franchise. I wonder if the Mandarin Oriental uses Izuha’s selection as the template from which to purchase sake for all of its Japanese restaurants. That would certainly explain why we were paying New York prices for our sake in Tokyo.

2013-07-29 00.35.39And finally, dessert: hakumomo (white peach) compote with hakumomo and lemon yōkan (a thick jelly made from bean paste, agar, and sugar).

Having billed itself as one of Tokyo’s premier sushi destinations, Sora failed to live up to its own marketing hype. While the omakase’s ¥25,000 price tag (substantially more once the sake was factored in) was on par with some of the city’s most elite sushi-yas, the food and execution were rather ordinary, and the inconsistent serving temperature of both the fish and the rice was cause for concern. The acclaimed sake list fell short of the mark too – very few options by the glass, no seasonal offerings, and the mark-up on price was criminal. It’s such a shame, as the service was very good indeed. Imaizumi-san and his staff were friendly, attentive and showed genuine care for their customers’ dining experience. I wonder if Sushi Sora’s problems are due to the hotel location. Generally, the hotel sushi-yas do not rate highly; even the hotel branches of esteemed names like Kanesaka and Kyubei are the weakest performers of their group. I think this may be due to the need for the shops to be open 365 days of the year, and to comply with the hotel’s food standards and procedures. Whatever the reason, something was definitely amiss, and I shall from hence forth be seeking my sushi and sake fix closer to terra firma.

Sushi Sora

03-3270-8800