I recently had the opportunity to select sakes for a wealthy guest of mine. Here is how it went:
Aperitif: Okunomatsu "F-1" Sparkling Daiginjo
This beauty offers aromas of fresh pear and apple. Little bit of citrus on the palate and soft effervecence leaves you wanting more. I was also happy to support the hard working people of Fukushima prefecture. Once I assured the guests that the sake was made prior to the disaster, they could enjoy it to the fullest.
First Course: Sashimi, Salt Grilled Gulf Prawns with Uni Butter, Seared Local Albacore with pickled green tomatoes....Paired with Kikiuhime "Kukurihime" Daiginjo
With such a limited allocation in the United States, all of my serious sake peeps should at one point get to try this sake. Let me be very frank...it is NOT cheap by any stretch of the imagination. With only Masa in NYC and Ozumo in SF as its only retailers, if you can find it..."put it on the card," its that good.
After consulting with my guest, he asked if this would be a good time to have the 10 year aged daiginjo. My response was "you dont eat oysters after lamb." The opportunity was perfect. Ishikawa has one of the best seafood harvests in all of Japan. So this pairing was very nice. Maguro, hamachi, hotate and sake sashimi were caressed by Kukurihime's silky soft texutre and minerality. While the grilled prawns picked up a bit of the earthy richness of the sake. Pickled tomatoes of the albacore pulled the subtle sweetness of the Chrysanthmum Princess.
Second Course: Hirame Sashimi with Shishito dressing & sweet corn kakiage, tempura & stuffed squash blossoms....Paired with Harushika Shizuku Daiginjo
Tempura and Harushika sake have always been a favorite of mine. Whether it is the intrinsic sweetness of the sake working with the oils of the tempura or the fine acidity to cleanse the palate....its just always a great pairing. All aspects of the hirame dish work well. The clarity of the sake allowed the delicate flavors of the hirame to shine, while the sweetness complimented the dressing and finally that great sweetness and acidity with the corn...YUM! With the blossoms, Harushika lended a demure hand to their slight herbaceous qualtiy and again left the palate fresh and ready for the next bite.
Third Course: Fresh hotate with fois gras and moromi miso...Paired with (a very wonderful) room temperature Shichi hon Yari Shizuku Daiginjo
Local Tamazakae rice gives this beauty an earthy, savory essence. As the sake came to room temp, these inherent qualites became more apparent and both the texture and flavors of the sake compliments those of the dish.
Fourth Course: Filet Mignon with mushrooms and sansho, Lamb Chops grilled with house tare, Seared Duck Breast, stuffed with Tokyo negi....Paired with Kokuryu "Ishida-Ya"
Kokuryu sake is widely revered and respected. While the soft water of Fukui prevails in their sakes, the overall charachter of their sakes can be complex, deep seated and smooth as silk. Ishida-ya is no exception. Its unique expression is best enjoyed by itself or with rich, luxurious cuisine, as was done here.
Fifth Course: Nigirzushi- benitoro (salmon belly), shima aji, o-toro, sawara...Paired with Kokuryu "Mangekyo"
It is very important to not forget about the shari (seasoned sushi rice) when pairing with sake. And since my guest was still interested in daiginjo, this aged-unpasterized daiginjo was a perfect fit. The rich flavors and textures were nicely balanced by the bright, fruity and supple tones of the sake and the rice was quickly cleaned up by the fine acidity. Love serving this sake ICE-COLD with sushi! It is also fun to taste side by side two sakes from the same brewer. Now, the last time Ishida-ya and Mangekyo were consumed like this, well I cannot really remember. It was quite the time indeed!
Sixth Course: Warm Belgium Chocolate Fondue, Chocolate cake with green tea ice cream....Paired with Hanahato Junmai Kijoshu
No serious connoisseur of anything will leave dinner without enjoying a digestif of sort. Whether it be scotch or bourbon, port, moscato, etc. Hanahato's Kijoshu has come from left field a few times to wow the pants of guests. Paired with braised beef tongue, chocolate or by iteslf, this swanky sake is sure to make some noise. The guests were almost too saucy to understand this sake is not aged in barrels, but that its color is due to the aging of amino acids. It was quite a treat and a great finish to the dinner.
This extravagant dinner was executed by good friend Alex Morgan. All the sakes, due to their value and devine nature, were served in wine glasses. I like to do this so that the most of the aromatic qualities, supple lines and color can be admired.