International Sake Day

How to Celebrate International Sake Day

With just 10 days left to go, read on for everything you need to know about International Sake Day, and details of all the festivities taking place in London from 30th September – 1st October 2015.

The 1st October is one of the most significant days in the Sake calendar, and indeed, the Japanese calendar. Otherwise known as Sake Day, or “Nihonshu no hi”, it marks the first day of the sake-making season, as Sake is brewed in autumn and winter.

The 1st October, in other words, is Sake’s ‘New Year’s Day’. The date is also of important for symbolic reasons, because the tenth year, hour and month are represented in the Chinese zodiac system by an ancient character that is also the old symbol for sake*:

Sake Symbol

So what have our UK importers and restaurants got in store for this year’s “New Year” celebrations?

*The modern symbol has an added three strokes on the left side, identical to the Chinese character for “alcohol”:

sake

 

Events on Wednesday, 30th September:

vagabond wines logo

Junmai, Honjuzu, Daiginjo – it’s not easy to get to grips with Sake without a guide so we’re happy to welcome Takeshi Nakamura from importer [email protected] and Sake Sommelier Jono Beagle to guide you through some of the many flavours and styles of Japan’s finest beverage. Both Takeshi and Jono are convinced Sake can match with European food and are importing previously unavailable breweries to the UK for the first time. This is sure to be and palate-expanding, fascinating tasting.
See here for event details and booking.
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hedonism logo

SOLD OUT

The Terroir of Yamagata Prefecture & Dewazakura Brewery
Hosted by Honami Matsumoto
Wednesday, 30th Sept 6.30 – 8.30pm

Following the success of Hedonism’s recent Sake Summer Showcase, Hedonism have welcomed back Honami Matusmoto to host another fantastic masterclass.

Honami will be joined by 5th generation brewers Akari & Shotaro Nakano of  Dewazakura to present a number of their very fine Sake & talk about the terroir of Yamagata Prefecture.

The evening will also feature cuisine provided by one of London’s finest Japanese restaurants, Kikuchi. Each dish has been hand-selected to match a specific Sake.

Guests will sample Tobiroku Sparkling Sake, Oka Ginjo, Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo, Izumi Judan Ginjo Genshu, Omachi Junmai Ginjo, Ichiro Junmai Daiginjo & Yuki ManMan Daiginjo 5 Years Matured.

International Sake Day

Copyright Jimmy Gleeson

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Events on Thursday, 1st October:

japan centre logo

Japan Centre in Piccadilly will be offering 20% off all Gekkeikan sake bought in store on the day. Sake sampling at Japan Centre will be held on the day between 3-6pm, with Naoyuki Torisawa, Japan Centre’s sake sommelier.

The 1st October will also see the launch of renowned sake brewers, Gekkeikan’s new Master Cooking Competition in collaboration with Japan Centre. For more information see here.

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shoryu logo
Shoryu Ramen, who specialise in authentic Kyushu cuisine, are celebrating International Sake Day 1st October 2015 by offering a complimentary sake for every diner that visits one of their four restaurants from 6pm on the day. They have also created a special flight of three different Sakes, which will be available for £6.50 – a perfect opportunity to try different Sakes.

For the complimentary sake, Shoryu Ramen will offer Gekkeikan Namasake, which is unlike other types of Sake as it is unpasterurised for a stronger taste and aroma.

Gekkeikan Namasake

The flight of Sakes, will include three Gekkeikan Sakes – Junmai Kome to Mizu, a dry, mellow Sake, Namazake, with the name literally meaning ‘natural Sake’ and Nigori, a sweeter, creamier Sake.  All of these choices have been especially chosen by Vicky Vittoria Vecchione, bar manager and mixologist for Shoryu Ramen.

Shoryu Sake Flight

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sushisamba

sushi samba ISDCelebrate World Sake Day on October 1st. From 5:30 PM until close, SUSHISAMBA will . . .

Craft a creative range of sake-infused cocktails, including:

ICHIJIKU CLOUD £14 – Enoki Shuzo sake, fig, fino sherry and a blend of chocolate and soy bitters. Stirred with ice until icy cold and served ‘up.’
SAKE SPRITZ £14 – Takashimizu Sake, dry cacao liqueur, lemon juice and a cherry and cacao bitters blend. Served over ice and spritzed with prosecco.

Feature a Kimono performance,

where dressed in traditional garb, Geisha will be serving sake to guests throughout the celebration during the night’s festivities.

Serve sake-inspired dishes created by our chefs,

who have seized inspiration from International Sake Day to breathe some sake spirit to their culinary craft.

SEA BASS SEVICHE £14 – sea bass, yuzu sake, orange, yuzu pearls, maize morado, nasturtium
SAKE SORBET £9 – quince sake sorbet, hazelnut, fig purée ​

To book: +44 (0)203 640 7330 or email: [email protected]

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tengu sake logo

Tengu Sake is kicking off World Sake Day 2015 at 6:30pm with a Sake Masterclass hosted by experts Tengu Sake.  There’ll be a variety of Sakes to try: different types, styles and regionalities.  They’ll also be talking about temperature and food pairings, with nibbles for people to try with the Sake.

Then, at 8pm, the party starts in true PimpShuei style.  The collaboration with Tengu Sake means Sake both by the glass, straight from the barrel as well as some superb Sake cocktails.  All this mixed in with PimpShuei’s signature cocktails, retro arcade machines and killer Kung Fu theme.  Also present will be Double Dragon Sound Systems on the decks to provide some chilled tunes.

A night to remember so come on down for your sake fix!

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World Sake Imports

World Sake Imports is organizing a seven-course food and sake-pairing menu at renowned Matsuri, on the first October. For a peek ahead at the magnificent menu, see below. To book your seat, call 020 7839 1101 – last few places remaining!

Matsuri

Matsuri menu

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 But most of all don’t forget to…
International Sake Day

Copyright Jimmy Gleeson http://www.jimmygleeson.com/INTERNATIONAL-SAKE-DAY

Hedonism Wines

A Summer of Hedonism

This summer, like many British summers, fizzled out with all the ceremony of a wet party popper.

It left me with a bereft sort of feeling…akin to that when you perform an iOS update for your iPhone and all you get is a free U2 album. Bereft and perplexed.

Weather aside, the summer months were actually incredibly fun. There was that visit from Philip Harper and the various dinners, the International Wine Challenge Public Sake Tasting with an unbelievable amount of trophy winning sake…and then there was that evening where I learnt all about Hedonism.

Behold, London’s Temple to the humble Grape.

Hedonism Wines

I should confess upfront that my understanding of wine is unapologetically linear. Linear to the degree that I can merrily divide the wine world into four kingdoms: Good Red, Bad Red; Good White, Bad White. A fair number of you are falling over in horror at this stage, spilling your glasses of Chateau Lafite across the floor like a murder scene. But I assure you that wine is on my list of things to get to know. (Although if I’m being honest, primarily for the purpose of being better able to benchmark sake).

Fortunately, Hedonism is the kind of place that even non-oenophiles can appreciate, with its tasteful and cavernous interior de luxe. True oenophiles however, will be brought to their knees with euphoria.

Hedonism Wines

A sweeping staircase is the first thing you see as you enter, and the downwards descent is taken directly from the ball scene in Disney’s Cinderella. The temperature has dropped a few degrees cooler. Amber, ruby, deep sapphire and rose…jewel coloured bottles stretch into the horizon, each resting snugly in its designated shelf space. It’s quiet. The silence is only broken by the deliberate footsteps of suited customers, intently searching for the one.

Hedonism Wines

Hedonism Wines

In short, Hedonism is the home of fine wine in London. But it also purveys plenty of the other fine and wicked things in life, including spirits, glassware thin as soap bubbles, and of course, sake.

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Sake Shelf at Hedonism

Pairing events often take place here, usually in the downstairs ‘cellar’. Tonight, we have gathered for six Mediterranean style mini-bites, paired with six special types of sake. The theme: Seasonal Sake, chosen to showcase the best of summer’s ingredients.

Each pairing was carefully curated by Honami Matsumoto, who in her previous incarnations worked as Head Sommelier at Nopi (with a wine list that was shortlisted for Imbibe’s Wine List of the Year), as a Wine and Sake Specialist at Hedonism and is a Certified Sake Level III Sake Educator by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). (She continues to offer event organising services under House of Sake). By putting Japanese sake to work in unfamiliar contexts, such as non-Japanese cuisines, this masterclass demonstrated sake’s underrated versatility and  turned old conventions on their head with grace and finesse.

Summer Sake at Hedonism

Five of the six Sake we tried, from left: Masumi Arabashiri; Shirakabegura Muroka Daiginjo Genshu; Katsuyama Lei Sapphire Label; Ikekame Turtle Black; Ume no Yado Yuzu. Missing: Mio Sparkling

First came the palate opener of prosciutto wrapped melon and mint, paired with sparkling sake by Mio (see Hedonism). This was a unanimous hit, a mix of sweet bubbles from the sake, wafer thin saltiness and yielding melon flesh. The champagne like fizz of the poured sake heralded the start of a fine evening ahead.

Mio sake

Second came bruschetta two ways: Cherry tomato on the one, and caramelised red onion and Gorgonzola Dolce on the other. Both tomato and cheese are sake friends, being rich in “savoury deliciousness”, or umami. I rather enjoyed Honami’s description of the sake and cheese friendship also stemming from their shared “moldiness”. This course was paired with a Nama Genshu (meaning raw and undiluted), named Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo. This particular sake was chosen for its higher levels of sweetness and acidity, with the aim of bringing out the flavours of caramelised onion.

Hedonism Wines Sake Class

Tomato was to play a dominant role in this evening’s theatre of food and drink, featuring twice more in close succession. First, a petit bowl of gazpacho was paired with a genshu (meaning undiluted) named Shirakabegura Muroka Daiginjo Genshu. The Sake’s smell was highly distinctive, akin to that of exotic white flowers. I took this as an opportunity to test whether I could indeed detect the difference between Nama Genshu and Genshu. An experiment which left me feeling slightly despondent, but which can only be interpreted as a call for more Sake drinking.

Gazpacho at Hedonism Wines

Next the Burrata, peach, tomato and basil salad with aged balsamic vinegar, which came paired with Katsuyama Lei Junmai Ginjo Sake. Let us just pause here and give both elements the appreciation that they both individually warrant.

Burrata at Hedonism

First the burrata. There are many grades of burrata, ranging from that which resembles a white rubber puck, to that which is gorgeously white and soft, and bleeds when you cut it. Tonight’s burrata were decidedly of the bleeding sort, requiring consumption with a spoon. Each majestically pale celestial body came enshrined on its own little constellation – meaty chunks of tomato, delicate peach and vividly fragrant basil.  Because the body is a temple, n’est-ce que pas?

As I sat back and observed, I felt rather moved by the way the delicate cheeses disgorged their inner creaminess, and the greedy slurping this invoked. All things considered, this course was a hit.

Fun fact: burrata is apparently a mozzarella pouch that has been stuffed with cream and other leftover scraps of mozzarella. A pure dose of heart attack, delivered straight from a water buffalo’s milk pail straight to you.

And then the Sake. Katsuyama Lei is in fact one of my favourite Sake to drink, both for the story behind its production, and its flavour and aroma. Just imagine the taste of the best peach in the world, and what it would smell like…and this brings you something close to Katsuyama Lei. Supposedly, this is achieved through the assiduous polishing of the sake rice into diamond shapes, which also explains the premium price tag (c. £56 at Hedonism).

Katsuyama Lei

The fifth course demontrated the ability of certain sakes to hold up well with meatier fare, with its extremely welcome ability to cut through grease without astrigency. The chosen sake, Ikekame Turtle Red Junmai Daiginjo (see sake lineup photo above), also possessed a red berry kind of smell, playing upon the sherry and vinegar dressing in course five’s “Oven-roasted chicken wings with garlic”.

And finally we were in the home stretch.

If our final pairing had a name it would be

Amalfi.

Hedonism

Waxy lemons and a pastel hued sake liqueur, richly evocative of Mediterranean summer nights. Another familiar Sake friend too – Yuzu by Ume no Yado brewery – which you can read more about here.

Not much more for me to say here, save that Sicillian lemon cheesecake paired with a sweet liqueur tends to speak for itself. (Cheesecake courtesy of the English Cheesecake Company).

Sicillian lemon cheesecake

The rest of the evening is spent in a warm haze of satisfaction, strolling through the different chambers of luxury. Each alcove his its own little delight, not least the famous room of many hands, each cradling a bottle of something priceless:

Hedonism

Hedonism

 

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Hedonism

Outside it’s raining. I navigate towards the tube station, side stepping puddles filled with the sheen of gasoline rainbows. I’m smiling though, as I remember the line written at the bottom of my tasting sheet:

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

Oscar Wilde

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Honami holds frequent tasting classes at Hedonism. Her next class is already sold out, but you can read more about it in my next post, and be notified of future tastings here.

All Sakes mentioned in this article are available to purchase at Hedonism Wines:

Mio, by Shochikubai

Arabashiri, by Masumi

Shirakabegura Muroka, by Shochikubai

Lei Sapphire, by Katsuyama

Turtle Red, by Ikekame

Yuzu, by Ume no Yado

Not My Sushi Role

Sushi and Sake Masterclass, at M Restaurant

Towards the end of last year, a new and fancy looking establishment popped up a stone’s throw from the office.

Clever, I thought. The phrase ‘captive audience’ springs to mind.

Yet in the few intervening months between then and now, I had never managed to do anything about my curiosity. Except for that one time I went for a quick drink (sake), nary a foot had I stepped into M Restaurant and not a morsel of M Restaurant food had I tasted.

It was obviously fate then that the second Philip Harper dinner was to take place at M.

Philip Harper is the world’s first and only non-Japanese toji (master sake brewer) in Japan. Read here.

M Restaurant
Square Meal

 

The ‘M’ in ‘M Restaurant’, case you wonder, stands for Martin. Martin Williams in his previous incarnation built up the Gaucho Grill chain into a global brand, but has since stepped away to launch his own eponymous restaurant.

 

M Restaurant Lobby

 

As part of the Philip Harper roadshow organised by Asami of World Sake Imports, we were to spend an evening brushing up on our sushi making skills. Skills that were, in some cases, underdeveloped. After making our own, we would be allowed to relax and enjoy the rest of the carefully planned sake and caviar themed menu. I’d done a lot of eating in the past few days, so I didn’t mind putting in a bit of elbow grease for my supper that night.

We started off in the upstairs Tasting Bar, where fine wines are available to sample on tap.

 

Reserved

 

My attention was immediately drawn to the Japanese wine. Partly because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but partly because I had never clued into Japan’s wine producing capabilities.

The label read ‘Koshu‘ (甲州) – in a sake context, Koshu refers to ‘aged sake’ and is written differently, whereas in a wine context, it refers to the grape variety. The bottle below was filled with the last drops of ‘Grace Wine’, a white wine christened after the Three Graces. I’ll be back to try this very soon…

 

Wine from Japan

 

Our most fantastic and charming host for the evening was Zach, who serenaded us with humorous comments and plenty of drink. He made overtures with a Japan themed cocktail named ‘Umami’, after the fifth taste discovered by Japanese scientist Dr Ikeda in the 1900s.

Although Umami was originally extracted from kelp, M have concluded that the same effect can be achieved through blending Hibiki 12yo Japanese whisky, Haig Club whisky, plum juice and soya milk. Let’s also not forget to set sail that pansy petal on top.

 

Umami Cocktail

Sake in a teacup

 

Next, Chef Jarrad (ex Chiltern Firehouse) was introduced to us, bearing a slate of swordfish and quinoa sushi and some richly thick soy sauce to pair. Oh quinoa, you trendy super grain.

 

Swordfish Quinoa Sushi

 

In high spirits and high anticipation, we descended a rather grand staircase for the sushi masterclass to begin.

 

Sushi Masterclass

Sushi Counter

 

Chef Jarrad demo-ed the sushi technique…

 

Sushi Rolling Technique

 

…Before letting us loose on the pre-prepared ingredients.

 

Sushi making

 

Upon dipping my hand into the sushi rice, I found that the grains clung desperately to my fingers. No matter how I tried, they refused to adhere to the nori where they belonged.

My resulting roll looked pretty handsome – if you were to apply the standards of a paleo-chef.

 

Sushi Roll by Each Sip Sweet

Not My Sushi Role

 

As many things in life do, the sushi making quickly escalated into a cut throat competition. After some intense rolling and sesame sprinkling (and rice eating), the very deserving winner was selected and walked away with a fine bottle of Philip Harper’s Gold Medal winning “Kinsho“. I reckon there was some side arrangement where the winner had pre-agreed to splitting winnings with the judge.

 

Sake and Caviar

There are many things that you may not immediately think to pair with sake, and not many occasions where you will have the opportunity to do so. For example, how many European restaurants do you know that provide sake pairings as an option?

It is through events like this therefore, that people will have the opportunity to broaden their horizons a little, to access new pairings under the guidance of someone with experience.

Although the menu at M was safe and sushi based, but there were one or two dishes where the sake and caviar were allowed to shine together. In particular, the caviar garnished parmesan tuile, where the little luxury pockets of saltiness presented a buttery foil to Philip’s full bodied and strong tasting sake.

An evening dedicated to the wonderful trifecta of sushi, caviar and sake is a glorious evening indeed…

…and things got even better when I found the golden instamatic photo booth downstairs.

Sushi and Caviar

 

Last Thoughts: It is deeply exciting to see more and more of sake pairing events springing up across the city. Gradually, a new and open minded crowd is being introduced to the national drink of Japan in fun and modern contexts.

And come their next restaurant meal, perhaps they will be asking for a glass of sake instead.

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The caviar came from Volzhenka, who source their black pearls from the “City of Caviar”, Astrakan. It remains a family owned business, and has done so for its half a century of operation.

Volzhenka Caviar

 

Many thanks to Asami Lewis and World Sake Imports for their efforts to promote sake abroad, and to M Restaurants for their hospitality. Last but not least thank you to Philip, who sacrificed many hours to drinking with us when he could have been spending time at home with his nephew and niece.

Philip’s “Insider’s Guide to Sake” remains the best introduction to sake available. Read more here.

 

M Restaurant