What I learned about pairing sake with food
A sake pairing dinner done right involves delicate flavors, luxurious ingredients, and the careful collaboration of a skilled chef and master sake sommelier, and on June 30, Chef Norimasa Kosaka and Raymond Joseph provided us exactly that.
Through a five-course dinner called Sake Fusions, they gave Solaire Resorts Yakumi diners the opportunity to learn about sake distillation and how to pair dishes with this fermented rice wine.
Sake Fusions is part of a learning series offered at all Solaire dining establishments. Entitled “Rien d’ordinary”, this series of events takes an educational approach to pairing food, wine and spirits. The engaging experience allows the participant to embark on a tasting journey through the eyes of Solaire Resorts acclaimed chefs.
In a sold-out room, with foodies ready to see food pairings from another angle, Daniel Blais underlined the collaboration between chef Jun and Raymond around the love of this Japanese spirit, which has existed for almost 400 years. . Raymond is the country’s leading authority on sake and has shared his passion and understanding of the beauty and complexity of this liquor.
Brewing sake is very similar to brewing beer. Since rice and water are the main components of this distilled alcohol, the quality of these two ingredients is extremely important. The distillation of sake includes the grinding of rice. The varying degrees to which the rice is ground remove fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. The white nucleus that is retained is often called “the white heart”. This dense white heart goes through a series of steps that include washing, soaking and steaming. Once this painstaking process is complete, the rice is treated with koji, a delicate yeast. Once the koji is added, it becomes the main mash. This puree is then fermented, pressed and filtered. After filtration, the sake is pasteurized, bottled and sometimes aged before reaching the shelves and refrigerated sections of stores.
Essentially, the more polished the rice grain, the fruitier the sake will be. These light, fruity sakes pair best with lighter, more straightforward dishes, such as sashimi. If the grain of rice is not polished as much, it will produce a heavier, more umami-rich sake that pairs better with more umami, meatier dishes. Additional steps to create different tasting notes may include aging in snow or fermentation with strawberry blossoms.
Training and experience
Solaire’s paired dinners are more than just a meal. It’s an experience. Foodies who want to expand their knowledge can learn about flavors and tasting profiles. The opportunity to learn from experts provides a rich understanding of the origins of their favorite wines and spirits.
Yakumi’s guests were welcomed with Kizakura Junmai Sparkling Piano, light and fruity. Served with mozzarella tempura and fried tofu skin with char siew pork, this bubbly had just 4% alcohol content and was a wonderful way to kick off Sake Fusions in good company.
Once seated, the toro tartare and steamed sea urchin served in crispy wafers complimented the bubbly bubbly.
The second dish was a totally fresh sashimi mix. Sweet and creamy Hokkaido scallops, pitted against lively spiny lobster and Gillardeau oyster, forged a powerful trio brimming with texture and flavor. Paired with the Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo of Yamaguchi Prefecture, the course ends in style.
The following course was paired with Amabuki Junmai Strawberry Yeast Saga Prefecture. It included soy-marinated seared hamachi with yuzu miso jelly, roasted pine nuts and mixed greens. The buttery hamachi was the perfect complement to this light and fruity sake fermented with strawberry blossoms. Saga Prefecture may be well known for its wagyu, but it’s also known for being one of the only places in Japan that ferments sake with the delicate flowers of the strawberry plant.
Fourth on the menu, and loaded with umami flavors, the tiger prawn, unagi and kakiage tempura were served with a traditional curry salt, lemon and tempura sauce. Richer in flavor and weight, this dish appeals to Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai Niigata prefecture. Raymond shared that each deal was carefully worked out by himself and Chef Jun. Complimenting the flavors of a fried tempura with a deeper sake ironically didn’t feel heavy or overly filling.
The main course included grilled American beef tenderloin, grilled sweet onions and green vegetables, completed with a teriyaki sauce with mushrooms and truffles. Hakkaisan Snow-Aged Junmai Daiginjo from Niigata Prefecture completed this flavor-packed course. This spirit has been aged with the natural cold elements inherent in the Japanese climate for three years.
As a general rule, Japanese desserts are complex. Sweet finishes of green tea cakes, adzuki beans and plum wine sorbet were complemented by a honeyed Choya Golden Ume fruit from Wakayama Prefecture.
Sake tasting paired with carefully curated courses offered Yakumi diners the luxury of a culinary journey to Japan. Fortunately, all the sake we consumed is available at Ralph’s Wines and Spirits.
As Filipinos continue to venture out in search of tasting and pairing experiences, Solaire Resort’s Signature Restaurants offer options that raise the bar for fine dining and education with “Nothing Ordinary.” – Rappler.com