Niji Restaurant and Bar in Double Bay hosted a special event dinner showcasing sake and shochu from various brewing regions of Japan.
Sake & Shochu Tasting
The tasting was led by Sake Master, Toshi Maeda and featured four sake, one Shochu and one Umeshu plum liqueur which accompanied a six course degustation menu by Niji’s Executive Chef Kohji Matsuda.
The evening began with Eikun Junmai Dai Ginjo, an aromatic sake with 35% milling. The aroma is a fruity/sweet with crisp apple and young melon. The palate is gentle, with fresh apple and pears leading to a mid-palate of cucumber and watermelon, and ending with a yeasty finish.
The first dish was a delightful Scallop Carpaccio with white soy, orange oil and orange zest. The crisp and fresh flavour of the sake paired well with the delicate flavour of the scallops and the citrus while the white soy added a umami dimension.
Sashimi & Nigiri
Yoshinokawa Gensen Ginjo (40% milling) comes from the region of Nigata which is famous for seafood. A lot of sashimi is consumed there and they make the type of sake that cuts through the oiliness of the fish. The sake has a medium body with good acid and dryness and was in great harmony with the Sashimi & Nigiri, tuna and salmon sashimi, scampi and seared salmon belly nigiri, in particular the salmon sashimi and the freshness of the scampi.
Miso Smoked Salmon
Kaganotsuki Junmai Daiginjo (50% milling) means moonlight and comes from the Kaga prefecture. At first, the aroma and flavour were a little earthy, no doubt influenced by the dish then gave way to a more delicate and mellow sake, a little sweet on the palate without any fruitiness. Incidentally, Kaganotsuki Junmai Daiginjo is made from the same rice as the first sake on taste, which proves that the type of rice alone does not influence the flavour profile but it is the brewer who determines the flavour.
The Miso Smoked Salmon was sensational, with the smoke permeating right through the fish however, it slightly overpowered the flavour of the sake.
Tempura Flat Head
Kinkan Kuromatsu Junmaishu (60% milling) from the Yamagushi region introduced warm sake to the menu. The best temperature to serve warm sake is 45 to 50 degrees, about 10 degrees above body temperature. The sake should be heated in a hot bath for 10 to 15 minutes ensuring it does not overheat and lose its character.
Junmai sake is usually served warm and was paired with a Tempura Flat Head with dark green wakame, dried chilli and tempura sauce. The sake had a lovely fruitiness and the sweetness from tempura sauce matched it very well.
Robata Wagyu Beef
Moving onto Shochu, Kakushigura (25% ABV) was served on ice. Shochu can be made from sweet potato, rice and corn, but this one is made from fermented barley which has been distilled once and aged for 3 years on oak barrels which imparts a smoky flavour. The Shochu was very dry and reminiscent of some dry sherries.
It was paired with Robata Wagyu Beef, charcoal grilled and served with shimeji mushrooms and blistered tomatoes with an amayaki sauce. The beef was tender and flavoursome with a touch of heat in sauce. As the Shochu diluted with ice in the glass, light notes of whisky became evident.
Green Tea Mochi, Yuzu Jelly, Red Bean Paste & Yuzu Infused White Chocolate
Japanese desserts can be divisive to some palates but this pairing was outstanding. Green Tea Mochi, Yuzu Jelly, Red Bean Paste & Yuzu Infused White Chocolate was matched with Choya Uji Green Tea Umeshu, a light and delicate umeshu (plum liqueur) infused with green tea.
The Umeshu was served on ice and had a smoky aroma with a sweet nose and palate. The deliciously tart yuzu jelly cut through some of that sweetness.
Toshi Maeda, Sake Master
Niji Restaurant and Bar holds these special events once every three months. The Sake & Shochu Tasting Dinner at Niji was an enjoyable and informative evening. Whether one is a novice or experienced in sake, the tasting dinner was a delightful opportunity to taste several sake and spirits in relaxed surrounds and enjoy delicious Japanese food.
Niji Restaurant & Bar is featured in our guide to Sydney’s Best Japanese Restaurants.
Niji Restaurant & Bar
21 Bay St
Double Bay, NSW 2028
Phone: (02) 8095 9508
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