From the 23rd of September until the 3rd of October this year, the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO), established by the Japan government, brought a taste of Japan to the UK with Japan Week 2019 – a celebration dedicated to raising awareness of and sharing the Japanese culture with Londoners. This coincided with World Sake Day (1st of October), called Nihonshu no Hi in Japanese, to commemorate Japan’s favourite rice wine beverage.
The Sybarite was invited to the launch of a three-day pop-up event in Shoreditch which was hosted by JFOODO in collaboration with London seafood restaurant The Oystermen. The Sake & Seafood event welcomed us to “Escape the Ordinary” and discover that although seafood is traditionally accompanied by white wine, sake actually makes for a better pairing.
The Oystermen co-founder Rob Hampton gave a short introduction to the Sake & Seafood pop-up menu and talked about how after being introduced to the sake-seafood combination for the first time, he was convinced. Sake sommelier Satomi Dosseur was responsible for pairing the different sakes with The Oystermen’s seafood offering. Born and raised in Tokyo, it was at the restaurant Kozue at the 5-star Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel that she truly developed her love for the hospitality industry, and for sake. When she came to the UK, she joined the team at contemporary Japanese restaurant Zuma where she was the Head Sake Sommelier until she left in 2014 to create Enshu, the London-based company that runs Sake Service Institue-authorised company that conducts the comprehensive sake course in the UK.
For our Sake & Seafood tasting dinner, we enjoyed a flight of oysters (Louet-feisser from Carlingford, Kumamoto and Malden Rock from the Malden Oyster Company), crab rarebit on toast, a choice of lobster thermidor with artichoke and fennel or garlic and rosemary-marinated haddock tempura with sautéed potatoes and jalapeño mayonnaise, and 75% dark chocolate mousse with peanut brittle. It was amazing to truly taste the way the sake elevated the flavours of the seafood instead of overpowering it. Alongside the sake, we were given glasses of white wine so that we compare how each complimented the dishes. Because wine grapes take in iron from the soil and many have sulfites as well, they can sometimes have bad reactions when taken with seafood and result in a fish-like odour. When it comes to sake, also known as “the drink of the gods”, brewers are not allowed to use sulfites and the rice cleaning process eliminates any iron residue. Dr.Hitoshi Utsunomiya, the Director of the Sake and Food Lab and sake expert at Japan’s National Research Institute of Brewing, also talks about how sake has 2-5 times more amino acids than wine, which brings out savoury, umami flavours!