Hidden up a flight of stairs, Cha-an is a quaint little tea house on east 9th street. Once you enter, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Japan. The interior is understated, zen and totally beautiful.
The main attraction here is usally the tea ceremony, but if i’m headed out to an event in the 100 degree heat, you can imagine, Sake must somehow be involved.
I got an email from Chizuko, the talented sake sommelier at Sakagura restaurant who told me she was hosting a Summer Sake tasting dinner with food created in collaboration with the Chef at Cha-an. I’d been anxious to try this place and this was the perfect opportunity.
Like I said, it was hot. hot-hot. Walking anywhere in this kinda heat can make anyone wilt. I was bouyed, however by the thought of sipping chilled nihon-shu all night.
With my eyes on the prize, I made it to cha-an on time. Scottie was a good sport and trekked all the way down from the upper west to join me for this special dinner.
Cheez greeted us at the door and once we were seated, we were on our way…
This evening was a combination Sake Lecture and Sake tasting with coordinated food pairings. I’ve been to this type of fun event before (see the drunkest I’ve ever been on sake…) but this evening was really special and very high quality.
You can tell both Cheez and our wonderful Chef put a lot of effort into their presentation and it really paid off.
As for the lecture portion of the evening, Cheez presented each sake in Japanese and Christopher was on hand to translate. I’m jealous and wish my Japanese was that good! Cheez created the placemat and program herself and they were great. It adds so much to the enjoyment of a tasting if you have the information in front of you as to what your tasting. It really helps me to have a visual reference
Let’s cut to the chase! Here’s a rundown of the summer sakes we had and the food that went with them.
1) “Yuki No Bosha” Junmai Ginjo (SMV +1, ALC 15%, Seimaibuai: 50%)
Paired with Small Jack Sashimi.
This was a delicate pairing and got the evening off to a great start. The Yuki No Bosha was an inspired choice to serve at the beginning. It’s fragrant and saucy and contrasted nicely with the sashimi.
2) “Tomoju” Junmai Ginjo (SMV +2, ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai: 50%)
Paired with Chilled Tofu with Japanese cucumber Sauce.
Um, Yum! this really hit the spot. The dish was a chilled tofu with a yummy and refreshing cucumber sauce. The Tomoju was also a delight. I first tried Tomoju at Naka Naka. As before, this sake comes across as balanced with a touch of a dry finish. For me, this was the highlight of the evening.
3) “Kokuryu Tokusen” (SMV +4, ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai 50%)
paired with Grilled eggplant with miso.
This sake was a bit more on the dry side and still enjoyable. The eggplant was quite well done – not a hint of bitterness.
4) “Kasumitsuru Shiboritate Namzake Genshu” (ALC 20%!, Seimaibuai: 70%)
paired with Deep fried shrimp and corn balls
This is the same sake I won in the raffle at the Joto Sake Event at Sakagura last month. It’s a big bold Undiluted and Unpasteurized mega sake. They served this sake with Ice on the side to give us the option to try it “on the rocks”. Scott and I agreed that’s the best way to really enjoy this one. The strong sake stood up well to the rich fried shrimp balls. again, yum. BTW, we’re all starting to feel good at this point.
5) “Shichi Hon Yari” (SMV +4, ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai: 60%)
paired with Fillet of Squid with mochi rice.
At the Joto tasting in June, I loved this Sake, but tonight in the 100 degree heat, I really tasted the full on Gin Crisp dryness of this sake.
6) “Kamoizumi Kome Kome” (SMV -60!, ALC 7, Seimaibuai: 60%)
Dessert of Cream with Watermelon compote made with Kome Kome.
I was happy to hear that we would be Eating Kome Kome rather than sipping it. With an SMV of -60, it’s off-the-charts sweet. The watermelon was refreshing and unique.
It was a long enjoyable night of great food, great sake and some great information. I’ll be back at Cha-an soon for a regular dinner. And given the very hot and humid conditions, Cheez was really able to show us what cooling down with warm weather sake sipping is all about. I’ll be practicing what I learned all summer long, for sure.