Sake week in NYC is upon us. And boy oh boy, did I find an event to kick it off in style! This evening brought me back to a new favorite spot of mine – Chanto. Just like my last visit to Chanto, they offered up an amazing triple play for the evening! This time around, 3 breweries were featured in a fantastic pairing dinner. Each brewery also had a representative on location to pour and give some background on the sakes. In attendance were Mr. Sakurai representing Dassai from Asahi Brewery, Mr. Kitahara from Shichiken Brewery and Mr. Imai from Kamenoi Brewery. (Brewer photo courtesy of KC).
In addition to our genial sake experts, Chanto’s general Manager Mr. Teramoto was as gracious as ever and ensured everyone was very well taken care of. I had some great company and shared a table with Mr. Nihonshudo KC, Hideo and Anthony. Before dinner began, we got a special treat and were presented with some “Kome Koji” or malted rice used in sake making. It was an interesting taste that kinda reminded me of trail mix.
Mr. Sakurai started off with his Flagship brew – Dassai 23 (Junmai Daiginjo, Seimaibuai 23%, SMV +3, Acidity 1.3). This was paired with a beautiful, gold leaf encrusted sashimi platter. Alongside the Dassai 23 Sakurai-san gave us some Dassai 50 (Junmai Ginjo, SMV +3, Acidity 1.4, Seimaibuai 50%) to contrast and compare. The Dassai product line has always impressed me – there is a tremendous consistency and fine nuance of flavor around the Dassai sakes and the pairing with the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi was terrific. From what I can tell, it is Asahi Brewery’s disciplined and scientific approach to sake making that allows them to consistently deliver top-quality nihonshu. yum!
Next up Mr. Imai poured us the delicious Kudoki Jozu Junmai Ginjo (Seimaibuai 50%, SMV +1, Acidity 1.2, ALC 15.5%). This sake is a sentimental favorite of mine ever since I first tried it last year. This Yamagata brew is light, mildly fragrant and ooooh so drinkable – like buttah! Imai-san gave us a pour from a young bottle of Kudoki Jozu and a glass of the exact same sake that had been aged for two years. Side by side comparisons are fun and both versions of the Kudoki Jozu were good, but I have to say I preferred the younger, fresher taste – it seemed to better match the overall vibe of this easy-breezy, flirty sake. Marketed more to women in Japan, this sake would really appeal to anyone who likes their sake light, tasty and easy to drink.
Last but not least Mr. Kitahara poured two interesting Shichiken sakes. The well-liked Shichiken Junmai Ginjo (SMV +4, ALC 14.5%) was served slightly warmed. This unexpected presentation woke up my palate. Finding sakes that work both chilled and gently warmed is not easy, so – note to self – Shichiken fits the bill.
For the “final final” sake, Shichiken’s “Bigin Bigin” Junmai Ginjo Koshu (Seimaibuai 50%, ALC 16.5, aged 3 yrs.) was poured and paired with my kind of dessert: chocolate cake and ice cream. This koshu was rich in color, texture and taste giving off a golden hue in the glass. Koshu has not traditionally been my thing, but recently I’ve had some great ones and this is no exception. Kitahara-san confirmed for me that Bigin Bigin is aged at a chilled temperature which gives it’s complex richness a distinct clarity that really comes through.
Wow, what a night – the Chanto triple play game plan really hit the mark again. After all, don’t they say good things come in threes?