Friday, 31 August 2018

Enter the World of Sake at TK’s Oriental Grill

First impressions often leave a lasting impact. My first taste of sake was in Hong Kong around 5 years ago. While I don’t remember the specific brand that I tasted, I do remember the cold and refreshing taste of this popular Japanese alcohol that complemented the fine sushi at Tokio Joe in the buzzing Lan Kwai Fong. That was probably the first time that I understood and enjoyed the perfect food & beverage pairing. While the sake opened up the palate to enjoy even the subtle flavours of sashimi and nigiri, every subsequent sip of the drink also became more and more enjoyable, and the flavour more pronounced.

Since then, I have had sake many times over but I have to admit that the experience was not equally enjoyable each time. Until last week, when I was invited to enjoy a boutique sake collection at Hyatt Regency’s TK’s. This time, my first sip of Enter Sake’s Junmai Ginjo, Silver, almost took me back to that wonderful afternoon in Hong Kong when I first enjoyed this beverage. With honeysuckle on the nose and floral notes of cherry blossoms, it has a clean and smooth finish. The second sake for the evening was the Honjozo-style, Black. This is a clean, pure style of sake with mountain flowers on the nose. Less sweet than the previous one, the Black has cleansing acidity that provides good structure and a soft, silky texture.

Enter Sake
Enter Sake is a boutique sake collection curated by Canadian musician and DJ Richie Hawtin. Richie has been exploring the world of sake over the last twenty years through extensive trips to Japan. He has earned the Advanced Sake Professional certification and was made an official Sake Samurai by the Japanese Sake Brewers Association in 2014 for his efforts in promoting sake abroad. The brand Enter also includes special sakes that are not available anywhere else outside Japan.

Project Sake India 
Brought to India by the young and enterprising duo behind Project Sake India, Enter Sake is already available at all the leading Japanese and Oriental restaurants in Delhi’s five-star hotels and a few select stand-alone restaurants as well. Arjun Khurana, partner, Project Sake India, emphasised the importance of the right channels of importing and storing sake in order to enjoy it at its optimal taste. “Like wine, sake bottles have no expiration date, but they do not taste as good beyond three months,” he laments. In fact, they got into the business of importing sake primarily because of their love for it, and at times, inadequate availability.

Enter Sake, a name that one is not likely to forget {unlike many other traditional Japanese names}, comes in wine-type bottles and is even served in a wine flute, instead of a carafe and shot glass or cup. “We want to make sake more approachable for the Delhi market,” says Arjun. Although this is a non-traditional way of serving sake, it is not blasphemous, because sake is the equivalent of wine in many ways. The pairing principles of sake also have many similarities with that of food and wine. On that note I’ll leave you with a few fun facts* about sake.

·      Made primarily from rice, sake is a fermented beverage brewed using a micro-organism called koji and yeast.
·      It has alcohol content of about 13%-16%.
·      The quality of water used in brewing sake is very important. Brewers take advantage of the various kinds of natural water available in Japan to make excellent sake.
·      There are many different varieties of sake, and it can be enjoyed either warm or chilled, depending on the type of sake and the season.

*Types of Sake
There are several different types of sake, the following special denominations are specified by the Japanese government.
Ginjoshu: Sake made using white rice that has been milled so that 60% or less of the grain remains. It also contains rice koji and water. It is characterized by fruity, floral bouquet and a clear, crisp flavour. If the rice is polished down to 50% or less, the sake is called Dai-ginjoshu.
Junmaishu: Sake made only from white rice, rice koji, and water. It tends to have a mellow bouquet and a rich, smooth flavour.
Honjozoshu: Sake made using white rice that has been milled so that 70% or less of the grain remains, along with rice, koji, brewing alcohol and water. It is known for its mild, unobtrusive bouquet and a crisp flavour.
All other types of sake fall under the category of Futsushu, which is consumed widely throughout Japan. This category offers various tastes, with each brand of sake featuring a unique flavour that is characteristic of the brewery.

Lastly, sake pairing is NOT limited to Japanese food! It is being paired with French, Italian and even Indian cuisine.

* The facts and sake specifications, courtesy Japan Sake Brewers Association.