Saturday, December 5, 2015

Omakase at Kakure with Sake pairing

The world of sake is rather mysterious to many of us. Navigating around the various wine appellations is quite a big challenge where reference material in English is readily available. Trying to navigate sake is much more a challenge as there is little reference in English, and many of us already have a difficult time reading the label. It is thus a godsend that a knowledgeable sommelier is on hand to attend to the selection and pairing. 

An extension of omakase restaurant Ki-sho, a space was added for a sake bar: Kakure. Housed in the same amazing black & white bungalow as Ki-sho, Kakure has one of the largest sake lists in Singapore as well as a special barfood menu expressly created for the bar by Ki-sho's sake-loving chef Hamamoto. 

Their sake list has been carefully curated in a partnership between Ki-sho’s chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto and two kikisake-shi or certified sake sommeliers.  

It was thus with great pleasure that we were introduced to Makato Iwabuchi, one of the two Japanese Sommeliers at Chateau TCC. Makato-san was trained as a French wine sommelier before making the switch to specialize in Japanese alcohol. A veritable gentleman, he was knowledgeable, conversant and had the great sensibilities required to work with the chef de cuisine to pair the dishes. 

What followed that evening was spectacular. This is an invited tasting, and we thank Cyndiana and the team at Food News for the invitation and hosting. 

The sake bar is upstairs, and discrete. We began with the some tasting bits which remained on the table throughout.

This was an assortment of pickles, from right to left: Young Ginger, Wasabi Yam, Spicy Sea Kelp, Yuzu Pickled Radish. Interesting flavours and textures. I found the yuzu pickled daikon (radish) to be most agreeable. 

Thus we began our first course, Tsubugai Shellfish and Smoked Salmon:

The shellfish is a Japanese sea snail, and had a typical shellfish texture, much like abalone. And smoked salmon was delicately and thinly sliced. A light smokey flavour was present. 

This first course was paired the house sake, Tatenokawa Junmai Daiginjo, Nakadori Ki-sho Label ($458++ per bottle. Polish rate 18%. From Yamagata.)

Interestingly, it was served in a large Bordeaux style glass. And Makoto-san took trouble to rotate the glass at a 45 degree slant to ensure breathing. The sake was very clear, transparent. Served cold.

The sake is made with Yamadanishiki sake rice, one of the best if not the best sake rice. It is sometimes also written as Yamada Nishiki.

The second course was Anago Tempura.

Fresh anago eel tempura with plum and Shiso leaf. The anago was a real pleasure, succulent, fresh, and the characteristic oily mouth feel was present. The tempura batter was very light.  

This was paired with the second sake, we had the Dewazakura Daiginjo Nama ($450++ per bottle. Polish rate 40%. From Yamagata.)

For the third course, we were presented the Saba Misoni 

Simmered Mackerel in Miso Sauce. This is a beautiful dish. The saba was marvellous. My cut was the belly, and it was deliciously fat. And was cooked to perfection. The meat was not flaky, and very smooth. The miso sauce provided a beautiful counterpoint. To pair, it was the Junmaiginjo Murika "Kei" ($136++ per bottle. Polish rate 55%. From Shimane.) 

As the fourth course, we were served the Classic Kyoto soup flavoured with homemade Bonito, Seaweed, Dashi stock, 

Chicken Consomme, served with radish and tofu. Another marvellous dish. Very light on the palate, and very comforting. The pairing sake was the Hououbiden Winecell 2014 Junmai Ginjo ($278++ per bottle. Polish rate 55%. From Tochigi.)

Then the fifth course arrived. And this, to me was the masterpiece: Buta Kakuni

Braised Pork Belly from the Kagoshima Prefecture. The pork was perfectly cooked. Often times, pork belly is stewed to an inch of its life until the fats and oils come apart from the meat. In Peranakan Malay, we say, "sudah pecah minyak", literally the fat has broken. But this pork belly was stewed just the point where the fats are about to burst open, but not quite. And will only spill its contents at the gentlest provocation provided by pushing it with one's tongue against the pork on one's upper palate. Ever so gently, the fat releases a plethora of flavours, and nearly overwhelms the senses. Excellent. To pair, a slightly more robust Masuizumi Zenkoji Junmai ($155++ per bottle. From Toyama.)

The sake had a champagne hue, and had a rather pleasant honey like after taste. 

For the sixth, we had a noodle dish:  Ikura Cha Soba

Matcha cold noodles served with fresh Salmon roe and topped with Japanese seaweed and spring onions. The macha soba was quite delectable. Nice to the bite, and with a slight taste of the Japanese green tea lingering. Complimented well with the ikura. For the sake, Tenmei Junmaishu ($140++ per bottle. Polish rate 60%. From Fukushima.)

For desserts: 

A matcha mochi, a macha cake and a kind of wafer macaroon. 

The evening was a marvellous one. The ambience of the venue was truly magnificent. A very beautiful place. And the food was certainly top class. The dishes were haute cuisine style, very small degustation portions. But were prepared with quality ingredients, and very well cooked. Chapeau to the chef, whom we did not meet that evening. 

But this was a sake lair, and it was the sakes which were the stars.

We continued to chat and tried to absorb the atmosphere of the sakes, but truth be told, most of it is beyond my current state of appreciation. But appreciate it I did. I had certainly enjoyed all the sakes that were served, but would be totally clueless to be able to select the right sake for the food being ordered. The Japanese Sommelier had come to good use, and he exercised his craft perfectly. 

Chateau TCC
29 Scotts Road
Level 2
Singapore 228224
Reservations: 6733 5251
Website: Opening Hours
6.30pm – 1am
Mon to Sat

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