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Sake Tasting, Ordre Mondial

Ordre Mondial, “A Taste of Japan”.

On the latest Ordre Mondial event, open to all Chaîne Members and their guests, we were gathered at Robson Street’s Hello Nori to celebrate Asian Heritage Month with a “Taste of Japan.” Pairing fine sashimi and sushi with artisan sake that would not otherwise be available.

During this very special event, Chaîne/OM member and sake afficionado Peter Green, a longtime fan and certified sake professional, guided ticket holders through a tour of Japan’s most traditional of drinks, Nihonshu (Japanese alcohol).

Guests enjoyed a relaxed series of pours, with discussion regarding the history of brewing with rice in Japan; the methods of making sake; the terroir; the business; and sake around the world. The goal was to become more comfortable with ordering nihonshu from any menu, reading any sake bottle, and pairing it well with food.

Hello Nori’s horseshoe bar seating was the perfect platform for such an educational experience, made all the more lively with multiple large pours of sake. Majority of which was brought in by the event organizers and not actually available at Hello Nori.

The day began with a celebratory toast announcing “Kanpai”, which teams “empty bottle”. Whereas the word “sake” is a catch all term for booze.

Our journey began with a 2000 years look back at history, where folks would stand around and chew rice, unknowingly spitting into mash, and getting a good fermentation out of it.

From there we moved forward to 1100 years ago, where sake becomes more like the brew we know it to be now. Fermented with a yeast starter and multiple passes, each time adding sugar to the mash to active the yeast. The result is Koji, moldy rice. From here water is added and the sake is allowed to sit for days, depending on your desired end product.

For example sake that sits for 3 days would be considered table sake, compared to a sake sitting for 35 days and coming out a lot more delicate. The longer and slower it ferments the more flavour you get.

There are different types of sake based on how it is produced. From pounding the mash to letting it stew and mellow.

In general there are two families of sake, and it either goes down one path or the other. Where it is all rice and there is no alcohol in it, and what you get varies by the rice used. Or modern sake making which includes the addition of alcohol. This helps to control the shelf life for a different type of sake that is often clean and aromatic.

As for what was in our cup, we started with a yuzu sparking welcome drink featuring sake from local producers: Artisan SakeMarker, based out of Granville Island.

Our first sake tasting was Ima, Junmai Imayotsukasa. It was fragrant from the roasted rice, with high acidity to counter its natural sweetness. This was a silky and smooth sake to perfectly match with our first course.

Raw oyster with BC uni and yuzo koshu ponzu. All the elements in shell were exquisite, however each battling for supremacy. A pretty presentation and by far my favourite of the day. Although as pretty as it was you did not get to fully appreciate the dish itself as such. You lost the freshness of the creamy oyster, missed the briny pops of the fish roe, and blurred out the distinct umami flavour of sea urchin.

Our second sake was the Takacho, Bodaimoto muroka genshu yujoshuzo. This sake was lovely, served traditionally chilled in a small porcelain cup. It was less fragrant as a pasteurized sake. And in contrast the cold of the sake made the warm hand roll that accompanied it all the more tastier.

Hello Nori is known for their hand rolled sushi, rolled to order before your eyes, as part of the experience. This was a 4-hour sous vide Spanish octopus that was topped with bonito flakes then hand rolled with rice and seaweed. The octopus was incredibly tender and tasty from the fishiness of the bonito.

For our next sake taster we learned that you don’t age sake like you do with wine, and that sake is best fresh. This was best exemplified by the Super dry sake, Karakuchi Amabuki. Its ingredient make up included nectar from flowers, burnt forest floors, and mushrooms. The result a very gentle and floral sake that helped to cut through the oiliness of its fish pairing below.

Aburi sabo boo with crema balsamic reduction, shiso leaf, and akuza sushi rice. Here, diners were giving a smudge of a wasabi soy sauce powder to accompany the torched mackerel roll. I dabbed fish over rice heavily into the powder not expecting it to be so concentrated; as the heat and sting of the wasabi shot straight up my nasal passages. Thankfully we had 2 pieces so I was more better prepared to enjoy the second, and savour the even char and grill of the salty fresh fish.

Our next sake tasting had us comparing 2 different glasses from the same manufacturer. Both prepared the same, but using two different types of rice. And it made a noticeable difference. Dewazakura has been making sake since 1982 and their artistry showed in our comparison.

The Oka Honjo Dewazakura was fruit forward with a refreshing mineral finish. It uses 2 different types of rice including a sweet rice, plus a specific yeast that does not work with the rice below; as apparently not all rice likes this yeast.

In comparison the Omachi Dewazakura was more acidic with a stronger punchy alcohol fragrance that hits you in the your nasal passage, like the wasabi did to me above.

Both bolder sakes went to pair with a bolder fish. Aburi king salmon sashimi with negi shiyo. The fragrance onion accented the clean fish well, offering a lush and simple bite.

Our 6th sake was the Eikun Kotosennen, Junmai Daiginjo Saito Shuzo. This I found clean with no after taste, like super soft water with a nice climax. We were informed that this is what more traditional sake is known to be like.

What better sake to pair with one of the most exalted fishes for sashimi. Aburi blue fin tuna sashimi with sweet sesame negi relish. This was tender and supple tuna, where you could feel the quality of it on your lips.

Next we had the Taka, Tokubetsu junmai, Nagayama honke shuzu. It was nice, easy drinking, rustic spirit as we began tapering down the flavour(s) in our sake and food pairing.

It was presented with a Yellow tail temari sushi with an avocado mousse. Presented as a one shot ball of fish over rice that you can easily pop into your mouth, this was fun. Lean buttery fish with creamy avocado for just a hint of freshness.

The Negai-Bito was our last sake tasting: Yamachai junmai ginjo genshu, Shiokawa shiso. The strongest of all the sakes we tried with a sharp medicinal overture.

The above paired well with the red meat of the Aburi Miyazaki wagyu gunkan. A bundle of wagyu tartare wrapped in rice and seaweed, alongside pickled wasabi. And given some softeness with the edible flower petals placed atop. I found this more for texture than taste as the meat melted, but I found myself dipping it heavily into soy.

And for dessert we had a sip of Kokuto Ana cocktail of sorts. Made with umeshu, brown sugar, rum, and Choya. You were able to enjoy it as is, or pour it over the dessert like a dressing.

A chewy puff of mochi filled with vanilla ice cream. The cocktail with its cola-soda sweeteners made this one bite ball taste like a simplified ice cream float. This was a very fun and original end to a very special meal.

And thus ended a successful afternoon where we enjoyed exclusive sake not readily available to the market and a curated selection of the best morsels from trendy Japanese eatery, Hello Nori. A great event and one to remember.

Hello Nori
1165 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B5
(604) 564-9595

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