Sakemaru hosted its latest event in Singapore focused on pairing sake, including sake from Spain, with Spanish food. A full house of thirty attendees took part in the six-course sake pairing dinner at My Little Spanish place near Bukit Timah. The special event was hosted by the founder of SAKEMARU, Taichi Abe.
Taichi san first met My Little Spanish Place Executive Head Chef Director Edward Esmero at Singapore’s annual Savor gourmet festival in 2015. After sharing Spanish food and sake together, they both knew future collaboration was in the cards as they realized how sake’s “umami” could inject new essence into the cuisine. The next year, the two collaborated to host their first Spanish and sake-pairing event. While Chef Edward doesn’t usually offer sake in the restaurant, he was keen to try something new to challenge his guests to see something exciting outside of the Spanish paradigms.
This year, Taichi san added a new element to the event – sake actually produced in Spain! Kensho Tokubetsu Junmai, the first Mediterranean sake ever produced, added unique diversity to the rest of the sakes in the pairing, which were all from Japan. In fact, the toji behind Kensho, Spaniard Humbert Conti, is actually a new fellow writer for Sakemaru. While the Kensho sakes are made according to the Japanese artisan tradition, they use Marisma rice grown locally in Spain’s Ebro Delta and spring water from Benassal, located in Castellón, which gives the sake its distinctive Mediterranean flavor. The light, fruity taste and low acidity of Kensho Tokubetsu Junmai (Polishing: 70%, Alcohol: 13.5%) pairs well with oysters and delicate seafood and in this dinner was paired with the “Pulpo” course of grilled octopus leg.
When asked later, Taichi san, explained that the Kesho Tokubetsu Jumai’s aroma and taste was very different from Japanese authentic sake, so that most of attendees (including me!) were surprised when they drank it. Guests felt the Spanish sake’s taste and aroma could be improved as they thought it was “something like the middle of white wine and sake” with a very crisp and dry finish reminiscent of a Chablis. Everyone agreed that it was exciting to see such international innovation in sake using only Spanish local ingredients.
Taichi san shared the following sakes were the favourites based on attendee feedback:
• Aotoshichisei Junmai Daiginjo 48 Kibuneshibori from Aoto Shuzu brewery in Yasugishi with polishing of 48% paired with “Codorniz al Horno” roasted quail
• Musashino Junmai Daiginjo Black Nama from Saharashuzo brewery in Irumaguna with polishing of 50% paired with the “Huevo” 60 degree sous vide egg with uni and Iberico ham chips
• Azumatsuru Junmai Origarami Oyamanishiki F7 from Azumatsuru Shuzo brewery in Takushi Higashitaku with 65% polishing, paired with “Pluma Iberica” apple wood smoked Iberico pork
As for Chef Edward’s preferred sakes, he actually liked the Kensho Tokubetsu Junmai’s fruity and citric flavors paired with the Pulpo. He shared that, like Japan, Spain has a good climate and blessed with beautiful natural resources, which he enjoyed seeing combined to create such a unique Mediterranean sake. His other favourite, similar to many guests, was the Musashino Junmaidaiginjo Black Nama because of its simple and balanced taste.
As for my wife and I, we also liked the Musashino Junmai Ginjo White Nama from Asaharashuzo brewery in Irumagun with 60% polishing paired with “Esparagus Blanco” white asparagus in butter sauce as well as the Aotoshichisei Tokubetsu Junmai from Aoto Shuzo brewery in Yasugishi with polishing of 65%, paired with the “Hamachi Crudo” sliced raw yellow tail with chorizo crubs.
Edward, who has a passion for Spanish quickstep dancing in addition to cooking, was amazingly quick in the kitchen as well the night of the dinner, serving up the innovative six courses while Taichi san explained each of the accompanying sakes. The delicious food paired well with the sakes, which made me wonder if Chef Edward had any specific pairing principles he follows with his food pairing. He answered to say:
“Wine and food have always gone together and it is becoming more popular to explore the combinations of wines and sake’s with different dishes. Matching flavors of food and drink together is not easy, including with unique sake.
However, it is fun to experiment and see guests enjoying the experience with my food supporting the star role of sake in the pairing. Fortunately, sake is very versatile and pairs with a lot of things that can be difficult for wine—like artichokes and asparagus, for example. The seafood from Galicia and Iberico pork of Salamance surprisingly paired wonderfully with sake during the dinner.”
As for whether Chef Edward would look to start offering sake as a regular part of his wine list in the future, he said, “Hmmmm, Why not? Sometimes you need to reinvent to add a little bit of fusion with passion!”
Hopefully, the third time will be the charm in 2018 with another wonderful collaboration between Taichi-san and Edward at My Little Spanish Place!