Archive for July, 2008

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 20/5: Isojiman Brewery

July 29, 2008


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This is the second time I taste this particular brew by Isojiman Brewery in Yaizu City, and I must say that it definitely felt different from last year, although I enjoyed it as much.

Isojiman Ginjo (2008)

Rice: Yamada Nishiki (Area A/Hyogo Prefecture) 100%
Rice milled down to 50% for the yeast starter and 55% for the rest
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Bottled unpasturized (pasteurized after bottling)

Clarity: very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light, discreet. Almonds, coffee beans.
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Almonds, coffee beans.
Elegant, soft and complex. “Asking questions”.
Stands well to food.
Alcohol appearing only later.
Turns drier later with more coffee beans.

Overall: Elegant sake. Probably best appreciated on its own. Makes for a superb aperitif.
Has the particularity to disappear from memory, enticing to an extra sip, and again!
Always comes up with a new facet!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 21/4: Kansawagawa Brewery

July 28, 2008


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Like most breweries, Kanasawagawa Brewery in Yui (soon to be absorbed by Shizuoka City) has been outputting its nama/unpasteurized sake at a time when the heat entices sake lovers to drink their favourite brew chilled.

Kanasawagawa Brewery: Shosetsu Ginjo Nama

Rice milled down to 50%
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Bottledin June 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light. Fruity: Almonds, melon.
Body: Velvety~fluid
Taste: Nama tingle. Alcohol.
Elegant. Fruity: melon, coffee beans and bitter chocolate appearing later.
Light impression all way through. Very easy to drink.

Overall: A sake that would please ladies in particular.
Very soft on palate in spite of its “nama/unpasteurized” nature.
Makes for the perfect aperitif.
Is not influenced by food

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 16/6: Sugii Brewery

July 28, 2008


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Sugii Brewery in Fuieda City is one of the very few breweries which still experiment with old-style sake such as Yamahai and brews concocted with kimoto.
This time, Mr. Sugii devised a Yamahai exclusively made with Homare Fuji, a rice strain grown in Shizuoka Prefecture!

Sugii Brewery: “Yaoyorazu”, Ymahai Junmai

Rice: Homare Fuji (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Rice milled down to: 70%
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Brewed in 2007
Bottled in June 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Fruity, cherries, alcohol.
Body: Velvety~fluid
Taste: Short tail. Fruity: Dry cherries, Almonds, Junmai tingle, caramel, pudding.
Disappears quickly leaving a trail of warmth on the palate.
Turns drier with food with coffee beans appearing.

Overall: First impression! Very close to wine!
The Missus said it is feminine in concept!
Complex. Asking questions. Great with poultry.
Would go well with Japanese desserts.

Douman Crab at Suehiro-Hamanako No Megumii Aji Sushi Restaurant

July 23, 2008


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“Douman” is the name of a very rare crab of fairly large proportions exclusively caught in Summer in Lake Hamana, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Fishermen will be lucky if they manage to find 2 or 3 specimen caught in their nets in a single day for the whole lake!

It has become one of the symbols of the area as demonstrated by the rice/kome shochu of the same name brewed by Hamamatsu-Tenjingura Brewery/Distillery in Hamamatsu City.
Consequently only a few privileged establishments may serve it from time to time.
One such place is Suehiro-Hamanako No Megumii Aji Sushi Restaurant, a little secret place of mine.
As introduced in other articles, it is tucked away from the city bustle south of Hamamatsu JR Station.

I make a point to reserve a seat or two before I visit them as hey will make sure to keep a bottle of Shizuoka Sake just for me.
Last Friday, they just happened to have an excellent bottle from a favourite Brewery of mine, namely Hatsukame in Okabe Cho.
That particular brand, called “Fujisan”, is a honjozo made with rice from Toyama Prefecture and yeast from Shizuoka Prefecture, perfect in summer with sushi and seafood!
Light food was on order as it had been an excessively hot day now that the rainy season is finally off our heads.

Pickled myoga, and ham and avocado salad were perfect with the first couple of glasses of chilled sake.

With a kitchen conveniently closed away, Suehiro has the knack to serve the right mixture of sashimi, sushi and cooked fare which ensures you will not leave the place worrying about a still empty stomach.
Mind you, this is an expat notion which does not count for the Japanese habit to visit at least two or three different places in the same night.
We opted for some akami/lean tuna and suzuki/seabass sashimi and a plate of Hamana Lake prawns deep-fried inside Spring rolls.

Finally we were ready for the Douman Crab!
My friend took the opportunity to order a glass of shochu of the same name while I gamely took care of the sake.
In Hamamatsu City they just serve it steamed as it is without any dressing or seasoning.
And our half (can you imagine the price of a whole one?) did not need any whatsoever. It came very full of so soft, tasty, even sweet meat that you naturally take your time savouring a little at a time with chopsticks. Forbid a fork or spoon!
I’m afraid this will be my first and last time I experience such a delicacy. That is unless Suehiriro calls me (and other customers?) next time they chance upon one (two would be impossible, so do not plan a party!)

We still hjad one more morsel before we left for the Liquid Kitchen, a bar held by a cricket friend of mine: Hamana Lake anago/conger eel and ikura/salmon roe sushi.
As this restaurant always comes up with local delicacies on a purely seasonal basis, I wonder what will compel me to visit it again!

SUEHIRO-HAMANAKO NO MEGUMII AJI
Hamamatsu City, Naka Ku, suyama Cho, 360-6
Tel.: 053-452-6288
Business Hours: 11:30-13:30&17:00-22:00
Closed on every Wednesday and second Tuesday
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Shizuoka Sake Vintage (3): Takasago Brewery

July 23, 2008


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I suppose I’ll have to repeat every time, but I have the particular luck to know a liquor shop, Matsunaga Saketen (Japanese), whose owner, Mr. Matsunaga, has collected and safely stored sake from the Showa Era, that is, since 1988 and before! He even has introduced his stock on the internet, a document that any Japanese-reading sake-lover ought to consult!

Melinda, Etsuko and even Tim are going to scream again for my skin as I continue exploring the whole Shizuoka stock (repeat, LOL)

Actually this particular bottle could also be called “A Last Bottle” as it was produced in 1985, that is, when the Brewery in Fujinomiya City was still called Takasago Brewery before it became Fuji-Takasago Brewery after its merging with a shareholding company.

Takasago Brewery: Daiginjo
Rice: Yamada Nishiki
Rice milled down to 40%
Yeast: No 10
Brewing (moromi) period: 35 days
Alcohol: 17.3 degrees (high)
Dryness: +7 (very dry)
Acidity: 1.1 (very low)
Amino acids: 1.2
Fermented in 1985
Bottled in November 1986

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Dry, Fruity: melon. Alcohol
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Dry. Complex. Strong alcohol. Almonds.
Lingers on sweetish on second sip.
Turns dry with coffee beans on third sip.
Drinks well with food. Tends to turn sweet with salty food.

Overall: A true vintage sake. Could have been stored safely for many more years!
Aggressive at first. Turns mellow with food. Extremely well-preserved.
A complex experience. Clearly made with a different mindset.

Private Brand 2: Umegashima/Yoshiya Brewery

July 18, 2008


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The other day as I visited Umegashima Hotsprings at the very top of Abe River some 38 km away from Shizuoka City Centre, I spotted this bottle in a small souvenir shop.
It is actually a bottle of Abekaido Honjozo by Yoshiya Brewery in Shizuoka City with a label devised for the local shops.

Yoshiya Brewery: Umegashima Honjozo
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Bottled in June 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Dry. Light. Alcohol. Almonds, melon
Body: Velvety
Taste: Shortish tail.Dry. Strong alcohol. Almonds, coffee beans, bitter chocolate.
Dryness lingering in back of the mouth with food.
Drinks well with food. Strong comeback by almonds and bitter chocolate after food.

Overall: Sake devised for food.
“Suits itself to food”, but worth drinking on its own as it has plenty of characteristics worth exploring.

Shizuoka Izakaya: Ukidono

July 16, 2008


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Ukidono is difficult to classify: in all honesty, it does not qualify as an Izakaya or Kaiseki (Japanese traditional) Restaurant. This is the kind of establishment that would deserve a visit from such Gastronomes as Chuckeats, Very Good Food, Luxeat and Dominique Corby.

The entrance to the actual restaurant bears nothing special about it, although it is part of the whole Fugetsuro Complex including the abode of the last Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

One of the annexes was transformed seven years ago to accomodate a better-class izakaya, but still cheaper than the unaffordable Fugetsuro Restaurant, a renown, if somewhat old-fashioned, kaiseki restaurant across from Shizuoka JR Station.

One may opt for a cozy, almost private room

or even better (in my own view), the outside “corridor” along the inside of the building where you sit on high stools against a high wooden counter admiring

the inner view on the famed Japnese Garden! If you are lucky, you will be offered the intimate view of guests and kimono-clad ladies walking on the narrow bridge on their way to one of the private guest houses.

Although the food is of very high quality, the main attraction is the Shizuoka Sake List.
Apparently, they store more than a full thousand kinds of sake in their basement, featuring most of the Shizuoka Breweries.
Last week they ahd the following on offer:
Aoitenka (Yamanaka Brewery, Kakegawa City), Eikun (Yui Cho), Kikuyoi (Aoshima Brewery, Fujieda City), Kaiun (Doi Brewery, Kakegawa City), Fuji-Takasago (Fujinomiya City), Shidaizumi (Fujieda City), Isojiman (Yaizu City), Chuumasa (Yoshiya Brewery, Shizuoka City), Shosetsu (Kansawagawa Brewery, Yui Cho), Kokkou (Fukuroi City), Oomuraya (Shimada City), Hakuin Masamune (Takashima Brewery, Numazu City) and Haginishiki (Shizuoka City)!
You can order the sake by the “ichi go” flagon (180ml. from 924 yen), as a tasting set of three diferent brews (from 1,386 yen) or by the bottle.

One can choose the easy way by ordering one of the four courses (3,465~9,471 yen), although the card would be far more fun and would probably come out cheaper if you are two or more.

For raw fish amateurs one may fancy it in salads, such as the hirame konbujime/sole marinated in seaweed as above,

or even better as a full sashimi set as above:
From top left clockwise:
Thin slices of Isaki/a variety of grouper typical of Suruga Bay intersped with thin slices of lemon, Akami/Lean tuna, Suzuki/Seabass, Hirame/Sole, Chutoro/semi-fat tuna and Hirame Konbu Jime/Sole marinated in seaweed (different method from above).

Frankly speaking, I will need to visit the place a few more times before I can do it justice!
Incidentally, Ukido includes a very reasonable hotel with full amenities I will try to report on later!

Ukido
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Koyamachi, 11-1, Fugetsuro
Tel.: 054-2520131
Business hours: 11:30~15:00; 17:00~22:00 (until 21:00 on Sundays)
Closed on Mondays
Credit Cards OK

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 24/4: Yamanaka Brewery/Aoitenka

July 15, 2008


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Yamanaka Brewery is lost somewhere south of Kakegawa City Station and it is not easy to find their bottles! This is the only fourth one!

Yamanaka Brewery: Aoitenka Tokubetsu Junmai

Rice: Gohyakumangoku 100%
Rice milled down to 55%
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Bottled in April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light. Dry. Fruity: coffee beans, Melon
Body: Velvety
Taste: Shortish tail. Strong junmai tingle warming the back of the mouth.
Dry. Complex. Fruity. Almonds, melon.
Keeps dry all the way through by itself or with food.
Almonds make strong comeback with food, especially meat.

Overall: Another sake designed both for food and individual drinking.
Strong characteristics.
Dry. Complex. Very pleasant and easy to drink.
“Suits itself to food”.

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 26/3: Eikun Brewery

July 14, 2008


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Since I will shortly travel to Yui Cho to visit and interview Eikun Brewery, I thought some tasting was in order!

Eikun Brewery: Tokubetsu Junmai (2008)

Rice: Yakumangoku
Rice milled down to 55%
Yeast: Shizuoka HD-101
Alcohol: 16.5 degrees
Dryness: +4
Acidity: 1.4
Bottled in April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Fruity. Complex. Vanilla, bananas, pineapple.
Body: Velvety to fluid.
Taste: Short tail. Dry at first but soft. Slight junmai tingle.
Complex. Fruity: pineapple, almonds.
Pleasant and fleeting. Almonds making a strong comeback with junmai tingle on second sip. Turns dry with food.

Overall: In spite of its elevated rank, holds itself very well with food.
Elegant, fleeting. A sake for all season!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 6/9: Oomuraya Brewery

July 10, 2008


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This time of the year witnesses the appearance of a lot of so-called limited brews.
Oomuraya Brewery in Shimada City is particularly active in that area.

Oomuraya Brewery: Fuuka Junmai

Rice: Homare Fuji 100% (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Rice milled down to 60%
Dryness: +3
Acidity: 1.4
Amino acids: 1.2
Pasteurized inside the bottle
Limited to 300 bottles
Bottled in June 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light, dry, fruity. Pineapple, melon
Body: Velvety
Taste: Soft at first, alcohol appearing on back of the palate. Short tail.
Coffee beans, bitter choclate, pineapple, melon.
Elusive, elegant.
Almost no jumai tingle. Almonds appearing later

Overall: a very elusive discreet sake for a junmai.
Very pleasant.
Although it holds itself perfectly with food, it would probably be best appreciated for its own sake (LOL).
Elegant. Pity it is limited to only 300 bottles.
Drier than expected. Call for second sip.

Isojiman Brewery Sake chosen for Hokkaido G8 Meet!

July 8, 2008


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(Shizuoka Shinbun, July 8th, 2008)

Shizuoka Jizake has finally made the grade!
All these bigwigs on the above pic were served Isojiman Junmai Daiginjo (Isojiman Brewery, yaizu City) at their official banquet held in Hokkaido on July 7th for the G8 Members and their guests.
For the record, they were also served (California) Winery Ridge Vineyards’ California Monte Bello (1997) with Hungarian and French wines.
Looking at the way Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy is “admiring” his cup, I doubt he had a clue about the whole thing! Well, I was not on hand to help him! LOL

I also know that the cheese was served by the only Japanese Chevalier Fromager, Ms. Keiko Kubota from Gentil Restaurant, Shizuoka City!

Three times “Hurrah” for Shizuoka!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 1/7: Morimoto Brewery

July 7, 2008


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I just cannot help coming back to my “roots”, as Morimoto Brewery was the first I ever commented on! A long love story indeed, which can finish only my own demise!

Morimoto Brewery: “Yatte Mita” Nessei
This was the first time that Hitoshi Morimoto created a sake with only Homare Fuji rice grown in Shizuoka Prefecture, hence the title “Yatte Mita” (I tried it!)
Very little information as usual, and I did have to fork out a little of myself!

Rice: Homare Fuji (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Junmai
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Sake brewed in 2006, bottled in June 2008
Limited to: 180 bottles

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Fruity, vanilla, banana
Body: Velvety
Taste: Shortish tail
Extremely complex and fruity: almonds, vanilla, coffee beans, bitter chocolate, banana.
Elegant and pleasant.
Lingers longer on palate with food.
Pleasantly warming alcohol.

Overall: A sake appealing to all.
Elegant and very easy to drink.
Quite a performance considering it was made primarily with Shizuoka-grown rice.
Extremely complex, constantly asking questions. Highly unpredictable.
Coming up with a different facet with every sip.

Shizuoka Vintage Sake (2): Haginishiki Brewery

July 3, 2008


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As I said before, I have the particular luck to know a liquor shop, Matsunaga Saketen (Japanese), whose owner, Mr. Matsunaga, has collected and safely stored sake from the Showa Era, that is, since 1988 and before! He even has introduced his stock on the internet, a document that any Japanese-reading sake-lover ought to consult!

Melinda, Etsuko and even Tim are going to scream again for my skin!as I continue exploring the whole Shizuoka stock.

This particular brew was also bottled in 1987, although Mr. matsunaga thinks it was actually brewed in 1986!

Haginishiki Brewery (Shizuoka City), Daiginjo
No records but for:
Alcohol: 17~18 degrees

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Alsmost transparent
Aroma: Dry, discreet, fruity: pineapple, melon, gummy sweet
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Dry. Almonds, pineapple.
Turns very dry with food with a strong hint of alcohol and lots of coffee beans and pineapple. Almonds and bitter chocolate also fighting for supremacy.

Overall: An “old fashion” sake with strength in alcohol.
Suited for food, especially oily and strong sauces.
Still very pleasant in spite of grand age!


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