Sake is the national beverage of Japan and historically, it was commonly served during traditional occasions or ceremonies. Nowadays, sake drinking has taken on a more social twist where it is widely served in Japanese restaurants and bars. Sake is a Japanese rice wine brewed from polished rice through a process called multiple parallel fermentation.
Just like it is common to pair wine with different food, the diverse flavours of different sakes work well with different food. We found this out in a recent Sake & Food Pairing at Hana Dining Sake Bar. Hana is a relatively new eatery in Sunway Pyramid, having just opened about five months ago.
With two outlets already in Taiwan, Hana expanded their Japanese fusion cuisine enterprise to Sunway recently. Their a la carte menu is extensive, serving a mixture of traditional and fusionistic Japanese favourites.
We had 4 sakes up for food pairing that day. For each sake, several suitable dishes were prepared for the pairing.
Eddie Beh, the passionate CEO of Hana Dining Sake Bar gave us valuable insights in the appreciation of sake
While waiting for the main event, we snacked on Hana’s signature Fried Burdock Salad with Honey Mustard dressing. The thin burdock crisps were really addictive.
First on the list was the premium Josen HuaJiuZhang Junmai Daiginjo (RM290/bottle) from Niigata prefecture. This sake is custom-made for Hana by Shirataki Brewery. With an alcohol content of 15.5%, its light dry full flavours were perfect with seafood. I liked how the rounded acidity of this junmai daiginjo spreaded out the rich oiliness of the maguro, tuna and fatty flounder of the pairing dishes.
Chef’s Olic (a mixture of olive and garlic) Tuna Marinade
Drunk chilled, this sake tasted well-balanced, especially when its flavours were rinsed on the palate before and after the fish pieces.
In fact, all the sakes were drunk chilled, at about 10 degrees. Good sake should always be drunk chilled, not cold or warm. Only sakes which are not high on quality are usually drunk warm.
Next we had the unpasteurised Shirokawago Junmai Ginjo Sasa Nigori (RM160/bottle) from Gifu prefecture. With slightly higher alcohol content of 1516%, this sake was first shaken to loosen up the rice sediments before drinking. Milky in appearance, this junmai ginjo’s distinct light sweet, medium flavour with edgy acidity was a good pairing with fried dishes – chicken and seafood.
Crispy codfish layered with sweet potato
I found the Hokkan Ichimonji Junmai Ginjo (RM120/bottle) to be milder than the rest. Its light sweet flavours were soft and gentle on the seafood dishes paired with it. Brewed in Tochigi prefecture, eastern Japan, this sake has 14% alcohol. The full package of its flavours and slightly fruity aroma coaxed the delicate sweetness of the fresh seafood dishes we had.
Finally, we tasted the Inanbu Bijin Honjozo (RM140/bottle) from the north-eastern prefecture of Iwate. It’s drier than the other 3 sakes and has a more robust character in the fullness of its flavours. Considered “medium dry”, the 15-16% alcohol content was a good buffer for the roasted beef ribs paired with it. However, I found it didn’t work quite well with the grilled pumpkin ham roll possibly because of the milder flavours of the ham roll – the goose liver was hardly discernible.
Our sake pairing meal ended on a delightful note with Hana’s Homemade Tofu Cheesecake with White Sesame Ice Cream. It was a very refreshing and light cheesecake and the white sesame ice cream was flavoured just nicely without too much of the sesame.
Chef Thomas Lim – the man behind the culinary creations in Hana Dining Sake Bar
If you have never been to Hana Dining Sake Bar, do note that the entrance to it can be rather diminutive. Just look out for the signage to a rather narrow walkway which would bring you to Hana. There are two doorways: the sake bar is to the left while the right doorway leads you to the dining area. The bar is well-stocked with barrels of sake and an extensive selection of Japanese whiskey. Their sake and shochu cocktails are pretty legendary.
With help from their experienced sake sommeliers, diners can enjoy sake pairing with food at the comfortable casual dining space.
HANA DINING SAKE BAR
OB2.G.U1 Oasis Boulevard, Ground Floor
3 Jalan PJS 11/15