There are a lot of pop ups in Hoxton at the moment and Bibendum were joining the craze this week with their one off Sake tasting at the Dolls House on Hoxton Square. The venue itself was unique and interesting – the plain rooms decorated with murals depicting furniture in black and white, which contrasted with the red Bibendum branding.
I went along mainly to try some free Sake and left blown away by the breath and uniqueness of the range available.
There were four producers represented Akita Shuri Seizoh Co from Akita, Niizawa Sake Brewing Co from Miyagi, Tenzan Sake Brewery Co from Saga and Shiraki Brewery from Giyu.
Between them they represent a wide variety of styles, some more traditional and some very different to Sake I’ve tried before (FYI this wouldn’t be too hard to do, as whilst I’ve drunk some Sake I’ve not tried the same amount as I have wine!).
We started off at Niizawa. The Hakurakusei Junmai Daiginjo was very subtle – it tasted clean with just a hint of sweetness. They suggest it would go well with creamy food, however I could immediately taste the combination when they also suggested pairing with oysters, one word yum!
We also tried their Kishinamien Umeshu – a plum sake liqueur – which is as different as you can get from ‘Plum Wine’. This was a cloudy ice tea colour, with plum and almond aromas. It reminded me of the Queen of Denmark marzipan sweets that I used to pilfer from my grandparents as a child – the similar plum brandy marzipan combination recreated here! In the mouth it was tangy, so not a cup of sweetness, but unusual and with lots of depth to the flavour.
Apparently they obtain the almond flavour through 2 years of macerating the fruit with the stone in. They recommended this liqueur for desserts or as a straight digestif. However I think a much more fun way to drink this is in cocktails, or as an aperitif – long with soda water and ice – a summer winner I should think…
We did try an Umeshu Sour cocktail made with it also – lacking the brandy, but still an interesting concoction and well worth a try, I’m going to extend my cocktail repertoire to Sake soon!
Next up was Akita Shuri Seizoh where we tried their Honjozo first. We tried this cold, however Honjozo can be served warm also – they suggest around 40 degrees C. This one had a slight yellow tinge to the colour (the majority of the sakes were clear unless otherwise stated) and the aroma on the nose was stronger than the taste. It was clean and pure with no easily distinguishable flavours for me. They suggest it would go well with stews & hot food and I can certainly see this being the case in the winter served hot.
Next up we tried their Junmai, which is made with artificial moulds (we’ll come back to this later!). Again this tasted clean and pure, at first light with an aftertaste that is dry, with a borderline bitter edge. This was suggested to be good served at body temperature.
Finally we tried the Kimoto Junmai which uses just wild moulds using a traditional process that is more manual. This had a stronger alcohol smell and taste with sweet notes. This would pair very well with beef or steak, hmmm teppanyaki!
So the reason that the mould is important is because of how Sake is made, I won’t repeat, but this poster I took a snap of explains it:
We then went to Tenzan and tried their Junmai Ginjo. This struck me as an unusual sake – it had an almost appley smell and a very different taste, clean but sharp, which would work well with citrus flavours. They suggest pairing with pork or sashimi, and I could see it going well with a sashimi salad with juzu dressing.
We tried the Junmai 75, so called because the rice is polished to 75%, the polish ratio is an indicator of purity:
Rice polished to different ratios – it starts off brown – the more polished the longer it takes and the more expensive the sake!
This sake was also aged for 3 years which added a depth to the flavour. It was aromatic and almost viscous in texture, with a long aftertaste.
Finally we tried the Yuzu-Shu, a citrus sake liqueur. This was cloudy like a homemade lemonade, so far not unexpected, it had a little zing like ginger on the nose, but the flavour was very different to other citrus liqueurs I’ve tasted. It was tart, reminding me of a sorbet palate cleanser, with a toasted coconut end note. This would be great for cocktails or as an after dinner drink.
Lastly we visited Shiraki. They have an unusual product in that it’s all the same, just aged. That’s to say the sake is made the same – there is no difference in the purity of the rice or the mould used – they just age it in the bottle and the flavours change over the 20 year span as the amino acids continue to work, giving the sake a darker colour.
We started at the young end with the 3 year old. This was golden in colour like a robust white wine and had a soft light flavour. For the younger sake’s they suggest pairing with Chinese food, cheese and sea food.
Next up was the 5 year old. This had a deeper sherry colour, with tones of sherry in the smell and flavour. This reminded me of fortified wine in general and would go well with something rich and savoury like foie gras.
The 10 year old had a deeper flavour. It was much more viscous in the glass and the aromas reminded me of pickles. I think this is the fifth flavour category ‘Umami’ coming out!
Finally we got away from the ‘kids’ with the 20 year old! This is recommended as a digestif and has a caramelised flavour – but still the ‘sherry’ Unami note. The flavour was markedly different to the other sakes in the range, not sweet and with strong alcohol flavour (I’m not sure if it’s actually stronger in alcohol though!)
All in all a fantastic range and well worth trying out.
So what’s to do in Hoxton after tasting Sake? Well we went and checked out Red Market, which is in the previously derelict space by Red Gallery.
This is similar in style to Street Feast – in that they have a couple of bars and 5/6 different food stalls to try out. It all feels very pop up, but apparently is more substantially built than previously. Whilst the fried chicken and tikka roti rolls both took my fancy the volume of the sound system negated having a conversation so we headed back to Hoxton Square and ended up eating BBQ in Red Dog (keeping with the red theme you see!).
We tried the St Louis Ribs, with mac n cheese & BBQ beans and the ‘sandwich’ with brisket & pulled pork. I say ‘sandwich’ as the bun was just a delivery option for the tonne of meat and coleslaw, pickles and some kinda spicey sauce – yum! This was way better than the BBQ I had at Porky’s in Camden a few weeks ago, it was also the most amount of meat I’ve eaten in a long while (flash backs to the whole pig at Easter) 🙂
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