Friday, 19 September 2014

1200th Post - Sake Tasting in Daimon

I am not a big drinker, and before I came to Japan I had only had sake (pronounced sar-kay) hot. Over here there are Tabehoudai restaurants where you pay to go for, say, 90 minutes and during that time you can eat as many things on skewers as you want and also drink beer or sake to a reasonable extent along with it. Not drinking beer, the first time I went I opted for sake and it was served ice cold. Suddenly, I was liking sake a whole lot more. This discovery ultimately led to yesterday's outing to Nihon-shu, a sake tasting venue near Daimon station.
Sake Tasting in Daimon
This is the kind of place we don't have in the uk. It was halfway between a bar and an off license, without being remotely like either. We went in and the staff were very nice with enough english to work it all out. You basically choose three bottles from the 100+ in there. Each one has a label in both japanese and english giving the price per glass and per bottle, the acidity, the sake meter reading (basically how sweet or dry it is) the type of sake, the prefecture it was made in and the percentage of polished rice used. You take the bottles back to your spot and the staff pour you a shot glass full of each one (full to the brim, not like an english measure) and you pay before getting down to the tasting.
Sake Tasting in Daimon
There is absolutely no sales pitch - the staff just pour and go - which was rather nice as it leaves you to chat to whoever you're with. The others there were mostly salary men (office workers) in ones and twos. Most were men but there were a few women.
Sake Tasting in Daimon
I generally drink the house sake (which there usually is on a restaurant menu along with the house red or white) and had no idea what the different numbers would translate into. So with a fairly random approach we chose three.
Sake Tasting in Daimon
Going from right to left, the Cowboy one was actually divine and we ended up bringing a bottle back with us. The middle one was a lot sweeter which I imagined I would prefer (you know me and sweets) but actually I didn't at all. The final one I found quite bland. Now at this point your intrepid heroine was feeling a little bit light headed. Three glasses of 14-18% sake is as much as I would usually have in an evening and this had taken about quarter of an hour. I was longing for some french bread, or even a slice of mother's pride, but all we could find were rice crackers and some admittedly lovely smoked mackerel, but neither of these are that well known for their absorbant or stomach lining properties. I took a tight hold of myself, and the table, and got ready for round two.
Sake Tasting in Daimon
Pooch picked the two blue ones while, after having a good look, I decided to stick with the Cowboy since I really did like it that much. As you can see from the glasses the pale blue one was unfiltered meaning it still had some of the rice's natural starch in it and some bits of rice husk, leaving it looking like watery yoghurt - not exactly attractive and the kind of thing where I needed to be already three sheets to the wind before I tried it. Fortunately I was, so I got stuck in. The consistency was a bit like a watered down fruit smoothie and the taste was actually very mellow, although not something I particularly loved. The middle one was a lot yellower in appearance than those of the first round but still the Cowboy stayed as my favourite.

At this point I was firmly clutching the table with one hand and trying not to drop my rice crackers as six glasses of sake is really not my average night. I was all too aware that I might not be looking as sensible as I had been when I set out.
Me in a Red Dress
Pooch, however, is Mancunian and made of sterner stuff. Plus he was wearing trousers so no one would see his pants if he fell over. He went in for round three, No photos exist of this third round, of which I have only vague memories, but we still came away with just the Cowboy bottle so I guess none of them grabbed him.

I thought this was a perfect place for an after work drink but not somewhere to plan to spend more than half an hour or so. If you were visiting japan it would be a great way to try some unusual sakes (most were 200-300 per glass so less than £2 but some were more than twice that) and find something you really like. It's a shame that the uk's drinking culture prohibits this kind of place from working there but here it works really well.

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