gracecheung604 | write on time: Sake Tasting at Hapa Umi

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sake Tasting at Hapa Umi

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Two weeks ago, I was invited to the inaugural Sake Sessions tasting event at Hapa Umi, hosted by their sake expert, Miki Ellis. Miki is the youngest person to complete the Advanced Sake course. She picks the Ginjo-Style sakes and tasting plates are created by Chef Tomoki Yamasaki to complement the sakes. These tastings are held on Wednesdays in their private dining room and are intimate with a maximum of 12-15 guests. This ensures that your questions are answered and gives you a great chance to meet and chat with other sake enthusiasts.
Upon arrival, we are given a menu card to follow along and to pass along to other friends who might be interested. As each sake type is featured for six weeks at a time, you can go back after a few weeks and try a totally different type of sake. 
The table was beautifully set, and I took advantage to use my iPad again and test out my Instagram skills. The four glasses were all laid out (empty for now but ready to be filled) and we were given a map that clearly showed us what we were having.
Here's the non-doctored photo...seems to lack a bit of "oomph" right? So onto the first tasting, the Mizu Basho Ginjo. I'm not an expert on sakes by any means but Miki does a great job of telling you where this was made, who, how and anything else you want to know. She's a great presenter and handles questions with ease. 
Kombu cured sea-bream sashimi was served with the first sake. Mild in flavour and light in texture, it was a great way to start the meal. This picture is not representative of the actual portion size...I inhaled mine and forgot to take a photo. They were nice enough to mock something up for me so you could see how delicate this appetizer was. 
The second sake was called Jun is differs from the first in that it is only 45% versus the Mizu Basho's 50%. This refers to how much milling, or polishing of the outer coating was done to the rice used in the sake production. To accompany this dish, we were served a Steelhead Trout confit with crispy lotus root chips and a yuzu-miso sauce. This dish was heartier than the appetizer by far, and I felt that the Jun sake stood up nicely against it.
Our third sake was the Goku Jo, first of the ginjo (versus the junmai ginjo were were drinking earlier). From what I remember, a ginjo has distilled alcohol added to it, where as the junmai ginjo do not. *Miki: correct me if I'm wrong!* But the Qualicum Bay scallop that came with this course was just spectacular. I'm not normally a scallop fan (usually only in a spicy scallop roll) but wow, this one was amazing. Perfect seared with a nice crust, but super moist and tender on the inside...and uh, it was kind of huge! There was a blend of greens underneath and a light touch of umeshiso dressing. So good, one of the best scallop dish I've had in years. 
For the final Ginkessho, we were served a Sake marinated bavette steak and a fun crispy potato salad. The meal so far had been quite seafood focused, and I thought maybe that's what sake is best paired with, so I was delighted to see that it can indeed be paired with a red meat dish as well. The steak was done just right, tender and juicy throughout, and the potatoes were tiny bites of crunchy starchiness. Delicious! 
As with all good things, the evening had to end and we were served a final shaved plum wine ice with some mint on top. Delicate and refreshing, a great way to end the tasting. 
From left to right, these are all the sakes we tasted that night. All are recommended to be served chilled. To learn more about these tastings and to register, check out http://hapaumisakesessions.eventbrite.com/. Or give them a call at: 604.420.4272 to get all the details. All in all, this was a great way to spend a Wednesday night, meeting new friends and learning a bit more about the sakes that we drink and the process behind making them.

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