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Sake Tasting Menu from Akashi Sake Brewery Co. & Tsuru

I was at a wonderful event the other night, and I really want to tell you about it but before I do, I want to clarify, for any new readers, that I am not one to write about something because I’ve gotten a freebie. I take great care to ensure that everything I recommend here is of quality and value. I don’t want to waste your time or mine, nor do I want you to feel that this blog isn’t worth reading as my reviews are unreliable, or, perish the thought, that I am easily bought. This event was great, and there’s a couple of things to recommend to you as a result, added to this, it was a really nice experience and one that I would like to share.

Ok, now on with the review!

I had the pleasure of being invited to a sake tasting event at Tsuru in Southwark, London. This was presented by Wakana Omija of the Akashi Sake Brewery Co., an artisanal sake and shochu producer and Tsuru, a Japanese restaurant and bar on Canvey St, in Southwark.

I love Japanese food, some of you may have noticed that, or have read earlier posts about my trip to Japan last year, I am also very fussy about it. The quality of food in Japan, in normal every day izakaya’s is phenomenal. The food is so fresh, and so expertly prepared. Everyone takes such pride in their work, and it’s so much cheaper than eating here, I have to ask, where exactly do we go wrong so often??

So, Tsuru noticed this gap, and aimed to recreate the Japanese everyday experience by offering food “honestly prepared by our chefs using the best ethically-sourced produce”. Added to this, they were offering us a tasting menu with sake from Akashi Sake Brewery Co. matched to each course. I would get to meet other bloggers in the flesh, as opposed to on twitter, or facebook, on their blogs or on mine. It sounded like a night that I couldn’t miss.

So, off I went, running from work to get there by 7pm, only getting lost twice in the process (er, how long have I been in London, 7 years?) and arriving a couple of minutes late. I was warmly welcomed and offered a choice of sake cocktails – a kappa saketini (tokiwa & honjozu with a slice of cucumber) or tokiwa rhubarb fizz (tokiwa, rhubarb, sugar syrup, soda and mint). First, I had the kappa saketini, which was really dry and refreshing, and deceptive! Danger, danger, it was like drinking Pimm’s, although, much stronger. Then, just before dinner, I had the takiwa rhubarb fizz, which was sweeter and more to my taste, being a bit of a rhubarb obssessive. All the while, we were snacking on edamame, with some of that lovely Japanese chilli pepper that I am so fond of.

It was time to progress to our tasting menu. At this point our group was complete, consisting of Annie Mole, Tim, Dave, Lea, Chris & Hazel from Londonist and Rob & Sabrina from Qype. We started with some wonderful carpaccio of seabass matched with daijinjo, one of my favourite sakes of the night. It was very educational (sound too geeky? it was!), Wakana took great pains to explain the background of each sake to us, showing us the rice, explaining how each one is produced, then we would tuck in, exclaim, judge for ourselves, and rapturously agree that we were all big fans of this wonderful sake. Now, the sake was very strong, and this may have something to do with the rapture, but honestly, we were also enjoying it earlier in the night.

Next up was nasu dengaku, one of my favourites, aubergine with miso, paired with warm and room temperature honjozo. The nasu dengaku was wonderful, as good as I have had, and, the sake was delicious and very interesting to see the difference between the warm and the cold one. My personal preference was for the cold. Again, it was a great complement to the dish.

Where from here? Free range chicken yakitori. I was very happy to see free range on the menu, at their prices especially, let them be an example to other establishments. They were served with genmai aged sake, a richer, almost treacley sake, made from brown rice, all the others had had the husk removed to varying degrees. The interesting thing about this one was, that when they first made it, they didn’t like it atall. They left it in the barrel and rediscovered it some years later, at which point it had aged and was quite delicious. It combined very well with the yakitori, which while small, had quite a robust strong flavour, unlike the delicate fish at the start.

At this point, we were all very satisfied and chatting, and speaking for myself, I thought that was it, and was very pleasantly surprised when they produced an enormous platter of sushi. This sushi was very good and included my favourite hamachi. It was paired with honjozu genshu.

By now, the sake had taken it’s effect and I was in full chatter mode. I almost missed the brownies which would have been a crying shame! They were gorgeous, moist and rich and very very chocolatey.

Thanks to Rob and Sabrina for organising and thanks to Wakana and the lovely people at Tsuru for a lovely evening, I would heartily recommend it and will be going back for more sushi and to try their katsu curries (chicken: £4.95, crab: £6.95), which I’ve read are made with sauces that are cooked for 8 hours. I love a cook with an eye for detail and who does things properly, avoiding those shortcuts that are so easy to take. I have to wonder, how they can do it at their prices!

Sake happy bloggers

Be warned, it’s not open every night, although I don’t think that will last much longer once people get a taste for this place.

Tsuru, 4 Canvey Street, London SE1 9AN
Tel: 020 7928 2228

Opening times:
Mon-Wed 11.00am-18.00pm
Thu-Fri 11.00am-21.00pm

http://www.tsuru-sushi.co.uk/

http://www.akashi-tai.com/eng/index.html

Sake available at the Japan Centre in Picadilly, London.

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Hinamatsuri – Japanese Girl’s Day

I was in Japan last year around the time of Hinamatsuri – Japanese Girl’s Day or the Doll Festival. It was really charming. Traditionally, all houses (and hotels in my case!) have dolls on display that represent the Emperor and Empress dressed in the traditional dress of the Heian period, often other dolls too representative of other people in the court. It’s believed that these dolls can contain bad spirits and that these bad spirits are removed from the house when the dolls are floated down the river.

I’ve been eating alot of Japanese food of late, and had many trips to the Japan Centre in Picadilly. I spotted the hinamatsuri dolls on my last trip and this prompted a fit of nostalgia and a longing for a break and the thought – I wonder what kind of food is associated with hinamatsuri? I had a browse and I found the most wonderful things. Japanese food is fabulous on so many levels: fresh, bursting with flavour and the presentation is always beautiful. Here’s two items I found, although the first link is actually a link to many other blogs.

The Bento Challenge have a fantastic selection of hinamatsuri themed bento boxes, including one brilliant and very Japanese Hello Kitty one. I also quite like the one with the girl made of ham!

At Just Hungry, Maki has made gorgeous Shell-shaped sushi (Hamaguri-zushi).

As I’ve been a little crap on the food front, I’ll wheel out some of my photos from Japan last year to give you some colour. Girlie photos for a belated girl’s day. Any excuse, I know ;) Enjoy!

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