Thursday, September 14, 2006
A huge thanks to Tim at urbansake.com for his recommendation of the extraordinary Sakagura! I had one night in New York last week and I wanted to make the most of it. Sakagura delivered more than I expected. The saké menu is so large, it is truly overwhelming. I decided right away to put myself in our server's hands and I wasn't disappointed. This man was very knowledgeable and willing to spend time helping me find just the thing that I would love (unfortunately, I didn't get his name). When I let him know that I was open to his suggestions, he recommended that I start with a Junmai Daiginjo and I agreed. He asked me if I liked dry or sweet saké and I asked for something slightly dry. He brought 2 bottles to the table for me to taste, Daiten Shiragiku and Nanbu Bijin. I might have liked the Nanbu Bijin better, but I was intrigued by the extreme strawberry aroma of the Daiten Shiragiku ($15/glass). It was served in a stemless glass that was the same shape as my Reidel sake glasses, only a bit smaller. The taste was sweet and smooth with a bit of fruit.
Next, we decided that I should move on to a Junmai Ginjo. The server again brought two bottles to the table and I choose Urakasumi Zen [SMV +1; Polishing rate 50%; alcohol 15-15.9%; acidity 1.3; amino acids 1.3; rice Toyonishiki]. ($17/glass). This was delicious, but it was served just as the Tori Karaage (deep fried chicken chunks marinated in saké and ginger infused soy sauce) arrived at the table. I think the saké was a little too subtle to stand up the chicken. Rob asked the server if there was significance to the use of different glasses the saké was served in. Yes! said the server. The daiginjo would have a somewhat more subtle fragrance and the glass was designed to concentrate the fragrance.
The server asked if I wanted to try a third saké - why, yes! Usually I'm not a heavy drinker, but I had decided that I was going to try as many sakés as I reasonably could. Server said maybe I should consider something a bit more unique. He suggested a yamahi (see John Gauntner's site for a good explanation of the process for making yamahai saké). I choose Kikuhime [SMV +1, acidity 1.8] ($9/glass). This had the bold, savory, ricey aroma which I love. A rich, yummy saké.
I decided that I was going to finish the meal with an aged saké. The aged sakés were offered by the bottle, carafe, glass and tasting. We ordered a tasting of the Daruma Masamune (a blend of 1972, '82, '84, and '89 pure rice sakés at $17/tasting) and a glass of Hanahato (aged 8 years for $8/glass). Both sakés were a striking amber color. The Daruma Masamune was described on the menu as "dramatic" and Rob called it "challenging." I agreed with him, which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it. It was full-bodied and a bit sweet. The Hanahato (SMV-44, polishing rate 65%, acidity 3.5) was strong and complex with a slightly sweeter aroma and taste than the Daruma Masamune. The aged sakés were a great way to end a fabulous meal.
On top of the mind-blowing saké menu, Sakagura offers some very tasty food options. The menu featured mostly Izakaya-style snacks or small plates. Besides the tori karaage, we had gindara yuan yak (grilled cod), toro sashimi (the most delicious thing we ate), agedashi tofu, goma ae (extraordinary spinach salad in sesame dressing), yuba shumai, maguro tartare with caviar, and the dessert for 2 which comprised of pineapple sorbet, a chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream (served on a plate with 2 other treats which I can't remember), chocolate chip cookies and Sakagura's signature green tea truffles (yum!). It sounds like a decadent meal, and it was in a way, but one of the things that I love about Japanese food is that I never seem to feel overfull afterwards. I bought two boxes of black sesame shochu truffles to go, one for Mayu, who was watching our house, and one for me. Wow! They were so strong - I ate two of them in the car while I was driving and I was worried that I might be pulled over for DUI. Delicious!
This was one of the most fun evenings that I've had dining out, certainly the most fun since I discovered saké. Sakagura is saké heaven. I can't wait to go back - our next business trip to NYC isn't till next April - maybe I will have to take a couple vacation days!