Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sake Experience at Nomi Tomo Sake Bar, Plaza Damansara, KL

Kanpai! 乾杯! Cheers! 

There we are at the very first International Sake Festival Malaysia 2017 organized by Nomi Tomo Sake Bar (located above Huckleberry Food & Fare at Plaza Damansara). For those who do not know about Nomi Tomo, it is truly a hidden gem for sake lovers because you will be spoilt with the wide variety of traditional Sake, modern Soju, Japanese beer and whiskey here

Nomi Tomo, the house of sake, is popular for its sake selection because it brings in loads of premium and exclusive Sake from Japan and distributes them to several restaurants in town too. As a wholesaler of Sake, Nomi Tomo always welcomes anyone who is interested to carry the sake in their own restaurant / establishment. 

Friday and Saturday night is a full house for Nomi Tomo as patrons come savour the famous Yakitori and Japanese dishes, while drinking Sake.

I am not kidding when I say Nomi Tomo has a wide variety of Sake. Taking pride as the most traditional sake bar and sake house in town, Nomi Tomo serves Sake priced from a hundred ringgit per bottle up to thousands of ringgit per bottle.

Whether you prefer something affordable or premium, choices are aplenty here. To better cater for both sake connoiseurs and casual drinkers, they have recently invited four major sake manufacturers from Japan to share their sake creation and knowledge with us.

During the sake fest, we are treated with loads of Yakitori (Japanese barbecued pork belly, chicken and beef skewers) which pairs very well with Sake as the flavour of meats cuts through the sharpness of alcohol. 

I am glad to be able to meet the four major Japanese sake manufacturers (They have a strong sake-making background of more than hundreds of years!) who come all the way from Japan and introduce their brands to us:

        ❤ Bijofu brand by Hamakawa Shoten brewery from Kochi prefecture 
        ❤ Dassai brand by Asahi Shuzo from Yamaguchi
        ❤ Gasanryu brand by Shindo Shuzoten brewery from Yamagata prefecture 
        ❤ Seikyo brand by Nakao Jozo brewery from Hiroshima

From left to right: Bijofu Sparkling Sake (13.5% alcohol);
Bijofu Yuzu sake, Bijofu Yuzu Shuwa and Bijofu Ponkan (7% alcohol)

Bijofu, meaning "Beautiful, strong and kind", brings us something light to tease the palate first, before we go for the stronger sake. We have a great time drinking the elegant Ginjo sparkling sake (which tastes like beer!), and fruity sake based liquor

I personally find that this Bijofu Ponkan is very suitable for females as the shochu base is combined with juicy Ponkan fruits and honey to exude the citrusy freshness without overwhelming the palate with alcohol taste. Delicious as a dessert drink! 

From left to right: Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo Shizukuhime (15% alcohol, 50% polishing ratio);
Bijofu Junmai Ginjo Junrei Tama (15.5% alcohol, 55% polishing ratio);
Bijofu Tokubetsu Junmai (15% alcohol, 60% polishing ratio)

Bijofu brew master in his 28 years career of making sake, emphasizes on the importance of using "mother water", one of the best super soft water in the whole Japan. Not only that, each of the Sake above has different rice polishing ratio to exude distinctive rich umami taste with an excellent balance of acidity and sweetness.

Here I learn something valuable about brewing sake. The higher is the rice milling rate (the rice is more polished off), the more rice is required to make the sake. the more expensive the sake is. 


The sake made with the more highly polished rice is certainly cleaner and more refined,
hence more expensive. In short, the lower is the rice polishing ratio of a sake, the pricier it is.  

DASSAI Junmai Daiginjo 50 (15.5% alcohol, 50% polishing ratio)

The next brewery brand we speak to is Asahi Shuzo (Website: www.asahishuzo.ne.jp), one of the few Japanese breweries that focus on making only top-grade Junmai Daiginjo sake since more than a decade ago.

Even though DASSAI 50 is the lowest grade in the DASSAI lineup, the DASSAI 50 still meets the quality standards as the premium quality Yamada Nishiki rice is milled down to 50%. The resulting taste? It exudes a very graceful, elegant aroma and tastes delicately sweet and smooth down the throat, with a clean finish. 

Moving on to the third stop, we are lucky to be able to taste Gasanryu Sake from Shindo Sake Brewery which is backed by a strong 145 years sake brewing experience. The best part is, the ninth generation president of the family business now still maintains the most traditional style of brewing in Yamagata prefecture. 

From left to right: Gasanryu Honjozo Koka (15% alcohol, 65% polishing ratio);
Gasanryu Junmai Fuka (15% alcohol, 65% polishing ratio);
Gasanryu Daiginjo Kisaragi (14.5% alcohol, 50% polishing ratio);
Gasanryu Junmai Daiginjo Fukurodori Gokuzuki (16.5% alcohol, 40% polishing ratio);

Gasanryu Sake is so fresh and clean that it not only pairs well with Japanese food but also go exceptionally well with carpaccio, cheese and other international cuisine. It is a pleasant surprise to me when the Sake exudes a well-rounded flavour with distinctive ricey taste. 

Gasanryu Honjozo Koka (15% alcohol, 65% polishing ratio)

My personal favourite from Gasanryu is the cheapest variant among all -- Gasanryu Honjozo Koka -- also the winner of the Honjozo category in the International Wine Challenge 2010

Gasanryu recommends to us this new style of Honjouzo sake served warm and best enjoyed with food. It exudes a pleasant moderate sweetness of rice with hints of lively floral, soft notes when served warm. Interestingly, it tastes more gentle and fruity when served chilled. Be it warm of cold, it complements all types of dishes very well.
  
From left to right: Seikyo Junmai Takehara (15.5% alcohol, 65% polishing ratio);
Seikyo Junmai Omachi (15.5% alcohol, 65% polishing ratio)

Nakao Sake Brewery, another longstanding brewery in Japan, is established since 1871 in Takehara, a coastal city in Hiroshima Prefecture. Now, it is a specialist in Ginjo sake brewing. The range is rather heavy for me as it tastes soft and sweet on the mouth, but is followed by dry mid-palate with the sweetness fading in the end. 
  
Seikyo Maboroshi Daiginjo (16% alcohol, 50% polishing ratio)

The second highest range which Seikyo brings to us this round is this Daiginjo which is popular among the sake connoisseurs for its full body flavour yet very easy to drink with strong aroma of apple. The taste does not linger too long on the palate, making us craving for more. 

Seikyo Maboroshi Junmai Daiginjo Black (17% alcohol, 45% polishing ratio)

We save the best for the last. The most highly-prized sake among all here is this Seikyo Maboroshi Junmai Daiginjo Black which has been brewed traditionally by hand until now, using traditional apple yeast. It is unblended, hence every sip is ultra clear, like....crystal clear water! The flavour come in when going down the throat. 

Truly a masterpiece by Nakao Sake Brewery! No doubt it has won so many awards in the past:
          ❤ First Prize at the National Competition in 1948
          ❤ Selected wine for Imperial New Year Celebration in Japan for 3 years 
          ❤ Golden award in the category of Sake of the International Wine Challenge in 2007 

Truly a must-try for first timers and sake lovers❤ 
  
Just in case you may get confused after rounds and rounds of Sake tasting, the wall of Nomi Tomo is filled with the chart of flavours and pricing for each sake. It definitely eases the process of choosing your favourite sake here! 

For a truly traditional and complete sake experience, do head to Nomi Tomo Sake Bar at Bukit Damansara. Restaurateurs and distributors are welcomed too, as you can source lots of exclusive sake here. Feel free to contact Nomi Tomo for further business enquiries. 

Nomi Tomo
Third Floor
2 &4, Jalan Medan Setia 2, 
(Above Huckleberry Food & Fare cafe)
Bukit Damansara,
50490 Kuala Lumpur.
Contact: +603-20112839
Business Hours: 6.30pm - 2.30am daily

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