SIPPED + BITTEN + SLURPED
Standing in line for the delicious Kambi House Ramen, which was by far the most popular food item of the evening, I overheard a very ecstatic woman say to her just as elated male companion, "This is THE most unique birthday gift anyone has ever given me." Hearing her happiness offset the boredom of waiting in line for 15 minutes to taste Kambi's ramen. Shigeto Kamada who was manning the station took his time to do it properly and paid little attention to the horde lined up in front of his table. He wanted to make sure what he offered was up to his high standard. I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait and I was persuaded as I'm sure many of my cohorts were to put Kambi on my must-visit list.
Kambi was one of several restaurants and over 30 premium sake, shochu and craft beer brewers who were pouring on October 7th at SIP + BITE + SLURP. About four hundred sake enthusiasts, and a few dabblers, joined LUCKYRICE and the Japanese Culinary Center at the Metropolitan Pavilion to taste some of the best sake available in the U.S. While most Americans are used to drinking cheap sake that is served warm in most run-of-the-mill Japanese restaurants, our guests had a chance to learn about and try junmaishu ("pure rice sake") that is made from just four ingredients, water, rice, koji and yeast. The inexpensive sake you find in most restaurants is what's called futsushu or "regular" sake which usually means that the rice used to make it is not milled and in order to increase the production yield, manufacturers add distilled alcohol and extra water. Warming it masks the poor flavor.
At SIP + BITE + SLURP, we tippled sake from a number of premium artisanal producers from the rural areas of Japan. Many of them have been owned and operated by multi-generations of the same family. When you taste how good sake can be, it's difficult to go back to drinking the warm, mass-produced futsushu that most of us are used to drinking. We followed the experts who picked Dassai and Tatenokawa as their favorites in a blind taste test and we're happy to say we agreed with them wholeheartedly. The excellent Tatenokawa 18 Junmai Daiginjo was something new and delicious. Unfortunately, they make so little of it that they're only able to bring about 300 bottles of it into the U.S.