Sake and Seafood Take Centre Stage at Senju
Seafood lovers and sake enthusiasts are in for a treat from now through March 2019 at Senju at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Ortigas as the menu pairs in-season Hokkaido scallops and oysters with some of Japan's finest sakes from the renowned brewery Dewazakura. Naoki Kamota, exports manager for the Yamagata-based sake brewer, was recently in the country to give diners an overview about the company and its award-winning products at a special dinner introducing the seasonal menu last 20 February.
"Sake was not really known outside of Japan before the 1970s," Kamota recalls; in fact, the most knowledge many people had about the beverage came from a scene in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. But over the past several decades, there has been an upsurge in interest in the traditional rice wine in both Japan and the rest of the world. Likewise, sake breweries began to present their products in pretty much the same way as fine wines, categorising them by rice variety, area of origin, and brewing style.
Dewazakura is particularly known for ginjo sake or ginjo-shu, which refers to the extent to which it was milled and the method by which it was brewed. In a properly brewed ginjo-shu, the rice has to be at least 40 per cent polished to result in a smoother, cleaner-tasting end product. For many connoisseurs, comparing ginjo-shu with other kinds of sake is akin to comparing an excellent single-malt whisky to a blended mass-market product
Several exceptional Dewazakura sakes are the perfect accompaniment to some special dishes offered at Senju until the end of March which play up the briny sweetness and velvety texture of fresh late-winter scallops and oysters from Hokkaido.
Meltingly tender Hokkaido scallops are presented at the peak of freshness and prepared raw in two ways: diced in a tartare tossed with a piquant wasabi mayonnaise, and sliced in a seaweed salad dressed with a smoky-sweet roasted sesame dressing.
While oysters are customarily eaten raw, Senju cooks these decadent molluscs to perfection. The kaki kawariage presents a pair of deep-fried oysters in a crisp coating made with crushed cereal, which one dips into a citrusy ponzu-butter sauce. Pan-seared oysters are paired with scallops, teppanyaki-style, and dressed with a miso and sesame mayonnaise that transforms them into a light yet satisfying main course.
The smooth, clean flavours of Dewazakura's premium sakes are an excellent complement to the fresh tastes and appealing textures of the seafood. In doing so, Senju captures the season in its menu: the robust flavours and substantial textures of winter transitioning to the more delicate and refined dishes of spring.