Friday, 10 April 2009

Sake Tasting at Tsuru Sushi

I'm a big fan of Japanese cuisine. For my last birthday I asked if I could go for a slap-up Japanese meal, and more often than not I get cravings for sushi and sashimi. I also rely on miso soup to comfort me when I'm feeling unwell and I'm pretty sure they cure hangovers. Unfortunately, I don't know a lot about sake. I know it's made with rice, and sometimes it's served warm, sometimes cold but I don't know about the whys or hows. So when I saw this sake tasting advertised on Tsuru's website, I gathered some friends and off we went.

Tsuru is located behind the Tate Modern. Inside, it was dark and slick. We were seated at a huge table and given edamame and Asahi beer to warm us up with. Ngaire Takako introduced herself; a warm and affable lady who clearly knew her stuff. We started with a Daiginjo-Shu sake, made in Fukuoka in Japan. This was light and crisp with a slight hint of peach. I was taken aback by this, as most sakes I've had had a slight burn to it, but this was a clean finish. To accompany (but not as a food to drink matching) we had some excellently sticky chicken teriyaki skewers. We were also given some freshly fried gyozas which had a wonderfully light and thin skin and a well-seasoned filling. There's nothing worse than stodgy gyoza, after all.

Next up, we had another Daijingo-Shu, this time made using Namada Nishiki rice. It is said to be the finest of sakes, and the Toji (head brewer) watches the mixture for 72 hours straight, to ensure nothing goes wrong with it. Not something I'd like to attempt! I was also amused to hear that at a lot of breweries, women weren't allowed near them as it was thought they'd sour the sake due to our higher body temperatures.

When I told a friend I was coming along, he said "if you see any Umeshu, steal it. It's excellent". I spotted it as our next taster, and luckily I had the manners to restrain from any thievery. This is made from plums and had a rich flavour with a subtle finish. We were served sushi with this sake; very generous platters of both vegetarian (not pictured) and non-vegetarian sushi and nigiri for the 3 of us. The fish was lovely and fresh, and on the vegetarian platter the inarizushi was delicious, juicy and moreish, and happily the sushi was stuffed with pickled vegetables. Mmm pickle.

Last up, we had a Genmai Aged Sake, made from brown rice. This was my least favourite of the lot as I found it a bit too heavy on the palate. This was, surprisingly served with a chocolate brownie. It was good and squidgy, but I think I'd have prefered something lighter and more Japanese; mochi ice cream perhaps?

All in all, for £18 it was excellent value and a great night out. Emma and Ngaire are excellent hosts, being both patient with answering our (many) questions and friendly. I'd definitely recommend it if you want to find out more about this often baffling drink.


4 Canvey Street

London SE1 9AN

Tel: 0207 928 2228

Tsuru on Urbanspoon


Dan said...

Great Review Lizzie,

Sake - I've always fancied trying it, (admittedly due to hearing you get leathered silly on it). But it also fascinates me that there's this whole culture around the various types, the temperature its served at etc.

I'm going to have to visit this place, and at £18 it sounds like a total bargain.

Unknown said...

mmm wish I'd been there. I love the way that one doesn't even get drunk on sake. I drank loads the other night and felt just fine. Is it because of the lack of additives?
My posts on Tsuru (if I may be so cheeky):

A Girl Has To Eat said...

I havent heard of this place. Thanks for the info.

William Leigh said...

Did you get to drink any umeshu? Not sake, but they usually try and throw some down your neck at these things...

Hollow Legs said...

Paragraph 4, William...

Helen said...

It was a great tasting, I have definitely got the hunger to learn even more about it. I agree with MsMarm - what is it that means you don't feel drunk? Are we not drinking enough maybe?!

Super Kang said...

Love jap food and love sake too , £18 is great value, I'm going!