What I learned about pairing sake with food

A well-conducted pairing dinner includes delicious flavors, sumptuous ingredients, a delicate collaboration from a skilled chef and professional sake sommelier, and on June 30, Chef Norimasa Kousaka and Raymond Joseph gave us just that.

Through a five-course dinner called Sake Fusions, they offer an opportunity for Yakumi customers at Solaire Resorts to learn more about distilling sake and how to pair dishes with this fermented rice spirit.

Sake Fusions is part of an educational chain offered at all Solaire’s fine dining restaurants. Titled Nothing Ordinary, this series of events takes an educational approach to combining food, wine and spirits. The engaging experience allows the participant to embark on a tasting journey through the eyes of the respected chefs at Solaire Resorts.


In the all-sold-out dining room, with foodies ready to watch the pairing of meals from an alternate angle, Daniel Place highlights Chef John and Raymond’s collaboration on the love of this Japanese spirit, which has been around for nearly 400 years. Raymond is the number one authority in the country for this, and he shared his passion and understanding of the beauty and complexity of this wine.

rice. Raymond Joseph of the Philippines Wayne Merchants Company shares taste notes and processes in distillation. Photo by Michel Aventagado

Brewing wine is very similar to brewing beer. Since rice and water are the main ingredients of this distilled spirit, the quality of each of these ingredients is very important. Distillation includes grinding rice. The different grades the rice is milled to remove the fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The white core that is kept is often referred to as the “white core”. This thick white core goes through a series of steps that include washing, soaking, and steaming. After this delicate process is completed, the rice is processed with koji, a delicate yeast. Once you add the koji, it becomes the main puree. This mash is then fermented, pressed, and filtered. After filtering, the sake is sterilized and packaged, sometimes aging before it reaches the shelves and refrigerated sections of stores.

rice polishing

In essence, the more polished a grain of rice, the more fruity the fruit. These light, fruity drinks are best paired with lighter, clean dishes, such as sashimi. If the grain of rice is not as polished, it will result in heavier, rich umami, which is best paired with more umami and meat dishes. Added steps to create different tasting aromas can include aging ice or fermenting it with strawberry blossoms.

Education and experience

A duo dinner at Solaire is more than just a meal. It is an experience. Food lovers who want to take their knowledge even further can educate themselves about the flavors and taste profiles, and the opportunity to learn from experts provides a rich understanding of the origins of their favorite wines and spirits.

Yakumi guests were greeted with a Kizakura Junmai Sparkling Piano, which was light and fruity. Served with mozzarella tempura and sautéed tofu skin with pork char siu, this champagne contains only 4% alcohol and was a great way to start Sake Fusions with fun company.

Kizakura. According to Ralph’s Wines and Spirits, this sake is made in the traditional fermentation style, using Japanese rice and koji rice for fermentation, fresh water, and good carbonation. It has a unique sweet aroma and a refreshing fruity flavour. Photo by Michel Aventagado

Once seated, toro tartare and steamed sea urchin were served in crunchy flakes to complement the sparkling champagne.

Weaver. Crunchy chips, fatty tuna, and sea urchin all combine for a fun appetizer. Photo by Michel Aventagado

The second dish was a mixture of perfectly fresh sashimi. Sweet and creamy Hokkaido scallops, versus fast rock lobster and gillardo oysters, form a strong trio full of texture and flavor. Paired with Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo from Yamaguchi Prefecture, the course ends in style.

Fresh. Japanese scallops and French oysters set the tone. Photo by Michel Aventagado
hamachi tataki

The following course has been paired with Amabuki Junmai Strawberry Yeast Saga Prefecture. It included soy-marinated hamachi with yuzu miso jelly, toasted pine nuts, and mixed greens. Buttered hamachi is the perfect complement to this light and fruity drink fermented with strawberry blossoms. Saga Prefecture may be well known for its wagyu, but it’s also known for being one of the only places in Japan that brews sake with the delicate blossoms of the strawberry plant.

collector. Flavors that balance and complement each other go beyond the dish. Strawberry sake tones are fresh and inviting. Photo by Michel Aventagado
tempura kayage

Fourth on the menu were umami, tiger shrimp, unagi, and kayage tempura flavors served with traditional curry salt, lemon, and tempura sauce. Rich in flavor and weight, this dish has been named after Hakkaisan Prefecture Tokubetsu Junmai Niigata. Raymond shared that each pairing was carefully collaborated by him with Chef John. Ironically, tasting the deeper flavors of deep fried tempura didn’t feel heavy or overly filling.

Tempura. According to Ralphs’ Wins and Spirits: Committed to an authentic tempura cycle, Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai rice is 60% refined to produce clean junmai-style sake. Its balanced and elegant flavor is well designed to match not only delicious Japanese cuisine but also a wide range of foods from other cultures. Photo by Michel Aventagado
Beef robatayaki

The main course included flame-grilled American beef tenderloin, sweet grilled onions, and vegetables, which were complemented by a mushroom and truffle sauce. Hakkaisan Snowy Junmai Daiginjo of Niigata Prefecture completed this full-flavor course. This spirit has been perennial with the elements of natural coolness inherent in the climate of Japan for three years.

the Maine plate. According to Ralph’s Wines and Spirits: Hakisan Snow-Aged Junmai with this dish is naturally preserved at 3°C ​​without the use of electricity. After three years, it becomes round and smooth. Photo by Michel Aventagado

Japanese sweets are usually complex. The sweet ends of green tea brownies, adzuki beans, and peach wine sorbets are finished off with Chuya Golden Ume Honey from Wakayama Prefecture.

candies. Glossy and airy desserts go well with Choy Golden Ume’s balanced, tart and tart fruit. Photo by Michel Aventagado

Sake tasting and carefully prepared courses offer Yakumi customers the luxury of a culinary journey to Japan. Fortunately, everyone we have indulged in is available at Ralph’s Wines and Spirits.

As Filipinos continue to venture in search of tasting and pairing experiences, Solaire Resort’s signature restaurants offer options that raise the bar for fine dining and education through “nothing ordinary.” – Rappler.com

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