This is still a work in progress as I upload tasting notes and wine labels from as far as 1999... Check back once in a while to get the updates.

August 20, 2010

Best izakaya in Tokyo

Dinner at Sake Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや) in Tokyo.

I wanted to start off easy so I ordered something simple to start - on the dry side. The Takijiman Show Special (滝自慢 鑑評会出品酒) was definitely on the dry side, with the sharp alcohol showing a little. The nose was classic tropical fruit, with banana and pear. Finish was on the long side. A daiginjo (大吟醸) with seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%. 21BY.

Kissho Show Special (喜正 鑑評会出品酒) - supposedly dry but actually sweeter and softer than the Takijiman, and rounder, more fragrant with fruit on the nose. Then you'd do a double-take as you find it actually sharp and a little hot as it trickles down the back of your throat... Daiginjo with seimaibuai of 35%. 21BY.

To cleanse my palate, Master poured me a glass of water. Not just any water, but 仕込水 from the Yoronotaki (養老の滝) waterfall in Gifu Prefecture, and bottled under the well-known sake brand of Reisen (醴泉). This is the same water used to make all the Reisen sake, and it tasted so clear and refreshing... what a treat!

I move on and order Eau du Désir (別誂) from Kamoshibito Kubeiji (醸人 九平次), bottled in 2009. This was fairly rich on the palate, initially sweet but became drier mid-palate and on the finish. It was even a little bitter on the tip of the tongue... Junmai daiginjo (純米大吟醸) with semaibuai of 35%.

I sidetrack to something really interesting... The Bijofu Yuzu Liqueur (美丈夫ゆずリキュール) is a favorite here. Everyone seems to order it. It's poured into a larger wine glass over crushed ice. One only has to be close to the glass to enjoy the full perfume of this wonderful citrus fruit. It's a sake-based liqueur with low alcohol content and on the sweet side, which is why it's served with ice. The perfume was amazing, and I kept wanting to have the citrus explosion in my mouth... Master was kind enough to tell me where to go get some. Let me see how much of it I can get my hands on...

The next one was also a little different - this bottle came with a custom label, showing Master at work. This was the Bijofu Mai Yamada Nishiki Usunigori (美丈夫 舞 山田錦 うすにごり), a junmai ginjo namasake (生酒) that's unfiltered and with a little fizzy carbonation. Nose was totally bananas and fermented rice. Seimaibuai of 50%.

Next was a trio of top-of-the-line sakes, basically the rarest and most expensive on the menu. Drinking them side-by-side was definitely a treat.

Hatsukame Show Special (初亀 鑑評会出品酒) - powerful nose of banana, fragrant, almost like Chinese white wine (白酒) made from grains... some pear also in the nose. Very smooth in the mouth, slightly dry mid-palate but kinda sweet at the same time. Very long finish, and really rich in terms of palate and nose. This is a daiginjo namasake (大吟醸 生酒) with the total production of 33 bottles, all of which were acquired by Master. The previous vintage had a production of 34 bottles, and was also entirely taken up by Master. 21BY. From a fresh bottle.

Isojiman Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35 (磯自慢 中取り 純米大吟醸 35) - very smooth but suddenly became slightly dry in mid-palate, turning smooth again on the finish. Very light and fragrant - an easy wine to drink any time. Bottled in 2009, with seimaibuai of 35%. From a fresh bottle.

Gikyo Tae (義侠 妙) - smooth on the palate but a bit alcoholic. Definitely the most powerful of the trio, and certainly needed to be tasted last. This was another rarity, being a blend of several vintages of koshu (古酒) and limited to a production of 300 bottles per year. Master has been buying them since the wine began to be produced and has a complete vertical. I believe this one was bottled last year, and Master seems to have forgotten the exact vintages in the blend. A junmai daiginjo with seimaibuai of 30%.

I was already really happy to have had all these rare sakes, but I know Master has a ton of old stock I ask for one last glass of koshu, something that's around 20 years or so. My very first experience with koshu - at Akaoni (赤鬼) 3 years ago - blew my mind. The liquid in that bottle wasn't clear but came out a dark burgundy, and smelled like Shaoxing (紹興酒).

Master was kind enough to treat me (he laughed as he said "サービス") to a glass of Johji (醸児). This wine was made in 1978 and released as a daikoshu (大古酒) after 12 years. Master acquired it 20 years ago upon release. This was his last remaining bottle, and what was poured into my glass (and the glass of my neighbor, clearly a regular customer) pretty much emptied out the bottle.

This nectar was amazing... you could see the viscosity as Master poured it into my glass. And the nose... it was pure Huadiao (花雕) wine, with that telltale salty plum (話梅) nose, and it was even salty on the palate and definitely salty on the finish. Thanks to the 30% alcohol level, the finish was also alcoholic, spicy and hot. Amazingly, the color was still very light after more than 30 years, unlike the koshu I had 3 years ago. What a treat!

Full post on the evening is here.

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