Toshi Maeda with Guests
I’m minutes away from Ocean Room on my way to their Sake Masterclass when my friend calls. Upon telling her what I’m up to she laughs and says with complete confidence that my throat is going to “burrrn.”A message soon follows “Oh…and your stomach.” Undeterred into the restaurant I go. Even if I don’t love the sake at least I’ll know for myself right?
Returning for the second time, after a successful first round last year, Ocean Room’s Sake Masterclass pairs sakes selected by sake master Toshi Maeda with a six course degustation menu designed for the event by chef Raita Noda.
Entertaining and informative, Maeda provides running commentary on each sake as we drink it. I am relieved that the first sake we try, Seikyo Maboroshi Daiginjo Shirobako, isn’t at all the eye-watering, throat burning drink I had imagined but is smooth on the pallete, fruity on the nose and far easier to drink than it is to pronounce!
Throughout the evening we try three hot and three cold sakes. My preference is the third sake, Shinkame Hikomago Junmai. Its three year aging period makes for an unusually mellow sake, perfect for easing novices such as myself into sake appreciation.
Prior to meeting Toshi at the first sake masterclass last year Raita Noda had, like me, never shown a keen interest in sake. Since then however his appreciation and understanding for the drink has greatly increased and each course in the masterclass incorporates the flavours he has discovered best complement the individual sakes.
The two dishes that stood out for me were the Spring Sashimi Selection – simple with nothing unnecessary distracting from the beautiful fresh fish, and the Sake & Cheese dessert, a golden scented panna cotta with soy-caramel sauce, oven baked lady finger banana, ginjo jelly and mixed berries. By the time it arrives I’m incredibly full but can’t help devouring this dessert, anything involving gorgonzola has my vote, and this dish which, from a distance looks like your average panna cotta with caramel sauce is surprising, but an altogether pleasant surprise.
I learned a great deal not only about the sake making process but also how to best enjoy it. Now that I am better informed about the beverage I will definitely not shy away from it when going out for Japanese and, after first surprising friends by not ordering a bottle of red for once, I can then stun them with my knowledge about how sake is made. It’s all about the rice polishing, the koji making and the yeast…but you’ll have go to the next masterclass to find out.
Ocean Room is located on the Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, 02 9252 9585