A great seafood meal should taste like the ocean – fresh, briny, and sweet, never yeasty, bitter or fishy. To bring out the best flavours of the sea, make sake your preferred pour. The fermented sake has distinct advantages over the classic white, making it a superior pairing with seafood. “It increases the umami of food, and also covers the unpleasant odour of fish, since it contains little iron as compared to white wine,” says Hiroki Oizumi, Director-General of JFOODO, a trade organisation in charge of the branding and promotion of Japanese food products, globally.
The claim of sake as the better drink companion for seafood is not a biased opinion, but one backed by science. In short, sake and seafood have better chemistry.
Sake is less acidic than wine yet rich in glutamic acid. This amino acid is what brings out the fifth taste — umami, or the savoury deliciousness, in foods. When glutamic acid reacts with the high inosinic acids found in seafood, it’s a taste bomb of bolder and more defined flavours.
- No fishy smell
White wine has some iron content, but sake hardly contains any — significant because ferrous iron reacts with and ups the unpleasant odour of seafood or “fishiness”. The absence means no metallic aftertaste and minimises any pungent smells. Sake brings out the briny sweetness of seafood — akin to the taste of a smooth and creamy oyster, versus one that is metallic, bitter and fishy.
Another advantage that sake has over white wine: It can be served at room temperature, warm or chilled. That flexibility means you can mask or enhance the drink’s sweetness, to complement or contrast the sturdy or delicate flavours of a dish.
Spoilt for choice
Variety is the spice of life, and there is a wide berth of sakes to stimulate the palate. A sake’s flavour profile tends to reflect the Japanese prefecture it is from. Some are more robust and more rice-laden (typical of those from the mountainous regions), while others are light, refreshing and more aromatic. Some are dry, others sweeter; and in recent years, sparkling sakes have been trending.
“Seafood Loves Sake” Restaurant Campaign
Also cottoning on globally: Sake and food pairings. Singapore will host the “Seafood Loves Sake” Restaurant Campaign, a two-month long epicurean showcase that runs from 1 October to 30 November. Working with sake sommeliers, renowned fine dining establishments like béni, Burnt Ends, CURATE, FOC Restaurant, Iggy’s, Morsels, Nouri, Preludio, Punjab Grill, Whitegrass and Zén will pair their unique dishes with premium sakes flown in from various Japanese prefectures. Many of these sakes are from acclaimed breweries that have clinched awards at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Sake Competition.
The participating restaurants are:
The restaurant is known for its Japanese take on French cuisine. For the showcase, Head Chef Kenji Yamanaka picked Mutsu Hassen Hanaomoi 40, a dry fruity sake with hints of pear and apples to pair with a ravioli stuffed with Hokkaido sea urchin. The dish is served with fennel cream and topped with Polish caviar.
He also pairs a scallop dish with ZAKU Kanade No Tomo, a complex and smooth Junmai ginjo with refreshing aroma of pineapples and melon.
#02-37 Mandarin Gallery. Tel: 9159-3177
At this modern Australian barbeque restaurant with its open-concept kitchen and wood and coal-fired ovens, Chef David Pynt plays a fine game of balance — he uses the high acidity of ZAKU Gen No Tomo, to cut through the rich fattiness in his Kingfish miso and lemongrass creation.
20 Teck Lim Road.
Known for its inventive modern European creations, there are two sake and food pairings at the restaurant. The mellow fruity notes of the award-winning John Sparkling IWC Trophy 2016 bring out the delicious flavours of a malt-glazed, grilled Hokkaido scallop that is topped with pork terrine. Or order the pan-seared Pike Perch with lentils. It is teamed with Tatenokawa Seiryu, which is light and fruity with a hint of acidity.
The Forum, Level 1, Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa Island. Tel: 6577-7288/6577-6688
Bringing the best of Barcelonan cuisine to our sunny shores, you get six different pairings here, crafted by FOC Group Ambassador & Culinary Director, Jordi Noguera. These include the Prawn, Scallop and Sweet Potato Ravioli that pairs with Sanzen Junmai Daiginjo; and the Squid Ink Paella with Seafood, that is married with the lightness of Shimazaki Junmai Yamahai Uroko.
40 Hongkong Street. Tel: 6100-4040
The restaurant which has been at the forefront of Singapore’s fine dining gastronomic culture since its inception, is also serving two pairings, crafted by Culinary Director & Sommelier, Ignatius Chan. To enhance the sweetness of his scallop tartare and uni starter, he taps on the super dry and earthy flavours of Kinryo Junmai Yamahai. Hideyoshi Junmai Daiginjo, a rich, medium and sweet sake with citrus aromatics and tropical fruits, complements a smoky amadai in a rich seaweed-butter sauce.
581 Orchard Rd, Level 3. Tel: 8188-3200
Known for her highly experimental fusion cuisine, Chef-Owner, Petrina Loh, again delivers with four sake and food pairings. It includes the pairing of wild Sri Lankan Prawns, Pistachio Yogurt and Scamorza Sweet Potato with Keigetsu Cel24 Junmai Daiginjo 50. The light and elegant sake with distinct mineralogy and fruit aromas, goes particularly well with seafood, and is also a beautiful complement with the smokiness in the sweet potato.
25 Dempsey Road, #01-04. Tel: 6266-3822
At Nouri, food does not exist in isolation. Chef/Owner Ivan Brehm, believes that meals need to strike a chord of familiarity with flavours that resonate with every diner, irrespective of their backgrounds. He has created three pairings, one of which is a Parsley, Kulim and Hazelnut Fish, with Kamoizumi Aged Junmai Gingo Sachi 1997. The nutty profile of the sake, maximised by barrel-ageing, picks up on the hazelnut and kulim (an indigenous fruit which has a flavour implosion of garlic and mushrooms) flavours of the dish.
72 Amoy Street. Tel: 6221-4148
The contemporary dining concept by Executive Chef Fernando Arévalo will serve up three pairings. One of the highlights sees the union of poached Nantucket Scallop, Black Garlic and Salted Corn with a drink of ZAKU Kanade No Tomo. The clean flavours of the sake with subtle hints of yogurt, matches the creamier elements of the dish.
182 Cecil Street, Frasers Tower #03-01/02. Tel: 6904-5686
Proof that sake can indeed bring out the flavours of any cuisine — Corporate Chef Javed Ahamad has two creations for his modern Indian epicurean showcase. A Barramundi Fish Tikka which is light and aromatic, teams perfectly with the Uzume Tokubetsu Junmai; while a spicy prawn curry finds a heat balance with Kinryo Junmai Yamahai.
B1-01A, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, South Podium, 2 Bayfront Avenue. Tel: 6688-7395
Under the helm of Head Chef Takuya Yamashita, Whitegrass showcases classical French fare with a contemporary Japanese twist. He does two pairings here. First, he matches ALPHA Kaze no Mori TYPE 3, a light sake with sweetness from fresh herbs, to enhance the taste of pickled mackerel and fennel. He also picks Hanahato Kijoshu aged eight years, to complement a Hokkaido Crab and Sherry Vinegar Somen, his twist on Shanghai stewed crab noodles.
30 Victoria Street, #01-26, Chjimes. Tel: 6837-0402
The sister restaurant to 3-Michelin star Frantzén in Stockholm, the cuisine is one part Nordic, one part Japanese, and all parts delicious. Executive Chef Tristin Farmer has crafted two pairings. It includes the Chawanmushi and Pork Belly Dashi, and topped with caviar that strikes a harmonious chord with Tamagawa Spontaneous Fermentation Junmaishu (Yamahai) “Vintage”. The intensely heady umami notes of the sake sits deliciously well with the pork dashi. Ditto the subtle roasted nutty flavours that magnify the natural flavours of the house caviar.
41 Bukit Pasoh Rd. Tel: 6534-8880