Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Sake Pairing Dinner

Seats for dinner at Godenya, a restaurant hidden inside an alley near Kau U Fong in Central, is probably one of the most sought-after in town right now, with people trying to book months in advance for one of the 8 seats available every evening. And I am glad my friend made the booking for the group well ahead of time so all we needed to do is to tag along.

With the unsigned entrance at a back alley God knows what this place was before Godenya but somehow they tastefully turned the venue into a perfect example of zen-style shabby chic with exposed concrete wall and unfinished ceiling matching with the refined wooden and metallic furniture, completed with a long counter made of cypress wood. You can't get any classier with such minimalist design. Despite the small capacity with only 6 seats at the counter and 2 at a small table on the side, the dining area was spacious and comfortable, with Mr Goshima Shinya, the shop owner/sake-master working behind the counter focusing on the sake serving.

Only one omakase menu was served and changes regularly, with 8 dishes matched with 8 different sakes. All the pairings were interesting in their own right, with some of the hard-to-find bottles in various brewing style, the cooking was simple but with creative combination of ingredients, flavors and textures while staying true to the tradition of Japanese kappou ryori.

We began with a summer appetizer paired with a summer sake. The yuba panna cotta was served cold, and on top was raw shiro-ebi and chunks of peach which was super sweet to contrast the savory flavors. It's paired with Hanatomoe Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo, bottled unpasteurized and unfiltered, leaving the active lees to develop the mild bubbly characters in the bottle. I felt even the serving utensils were carefully matched too, with the food served in a simple short glass, and the drink in a handmade, white ceramics vessel.

I had a similar pairing of raw oyster and dry sake just the night before so I knew how well they worked with each other, but this time, I felt the Iwagaki (Japanese rock oyster) was much mellow and creamier than the one I had before, making the combination even better with rounded taste in a super-dry sake made in Shimane Prefecture with the locally-grown Yamadanishiki rice.

The short-grain rice cooked risotto style with cheese, slices abalones and its liver sauce was my favorite dish of the evening: rich, creamy and comforting with an interesting bite from the bouncy abalone and the crunchy cucumber bits mixed with the rice. The wine paired was a Junmai Namegenshu served warm (nurukan, or close to body temperature at around 43C) with a deep after-taste. The katsuo (skipjack tuna) dish, which arrived next, has an intense smoky flavor and a slightly sweet sauce with smoked ikura (salmon roes) and lightly grilled katsuo slices mixed with beetroot sauce, black olive puree and julienned raw ham, this time paired with a chilled junmai with a low polishing ratio, giving it a sharp acidity to go with the tartness of the beetroot.

Another warm sake was served next, this time a well-aged bottle (7-year-old) prepared at an even higher temperature (at 48C), to go with our "soup course", the lobster bisque with kamonasu (round eggplant) and morel mushrooms in a ceramics cup. The sake was much richer with a slightly bitter aftertaste and elaborate umami flavor, working well with the intense bisque soup.

Two more courses were served – first the lamb with manganji pepper and blue cheese sauce, then a grilled horse mackerel fillet with warm cucumber and skin of kaffir lime soup (that tasted like a non-spicy tom yum goong). Both were paired with two sakes with entirely different characters - I especially liked the warm yamahai junmai served with the fish, mildly floral, strong alcoholic taste with hints of tropical fruit.

The last savory course of wheat udon with mussels soup was my second favorite – a comforting ending with the soup loaded with umami flavor. To wrap the meal up, a small bowl of dessert was served, which was the vanilla-sake sorbet and black cherry, served with the same sake (a nigori junmai) used to make the sorbet. It's viscous and tasted almost like a banana smoothie.

Overall I enjoyed the sake pairing very much and felt it was quite an eye-opener. While we always go after the more delicate junmai ginjo or junmai daiginjo bottles when it came for good sake, this evening we were served with something more rustic and unconventional, but they worked very well with the dishes. It’s always good to try something different and I appreciate this unique experience at this one-of-a-kind restaurant in town.

More photos on my Flickr album:

When? June 23 2016
Where? Godenya, Ground Floor Back Side, 182 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Rice with Abalone and Liver Sauce
Hanatomoe Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo Supurasshu 27BY, Miyoshino Jozo, Nara Prefecture
Cho-ouroku Nakatori Namazake 26BY, The Ouroku Shuzo, Shimane Prefecture
Sougen Junmai Muroka Namagenshu 26BY, Sougen Shuzo, Ishikawa Prefecture
Kazanomori Yamadanishiki Junmai Shiborihana 27BY, Yucho Shuzo, Nara Prefecture
Suwaizumi Awayamadanishiki Junmai 20BY, Suwaizumi Shuzo, Tottori Prefecture
Taenohana Challenge 90 27BY Kimoto Junmai Namagenshu
Shinkame Yamahai Funakuchi Junmai 27BY, Shinkame Shuzo, Saitama Prefecture
Kinpou Shizenshu Nigori Kimoto Junmai, Niidahonke, Fukushima Prefecture

花巴 山廃純米大吟醸 -奈良県 美吉野醸造
超王祿中取り純米 -島根県王祿酒造
宗玄 純米生原酒 -石川県 宗玄酒造
風の森 純米しぼり華 -奈良県 油長酒造
諏訪泉 阿波山田錦 純米酒 -鳥取県 諏訪酒造
妙の華Challenge 90-三重県 森喜酒造
金寳自然酒 にごり酒生酛純米-福島県仁井田本家


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