Pairing Saké and Food
We once thought that we knew everything about pairing food and saké and then suddenly we didn't. Our general rule with Nigori styles was that they do very well with classic Curry, Thai cuisine and chocolate. Then a chef was allowed to define the pairings for a dinner we hosted and suddenly we were faced with curried beef cheeks (more beef than Curry) and Nigori. Then a few months later another chef, who was given creative freedom, paired Nigori with beef and Mexican mole sauce. Both pairings were amazing and forever shifted our perspective on saké and food.
The notion that every meal must have the perfect beverage simply hinders the fun of food and drink. So, think about some simple ideas when deciding what saké you will enjoy with a meal. It should either contrast with the food in a positive way, come together with the food in an easy manner, or merge with the food flavors to create something entirely new and dynamic. Bottom line, it should get you a little excited to have the next bite and sip.
Try these suggestions (many from restaurants that changed our perspectives) as a guideline for flavor components but explore on your own. Let us know if you find a pairing that simply blows your mind.
Dry & Crisp Junmai Ginjo
Crab with celery, nasturtium, pomegranate (Graham Elliot, Chicago). Dungeness Crab and thick rice noodle soup with snap peas, roman beans and Thai basil (Wildwood, Portland, OR). Woodland mushrooms Escabeche roasted poblano, caramelized onion, sherry vinegar (Red O, Los Angeles).
Medium Dry Junmai Ginjo
Chilled Kimchi and soba noodle salad with hard cooked egg, toasted sesame seeds and nori sea salt (Wild Wood, Portland, OR). Gooey chocolate-coconut tart with mango salsa, toasted meringue, and shredded coconut (Red O, Los Angeles). Mochi, fig, honeycomb, chestnut and balsamic (Graham Elliot, Chicago).
Lightly Fruity Junmai Ginjo
Scallop with a popover, clam, parsley and salsify (Graham Elliot, Chicago). Smoked chicken taquitos with avocado-tomatillo salsa, watercress (Red O, Los Angeles).
Charcoaled All-Natural Certified Angus Skirt Steak Tostaditas, red guajillo chile salsa, crispy onions, corn tostada (Red O, Los Angeles). Pork with plantain, coffee, cashew and cilantro (Graham Elliot, Chicago). Honey and basil ice cream with cocoa nib tuile, spearmint and candied ginger (Wild Wood, Portland, OR).
Creamy Nigori Genshu
Pollo en Mole Poblano - grilled young chicken, homemade mole poblano, black beans, watercress salad (Red O, Los Angeles). Rhum with currant, pecan, butter and caramel (Graham Elliot, Chicago).
Junmai Ginjo Genshu
Pork belly and sweet egg (Miho Izakaya, Portland, OR) Tri-tip brushed with smokey spiced barbecue sauce. Woodland mushrooms and capicola pizza with egg.
Fruit Forward Medium Rich Junmai Ginjo
Crab and Shrimp Enchiladas Sueza with creamy tomatillo sauce (Red O, Los Angeles). Cavatelli pasta with gulf shrimp and chantrelles (Spoon Bar, Healdsberg, CA). Double Double Animal Style with fries (In-N-Out Burger, Los Angeles).