Sumosan Twiga is a glamorous restaurant, bar and nightclub on Sloane Street, serving an unusual blend of classic Italian and contemporary Japanese cuisine. They gave us a fabulous range of delicious food pairing options for the sake masterclass - chef's sashimi & sushi, fried gnocchi, wasabi prawns and Kobe beef sliders - plus a rather swish bar in which to try them.
Our tutor was Marie Cheong-Thong, a writer, wine and sake judge and WSET educator, whose passion for her subject shines through and makes her classes fascinating and engaging. So let me share a couple of quick-fire key facts on sake - then check out Marie's Instagram @thelarderat36 and contact her if you fancy learning more!
Sake isn't a beer (although it is brewed), it isn't a wine (although it is fermented) and it isn't a spirit (as it isn't distilled). It's a sake - an alcoholic beverage in a group of its own, with an ABV of 15-17%, somewhere between wine and spirits.
Basically sake is made from four ingredients: milled and steamed rice, water, koji and yeast. Categories of sake depend on the percentage of rice grain left after it has been polished to remove the outer layers (70% or less would be a premium sake) and whether any alcohol has been added before pressing.
Traditional measures are multiples of an 18ml glass; so a small tokkuri would be 180ml and four of these would make a 720ml modern bottle – slightly smaller than a classic 750ml wine bottle. The flavour profiles of sake are, as you would expect, very different from those of wine and include notes of vinegar, Japanese pickles, soy sauce and rice as well as the more familiar floral, grass, spice and fruit aromas.
Sake scores high in the sustainability stakes. Japan has a no-waste culture and everything from the process is utilised: ferment bran and lees are used to make pickles and the milled rice flour from the polishing for rice crackers and general cooking. Sake is great for food pairing as it doesn’t fight with food and is incredibly versatile - read my Chatting Food review of Ichiba’s sake & oyster bar for more details!
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Amanda David is a freelance writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events and is a regular contributor to London Cheapo and Palate magazine.
She has also just launched a website, A Cook's Bookshelf, reviewing cookbooks old and new, with side-by-side photographs of recipe illustrations next to her home-cooked version.
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