Social Encore: Sippin’ on sake
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Around this time of year in Japan, the weather starts to get warmer, the cherry blossoms start to bloom and many flock to gardens to enjoy sake. This weekend at the Hawaii Prince Hotel’s Mauna Kea Ballroom, get a taste of the best sake that Japan has to offer along with food from several of Hawaii’s most prestigious restaurants on Friday for the first Hanami Sake Festival.
Hawaii Prince director of restaurant and special events Aaron Miyakawa said he and Hakone manager Ikuko Shimizu wanted to create an event that would commemorate the wonderful Hanami season here in Hawaii, but also provide Hawaii residents with a unique experience.
Shimizu is also a certified sake sommelier.
“When I worked at the Waikiki Parc Hotel, I was the food and beverage manager there and at the time was very interested in sake,” she said.
The Tokyo-born Shimizu also mentioned that Namasake, the time when Japanese distilleries start to release the season’s first lines of sake, takes place during February and March each year. April is when Hawaii usually receives it’s first shipment of sake.
Some of the featured restaurants are Bernini, Tokuri-Tei, Urawa, Tonkasu Ginza Bairin, Hawaii Prince Hotel’s Prince Court and Hakone.
I got to taste what Hawaii Prince executive chef Kirby Wong will feature this weekend; if you pair these dishes with sake, it will provide you with a delectable surprise.
One of dishes from the Prince Court is the seafood vol-au-vent. The vol-au-vent, an airy pastry that is fillable, was made popular in France, but Wong will put a Hawaii spin on it by filling it with a cream sauce made with white wine, heavy cream and a touch of pernod (licorice flavor). The creamy sauce is then added to shrimp, scallop and the fresh catch of the day.
Another dish from the Prince Court is the Mochiko Salmon, marinated in a teriyaki sauce and then tossed in mochiko flour. It is fried and sits on an Asian slaw made of watercress carrots, won bok and then topped with sweet chili aioli, red ginger and green onion.
From Hakone, you will find a pork kakuni dish. It is braised pork that is slow cooked until tender. It has a shoyu-based sauce with a hint of sake and mirin and is served with a side of Japanese-style potato salad.
The highlight of the event is not only the food but the sake as well. On Friday you’ll find well over 90 different sakes from a handful of breweries, including Asahi, Katou Kahachiro Shuzou, Kamikokoro, Ichinokura, Okunomatsu, Nanbu Bijin and Chambers and Chambers.
For Chambers and Chambers, Mariko Yamazaki of Japan Sake International hand-selected sake for this event. If you end up liking the sakes that you have tasted at the event, some of the bottles will be up for sale.
When I asked Shimizu which type of sake is the best, she couldn’t give me an answer and said comparing sake is similar to comparing wine.
“Everyone has a different palate. … You have dry sake, sweet sake.” she said. “That is why it is great to have an event like this. We have a lot of sake and you’ll be able to taste it and you’ll probably find your favorite here.”
Friday’s event will also feature a taiko performance by Dragon Beat; tickets will be available at the door for $100. For more information, visit the Hawaii Prince Hotel’s website.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.