‘Saké and food never fight’ says director of Japanese promotion centre

At the launch of London’s first ever saké week last night, Hiroki Oizumi, who is director general for the JFOODO promotion centre, highlighted the food pairing versatility of this distinctive Japanese drink.

Picture credit: foodandsake.com

Speaking at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, Oizumi, who heads up The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Centre (JFOODO), said that saké had immense potential in London restaurants due to its ability to match a broad range of dishes.

“In Japan, we have a saying ‘saké and food never fight,’” he began.

Continuing, he commented, “Those who have woken up to the versatility of saké have learned that it has unique attributes that, when taken with food, amplify the flavours of both and reveal the hidden depths in the saké.”

Also speaking at the launch-event, which took place within the hotel’s Mei Ume Japanese fusion food restaurant, was Jan Konetzki, who is director of wine at the Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square.

Although a sommelier and wine expert, Konetzki said he has developed a deep respect for saké’s history and quality, while noting how perceptions of the drink have changed significantly in the UK over the past decade.

““It has been 10 years since I tasted saké for the first time and since then the perception of it has changed completely: from a drink that was typically served warm, it has developed into a well-regarded and more sophisticated beverage that can stand confidently next to the finest food produced,” he said.

“For me, saké is one of the most artisanal beverages in the world, alongside Champagne, Port and whisky,” he added.

Later in the evening, during a discussion with the drinks business, he stressed that saké could be used to complement a wide range of foods, and not just Japanese cuisine.

In particular, he mentioned it’s suitability for serving with cheese, while recording that he had enjoyed it with typically European dishes, such as spaghetti Bolognese.

London Saké Week activities will run across restaurants in the capital from Friday 22 February to Sunday 3 March.

The initiative is being led by (JFOODO), established by the government of Japan, which is working in partnership with outlets across London to give diners the chance to experience saké brands with a range of food pairings as part of London Saké Week.

Among the restaurants taking part are Coya, La Fromagerie, Roka and Nobu – click here to see the full list of participating places in the capital.

According to the Japanese organisation, more than 500 restaurants in London now offer saké on their menu, and many of these are not-Japanese.

To showcase the potential of saké with food, guests at the launch event in London last night were introduced to six specially selected sakés alongside Mei Ume signature’s dishes created by head chef Tony Truong.

Among these were Tosatsuru Azure Ginjo with yellowtail Nigir; Katsuyama ‘Lei’ Junmai Ginjo with salt and pepper squid, lemon leaves and shallots, as well as Keigetsu Aikawa Homare Tokubetsu Junmai with scallop sashimi (pictured below).

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