EveLovelle was invited to dine as guest at Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar
Andre Bishop has been educating fellow Australians about Japanese sake for almost 15 years, and was titled a Sake Samurai by the Japanese Sake & Shochu Association in 2013. Andre welcomes us to sample Japan’s most prestigious sake, Dassai, and pairing these different sake with different types of food in his own Japanese Restaurant, Kumo Izakaya. Aside being a Sake fanatic, his restaurant was also awarded the Savour Australia Hostplus Awards for excellence in 2014.
Sake has been a Japanese traditional staple since centuries ago. Unlike wine which uses grapes for its primary fermentation, Sake uses a rice milling process. Typically, brown rice would be used for milling. Milling polishes the circumference of the rice making the rice smaller in volume. The more you polish, the higher quality the taste. The polishing technique removes the outer layers of vitamins, proteins and fats surrounding the starchy inner core of the rice grain. Discarding the extraneous layers makes the rice more delicate and fragrantful. As a rule of thumb, if you are looking for a premium sake, look for the term called ‘Ginjo’. Ginjo is not a brand name, but a grade, or a category class, and its what creates distinctions between premium and non premium sake. Less than 10% of all sake in the world are premium grade, hence if you purchase one with the word Ginjo, you can be assured that you are drinking better than 90% of what the world offers. Linking it back to the milling process, to be considered as premium sake, at least 40% to 50% of the rice has to be milled.
Tonight’s most premium sake that we got to taste was the Dassai 23, which was also a favourite of the night. This means that 77% of the rice that was used during fermentation has been milled away. 23% is also the highest milling that has ever been done on all of the commercial sakes in the world. It has flavours of melons and peaches, and aromatics that resembles flowers and candies. Often we expect sake bitter, but I guess that’s just non premium sake we ordered. The Dassai 23 is spectacular, also high priced at about 200AUD. The drink itself was smooth and very refined. The Dassai 23 goes along well with the next few dishes (below), of fresh sushis and sashimis. Sake Samurai, Andre, also mentioned a fun fact, of Japanese prime minister Abe, who presented Obama with a bottle of Dassai 23 when they met not too long ago.
Premium sake is not easy to make, as it uses high cutting edge technology that is very costly. Not every company can afford such machineries, and many of them source out production from other bigger brands.
Edamame With Murray River Pink Salt, 4.80AUD + Vegetable Chips With Aonori Salt, 5.80AUD
It seemed like everyone could not stop munching on the starters that were presented to us. The pink salt drizzled on the Edamame was simply addictive. We all could clearly differentiate normal and sea salts, so imagine the distinction. The Vegetable Chips were equally delicious and you all know the trick, munching something crunchy is always addiction.
Assorted Sashimi Platter
Sharing is caring and our table of 10 shared two plates of one of Australia’s freshest Sashimi Platters I have ever tried. The platter consists of oysters, kingfish, smoked and fresh salmon, scallops and tuna sashimis.
Sher Wagyu Beef Tataki With Ponzu, 17.80AUD
The Beef Tataki was seared to perfection and it has a hint of citrus coming from the ponzu. The spread of wagyu was cut evenly and every piece was decadent and moreish.
Soft Shell Crab Roll With Masago & White Aujiso Dressing, 13.80AUD
We adored the soft shell crab roll and concluded that it was the best fried soft shell crab I ever had in Melbourne. Thinking that the soft shell crab was coated in some kind of sensational secret batter was my initial thought. The pairing of the soft shell crab with rice on White Aujiso Dressing was absolutely smashing.
We moved on to open the second bottle that was introduced to us. The Dassai 39 was also still refined and elegant as the Dassai 23, but it had a little more bite and acidity. Dassai 39 also means that the rice used to make this wine was milled to only 39%. Overall, the 39 has a stronger finish than the 23 and it goes really well with meaty food.
Chicken Thigh Yakitori Skewers (8.80AUD For 2 Skewers)
These Yakitori Skewers were absolutely spot on, and everyone loved having it with the Dassai 39.
Daikon Salad With Fried Yuba & Onion Pepper Dressing, 9.80AUD
But to break the savoury meaty goodness, we needed some salad to refresh our palates. We loved the combination of all this and that incorporated into the dish as stated on the dish title. What made this salad great was the piquant flavouring of the Onion Pepper Dressing that upscaled a regular salad.
Crushed Prawn Katsu With Creamy Spicy Mayonnaise, 12.80AUD
The Crushed Prawn Katsu was cut in pieces and and fried individually. The final result was a sweet chili flavoured Chinese Cruller type of texture. It was one of our favourite dishes of the night and I was pretty sure I ate a whole plate by myself.
The Dassai 50 is still considered as a premium sake. We were all excited to first hear about sparkling sakes, how exclusive are we to be able to try that?! Dassai 50 is dry almost like a champagne but it is still able to retain its natural fruity and sweet taste which calls for a unique combination. The Dassai 50 was paired with the next two dishes and everyone loved the pairing of sparkling sakes with meaty poultries and subtle shellfishes.
Seared Scallops With Butter & Soy Topped With Bonito Flakes, 12.80AUD
The scallops had a thick buttered flavour and they were all cooked beautifully because they were easy to bite and not at all rubbery.
Grilled Yuzu Marinated Quail With Wombok Leaf Roll, 19.80AUD
Its definitely easy to overcook lean meats such as quail. It was slightly overdone on the breast, but it was still moist and tender on the thighs. I wasn’t a big fan of yuzu because I can’t take foods that are too sour, and this to me felt like it had a pack of punchy sourish flavour. Jan on the other hand liked it and thought the yuzu flavour was acceptable.
The decor of the place was fantastic with lower and upper floors to suit your preference. We on the other hand, sat on a private booth the Japanese style. We took off our shoes and sat on wooden floors with carpeted areas sunken beneath our dining tables. It was extremely comfortable and snuggish.
Proud teacher, Mr Andre Bishop after teaching us a whole lot about Sake. Thank you so much for accommodating us and our knowledge about sake definitely improved by a sky mile.
We perhaps have had 7 or 8 bottles opened that night. This was all of us trying to make serious face (but I obviously did not).
Kumo Izakaya was definitely one of the better Japanese restaurants I ever visited in Melbourne. Of course, it does not only offer Dassai but also a whole lot more options for your liking. Last but not least, I hope you learn a little about sake through this post. If there is one thing to take away from this read, its ‘Ginjo’.
Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar
152 Lygon Street, Brunswick
Melbourne, Victoria 3057
Tel: +(61) 03 9388 1505
Mon to Thu: 6pm-11pm
Fri to Sat: 5pm-11.30pm