Well, the sake brain-fog has finally lifted enough for me to look back over my notes from the first ever Tokyo Chowhound Dinner, and I shall now attempt to transcribe some of these scribbles into a semi-coherent post.
Here are a few indisputable facts: The dinner was held on Friday, February 1st, at a restaurant called Sasagin, in Yoyogi Uehara. We had a reservation for 6:30. There were 4 people in attendance. And, we owe a huge thank you to Rachel M. for arranging this inaugural dinner.
It should also be made clear that Sasagin is a sake pub, that also happens to serve some absolutely rockin food. And, it also be noted that Narita-san, who owns Sasagin, is a magnificent host.
As I look over my notes, I see that the pages are divided into two columns. One column would seem to be a list of the different brands of sake that we indulged in Friday night. The second column is a list of the dishes that were tried.
Note: if I happened to write the Japanese name for a dish down, Ill use it. Rachel, Robb, and Bryan can come along behind me and provide commentary, and/or clarification on the sakes and dishes..
The Food (probably in the order that it arrived at our table):
Skewered Ginko nuts: Just like it sounds. Ginko nuts that were skewered, salted, and cooked over a grill. These went along very nicely with the first sake.
Tsukune I am accustomed to tsukune being served as a small ball of minced chicken, sake, and onion, impaled on a skewer, and grilled. What arrived at our table was indeed skewered and grilled, but instead of being the size of a small meatball, each serving was the size of a small hand grenade. Very moist, and very flavorful.
Bamboo shoot sandwiches with a shrimp paste filling Thin slices of bamboo shoot, formed into a sandwich with a delicate filling of shrimp paste, and fried in a tempura batter. This combination of tastes and textures worked really nicely.
Sashimi Platter An assortment of raw sea life. We agreed that there was some squid, taigagai (sp?), something that was probably maguro, and hamachi. Overall, I thought that the quality of the fish was quite good, just not spectacular.
Kumiaga yuba to nama uni - Uni gently nestled atop a cloud of tofu. I am not a fan of uni! But, that dastardly chowhound peer pressure, (and an already liberal amount of sake) compelled me to try this dish. I am very happy that I did, because this was such an amazingly pleasant surprise, that Ill surely be trying some other uni dishes.
Tempura platter Besides the usual vegetable tempura offerings, the real star of this plate was scallops, wrapped in nori, then battered up, and fried. Sheer ecstasy!!
Shungiku & anpokaki no shiroae A cold dish of persimmons and chrysanthemum with sesame, and hot peppers. A wonderful combination of flavors! Wonderful food to go along with drinking!!
Raw oysters on the half shell Not great oysters, but good oysters.
Shrimp, cucumber, and celery, wrapped in romaine lettuce leaf, then wrapped in a spring roll wrapper, sliced up, and served with a side of blue cheese dipping sauce - I have absolutely no explanation for this dish. We all agreed, though, that the extremely overpowering blue cheese dressing was best suited for good buffalo wings. Sans dipping sauce, this spring roll was actually pretty refreshing.
Anago Tempura - This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening!! The eel was moist and firm, and the tempura technique avoided any hint of oiliness.
Cold Somen noodles The last dish of the evening, and one of the most disappointing. Noodles seemed overcooked, and the dashi dipping sauce was made with way, way too much katsuo bushi.
All throughout dinner, we were also sampling different brands of sake. Each glass of sake was served in a tasting glass, which was set in a lacquered box. The lacquered box provided a receptacle for the generous overflows that Narita-san pours. Ill admit right now that I dont know much about sake, and really hope that one of my other dining companions will come along with an addendum, describing the merits and attributes of the brands we tasted. We were each ordering our own glasses of sake, and keeping our own lists. Each of us got to taste everybodys order, via the send it around the table so everybody can have a sip method.
And, now, my sake list (By brand name, and roughly in the order in which they were served. Some listings also include the type of sake):
3. Hayaseura Yamahai Ginjo
6. Rihaku This was probably my favorite of the filtered sakes.
7. Kaminoza Ginjo
8. Kaiun Junmaiginjo
10. Tedorigawa Arabashiri
11. Shinkame Loved this one. The name means Sacred Turtle.
If I remember correctly (and at this point of that evening, it is highly doubtful), the next three were unfiltered, and unpasturized sakes. They were also, hands down, my favorites.
12. Shiraizumi junmai nigori
13. Biwa no sasanami moromishu Chunky, with rice floating in it.
14. Kurashiki no bishu junmai tsubu tsubu
15. Seigizakura Thick and chunky. Like a cold, thin, not too sweet, butt-kicking rice pudding.
After all the food and sake, a glass of draft Edel-Pils beer hit the spot, and rounded off the evening.
The total bill, per person, was about 11,000 yen. I think.