London’s Japanese giant SUSHISAMBA has one of the largest sake selections in the city, and it’s looked after by a man who knows everything there is to know about the fermented rice beverage. Ahead of World Sake Day on October 1st, we caught up with dedicated sake connoisseur, Maurizio Palomba, to find out what the restaurant will be doing to celebrate, what’s the perfect temperature to quaff your sake at, and just who exactly should be pouring first at the table.
Hi Maurizio! How did you become an expert on sake?
I opened the first Japanese fusion restaurant in Dubai called ”Junsui” in the Burj Al Arab in 2007 and introduced the first Sake selection to the Middle East market. From that moment on I was hooked and wanted to know more so I went on sake education trips to Japan, looking for new products.
I have the WSET Level 3 Advance Certificate in Sake and passed my Advance Sake Professional course with the Sake Educational Council this year.
And what do you love about the drink?
Japanese sake or Nihonshu, often incorrectly referred to as ”sake rice”, is an amazing beverage which has so much to offer in terms of quality, diversity and value for money. It works extremely well with a great variety of food.
What’s going on at SUSHISAMBA for World Sake Day?
This will be the second year that we are celebrating the “Nihonshu no Hi,” or Sake Day. SUSHISAMBA will be offering guests a range of sake experiences, from a curated sake flight and sake infused cocktail to sake inspired dishes crafted by our chefs.
We will have two Japanese sake experts dressed in traditional Kimono going around the tables during the evening and offering samples of Dewazakura Oka Ginjo Cherry Bouquet sake. The curated sake flight will feature three premium sakes from different breweries and styles to educate our guests on the different types of sake and how it works with food.
Sake is known for its drinking etiquette. What are the most important rules to remember?
It is always good manners to pour and serve your guests or friends first. The youngest person should always pour for their elders first. You should hold your sake cup with one hand and to put the other hand under the cup to support it. Always use two hands to hold the carafe or bottles while you are pouring the sake.
In terms of service, temperature is a key component in the sake service. Sake will change accordingly and it is the job of the sake expert to suggest the ideal temperature to guests. The Sake sets used also change the perception of the product and the value.
So is there a time to drink hot sake and a time to drink cold sake, or is it just a personal choice?
It all depends on what style of sake you are drinking and what food are you pairing it with. The sake can taste completely different. We normally suggest drinking sake at three different temperatures: between 5 and 10 degrees for aromatic sake like ginjo or daiginjo, room temperature for rich sake like junmai or honjozo, or between 45 and 55 degrees for hot sake.
Can sake be used for cooking purposes as well?
Of course, cooking sake will add lots of amino acids giving a strong umami flavor as well as loads of health benefits such as antioxidants. Our Executive Chef, Claudio Cardoso, has created three special sake inspired dishes for World Sake Day:
- KOBE TAMALES kobe, corn, aji amarillo, smoke, sake
- GINDARA TOBAN YAKI black cod, scallops, clams, yuzu, sake
- PEACH SAKE SORBET rice, shiso
What are a few of your favourite sakes and why?
Daishichi is one of my favourite breweries established in 1752, in Tohoku, northeast Japan. It is very famous for using an orthodox brewing method called Kimoto, which dates back 400 years. At the moment I’m really enjoying the sakes from Koshi no Kanbai in Niigata the Daiginjo Chotokusen, made from 100% Yamadanishiki rice it is just delicious!
Sushisamba, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY