Man, what a week-and-a-half!!! I have so much to report on my experiences since my first post, but it is 1 AM and I have to get up in a few hours to head to Fukushima-ken to visit the storied, all kimoto-method sake maker, Daishichi. I wanted to make a brief post about the wonderful Izakaya I visited today in Niigata, one of most important sake brewing regions in Japan.
This is the Izakaya related to Asahi Shuzo, the makers of Kubota and Asahiyama sake brands. I often tell customers that my introduction to sake started with Kubota, and the fact that my father-in-law served the world famous Kubota Manjyu at our engagement party in Japan. The next day, we had Kubota Senjyu at his house for family dinner. I wondered if I had done something wrong to be served the honjozo of the kura. Instead, he informed me that on special occasions, we drink Manjyu, but on a day-to-day basis, we drink Senjyu. (Hiro-san of Ame Restaurant understood this immediately when his wife Lisa-san questioned me about the lack of Manjyu at Sozai when we opened that restaurant almost three years ago. I can still hear the echo of his laughter!) I will talk about my visit to the brewery later, but I wanted to talk about the food and my experiences with Ishitoku-san, the owner of the Izakaya.
The evening started with a crab chawan-mushi that melted in my mouth, especially when enjoyed with the futsu-shu of Asahiyama. This was followed by a pork tripe (motsu) that I have to say was one of the most righteous dishes I have ever had. I enjoyed it paired with Kubota Namagenshu, a rich sake just harvested in the last two months! To say my mind was blown would be an understatement.
Next up was an assortment of sashimi including some o-toro freshly plucked from local waters - what an unbelievable texture and mouthfeel, particularly when enjoyed with Kubota Manjyu NamaGenshu, a treat that no-one should die without experiencing once in a lifetime.
I concluded my night with an excellent fried tofu dish, followed by a pork loin salad. Along the way, i made friends with all of the staff, as well as the customers around me, experiencing the true power and art of the Izakaya.