Initiation to Sake at Sake no Hana in Mayfair
Last night saw the launch of popular Japanese eatery Sake no Hana’s new Initiation to Sake course that is being introduced this July, giving attendees the opportunity not only to taste sake, but also to experience it.
Intrigued, we made our way to Sake no Hana, housed in the Economist building in St. James’ in Mayfair. The evening was co-hosted by two sake connoisseurs: Christine Parkinson and Anthony Rose. Our two guides took us on a palatal journey through the art of sake making. What stood out most was their love for the spirit and their desire to share their appreciation and knowledge with others. Indeed, over the course of the evening, they frequently emphasised how some conceptions, such as “Sake must always be enjoyed chilled,” are false and purely a question of taste and region in Japan.
The tasting had three parts. First, we were presented with welcome drinks, outstanding of which was the delicious Velvet Haiku cocktail, made with Akashi-Tai sake, velvet falernum, (a spiced syrup flavoured with almond, ginger and lime) green tea, cucumber and prosecco. Refreshing, simple, the drink is aptly named, its five parts reflecting the rhythm and elegance of a haiku.
Once everyone had settled, we had a tasting in the bar of three different types of sake that were representative of different methods of production. This is where the bulk of the information was shared. There was a brief history of sake manufacture and the different steps that the rice goes through; in particular, we learnt the importance of “polishing” the rice. This is a process whereby the outer layer of the rice is removed and the more this happens, the better the resulting sake.
After this, we went on to dinner where we were really treated to sake in performance. Using two hands in a prayer-like gesture, you pour for your neighbour into little cups, and we were told to repeat this process as frequently as possible. Over dinner, we were encouraged to experiment with hot and cold sake, learning what the different temperatures emphasised in the sake and also in the food. Warm sake was preferable with tempura vegetables as it brought out the sweetness of the legumes, whereas very chilled sake was optimal with sushi.
Throughout the evening, we were struck by the tranquillity and elegance of the sake performance and the variety of flavours to be discovered in the drink. There was an almost dreamlike quality to the tasting, one flavour unfolding unto the next. The half-day event is ideal for anyone who enjoys food, experiencing new things or has an interest in Japanese culture.
Photos: Sake no Hana
To book the Initiation to Sake at Sake no Hana, 23 St James’ Street, London, SW1A 1HA, call 02079258988 or visit here.