Narisawa and SAKE HUNDRED: A Pairing Rooted in Natural Harmony

On December 12, 2020, lauded Tokyo eatery Narisawa hosted a SAKE HUNDRED pairing lunch. The event marked a momentous occasion for the up-and-coming luxury sake brand, as Narisawa boasts two Michelin stars and has graced the pages of the competitive World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for a stunning 11 years running.

A Meeting of Philosophies

Narisawa operates under its self-proclaimed “Innovative Satoyama Cuisine” theme, emphasizing a return to humankind’s responsible and mutually beneficial coexistence with nature. This philosophy, complementary to their own, inspired SAKE HUNDRED to seek out a partnership with Narisawa.

The matchup resulted in the exciting December pairing event, which leaned into this theme of embracing and returning to nature.

Charcoal-grilled Hyogo Kobe beef

Explaining the concept behind the pairing lunch, Narisawa Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa describes humankind’s forgotten relationship with the forests and mountains of Japan: “[In the modern day] gas power and electricity have penetrated deep into natural areas. People lost the need to use firewood and charcoal,” Narisawa says. “The deepest reaches of the mountains and forests are therefore untouched [by modern man]; they’re overgrown and choked of life. In the past, human activity helped maintain and rejuvenate these places.”

“I wanted to return us to the days of peaceful coexistence with nature; of using wood and charcoal to cook and keep warm,” He concludes.

In this collaboration, SAKE HUNDRED sought Chef Narisawa’s unique wisdom in designing pairings representing what he calls “beneficial and sustainable gastronomy.”

At the Event

The coronavirus pandemic complicated the occasion, but Narisawa and SAKE HUNDRED took great care to enable social distancing and provide a safe environment for the event.

In testament to Chef Narisawa’s ingenious menu design, guests, who may have begun the event with trepidation in light of the pandemic, quickly relaxed, the organizers recall.

The organizers additionally express confidence that the sustainable philosophies of Narisawa and SAKE HUNDRED were well-represented in the expertly-crafted pairings.

The Hosts Speak Up

Kicking off the pairing event, SAKE HUNDRED brand owner Ryuji Ikoma took the stage for a brief statement.

“You are about to experience masterful dishes that are difficult to describe,” he started. “For my part, I thought carefully about the dishes to match each with its most suitable SAKE HUNDRED counterpart. Great consideration was given to serving vessels and even serving temperature to best complement Chef Narisawa’s creations. We at SAKE HUNDRED are confident these pairings truly bring the best out of our lineup.”

Following, Chef Narisawa addressed the crowd, thanking the lucky patrons attending the event for coming, despite the circumstances.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to bring the best sake together with dishes of my creation,” the chef continued. “We have akaza prawns delivered live and fresh today, and blue crabs, also delivered live this very day, which will be boiled just prior to serving. Ocean temperatures are cooling this time of year and the seafood is very much in season. I will do all I can to do justice to the great sake on offer today.”

The Pairings

Shirin 5°c with Saga yam and Fukuoka karasumi roe
Organic, pesticide-free yam is bound with karasumi roe, salt-soaked and then treated in a bath of sake and kombu. The Saga-origin yam perfectly complements Shirin's oak-barrel aroma and creamy mouthfeel, elevating the natural umami of both drink and dish.

Amairo 15°c with aori-ika squid and Miyazaki caviar
The sweet flesh of the aori-ika squid complements Amairo's rich, honeyed profile. Caviar, briny and bursting with umami, is juxtaposed with a squirt of tart sudachi Japanese lime, the elements of the pairing combining for a multilayered explosion of flavors.

Byakko/Byakko Bespoke 10°c with Aichi blue crab, Hokkaido roe and Yamaguchi Amadai
Fresh blue crab, roe and amadai tilefish are wrapped in aged kombu for a creamy sweetness and transparent umami profile that plays delightfully against Byakko's elegant flavors. Byakko Bespoke's more youthful profile enhances the rich umami of the amadai in particular.

Shirin 5°c with grains and Yamaguchi mackerel
Five Japanese grains, traditionally eaten to celebrate a good harvest, are here blended into a sauce and additionally scattered on the plate for a pleasantly textural experience. Yamaguchi mackerel is cold smoked, then grilled over charcoal, and straw brings harmony to Shirin's oak-barrel aroma and flavors.

Byakko 40°c with ”luxury essence” stock and Shizuoka akaza prawn
”Luxury essence” stock is achieved by steaming whole chicken, pork shank and prosciutto to release their rich, umami-packed juices. Akaza prawn is added to the resulting broth for a soul-satisfying soup that is elevated by a warmer Byakko's elegant flavors and boosted umami background.

Amairo 15°c with Yamaguchi grouper
This pairing is best experienced when this rich aged grouper and Amairo are combined simultaneously on the palate. Amairo's decadent honey flavors enhance the sweetness of the grouper, while Amairo's long tail and the exuberant spicy kick of Japanese peppers create an intriguing finish.

Gengai 15°c with Kobe beef
Slow-roasted Kobe beef is smothered with charred Shimonita green onion. The rare-cooked beef, bursting with succulent juices, is complemented with the smokey unctuousness of charred vegetables, harmoniously blending with the complexity of Gengai's aged aromas and flavors for a deep and dimensional pairing.

More Events to Come

A great food pairing is the best way to bring out the full potential of sake. While sake enthusiasts are encouraged to experiment with their own pairings at home, nothing beats a complementary dish designed by the deft hands of a world-renowned chef.

It’s with this in mind that SAKE HUNDRED has pledged more pairing events to come in the wake of the Narisawa collaboration. Where the brand goes next is yet to be seen, but it’s sure to be just as thrilling.