*“Excellent”. At least, I hope that’s what it says.

Once again the folks at Qype held a special event for some of the London contributors. You may recall me blogging about the Moët Hennessy wine-tasting event, or the gourmet chocolate event. Last night about six of us were treated to a Japanese food and sake event. It was excellent, top to bottom.

The location and food were provided by Tsuru. It’s a relatively new Japanese restaurant nestled into a business area just behind the Tate Modern in Southwark. It’s a cozy spot, and they made some incredible food. Click that link to see my (and others’) thoughts on the food; in short, it was excellent. I’m definitely planning to go back, probably to try some katsu curry.

The drinks were provided by the lovely Wakana Omija of the Akashi Sake Brewery co., an artisanal sake and shochu producer. Although I’ve always liked sake it was the first time I’d ever been to a proper tasting. It was really fun and informative. For instance, I didn’t know that brown rice is made into white rice by polishing it (basically, scraping away the outer parts of the grain). Did you know that? Huh? Didya?

Although it got increasingly difficult to keep track of everything we tasted as the evening went on, our hosts did a good job of pairing different drinks with different foods. All of it was tasty.

  • As we nibbled on edamame we tried a couple of cocktails: a Kappa Saketini (their Tokiwa rice shochu, Honjozo sake, and cucumber) and a Tokiwa Rhubarb Fizz (Tokiwa again, rhubarb, sugar syrup, soda, and mint). The latter was dangerously tasty.
  • With our seabass carpaccio they let us try both their Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sakes.
  • We were served both warm and room-temperature Honjozo with our nasu dengaku.
  • The most interesting drink of the evening was the Genmai Yamadanishiki aged sake that accompanied the chicken yakitori. Akashi-Tai took the bold move some years ago of trying to make sake from brown, unpolished rice. It turned out to be…well, not good. But they’ve let it age a few years and it’s now starting to develop some complex flavours. It’s challenging, for sure, but when paired with food that’s got similarly strong flavours I can see a market for it.
  • For the sushi platter we got some creamy, undiluted Honjozo Genshusake.
  • I think there was another snort of Tokiwa at the end to finish us off.

All of the drinks were excellent. The Junmai Daiginjo and Honjozo Genshu would be my two favourites from the whole lot, but they all worked well with the food they were paired with.

I’d definitely recommend having lunch at Tsuru. If you’re keen to try some of Akashi-Tai’s sakes or other drinks I’m told that you can get them at London’sJapan Centre , and I can see them for sale online at TheDrinkShop.com.

Big shout to Rob and CaribQueen from Qype for putting on the event. And good to meet/see again the other Qypers!

Here are some photos.

Image from Mex Beady Eyes via Creative Commons license

Having a wine

The smart folks at Qype continue to keep us obsessive reviewers sweet. Last month it was a special chocolate-tasting event; last night it was a wine-tasting event.

LVMH (the group that contains luxury brands like Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton) held a showcase of some of their New World wine producers in the swanky 19th-century event venue Il Bottaccio in Belgravia. It’s a really nice old building, well-suited for an event associated with luxury.

The six wine producers set up booths and we walked around and tried each. A representative from each winemaker was on hand to talk about their wines, locations, and production methods. Some had a bit of fun with their displays. Many had bits of food that were meant to accompany the wine-tasting.

I tend to prefer Old World wines so last night was a good event for me. Naturally there were some things I liked and some things I didn’t.

My non-professional thoughts on the wines being showcased:

  • Terrazas de los Andes – An Argentinian producer that focuses on growing particular grapes at particular altitudes (thus Terrazas, or “terraces”). Their reserve Malbec was quite good, and was in fact the favourite red of much of our group. They had little snacks to go with each wine – a tiny spoon of crème brûlée for their Chardonnay, a speck of duck for the Malbec, and a bit of beef for their Cab Sav – that came in a little clear plastic chest of drawers.
  • Green Point – From the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia. Their station was simply a long bar with stools, but it was very popular with the crowd. When we finally wedged in we found that they were making a big fuss about their carefully-paired tasters to accompany the wine. We all liked their non-vintage rosé, which came with some fruit jelly and foam in a shotglass. I really liked their reserve Shiraz (which came with – get this – a spoon of goat cheese foam with honey and cracked black pepper); it was probably my favourite wine of the evening.
  • Cape Mentelle – From Margaret River in Western Australia. I didn’t care for their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007, but I did find their 2006 a bit more complex and enjoyable (although they don’t export it, I’m told). Their Cab Sav was okay. Their display was made to look like a beach, with wooden tables on a pile of sand, gauzy curtains surrounding, and with ocean sounds piped in.
  • Cloudy Bay – From Marlborough, New Zealand. Plenty of whites, the only one of which I liked was their Te Koko.
  • Newton – A Napa Valley, California, producer. Their set-up was behind a short hedge maze. Once through there was a mini-oasis: a large table, some benches, and a Chinese gate (a replica of a larger one at the vineyard back in the US; one of the founders is Chinese). They made a big deal of their “unfiltered” process. Maybe they should start filtering, because I didn’t care for any of their wines. They did have the best snacks, though, with fresh strawberries, currants, cashews, and delicious honey-roasted walnuts.
  • Cheval des Andes – The last one we tried. They were the only producer set up on their own, in the library downstairs, giving them the air, at least, of exclusivity. This was an Argentinian wine, although produced in some sort of cultural joint venture with French producers Cheval Blanc. Their 2004 Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend was very tasty.

It was definitely a fun experience. After a glass or two, you don’t mind being a group of six regular folks shuffling between the upper-crust types who actually paid £60 to hum and haw about how much pomegrante they can detect in the 2006. I certainly appreciate Qype getting us in. In addition to being a fun event, it was fun to hang with Rob and Andrew from Qype, and with my fellow free-event recipients (most of whom I’ve met at blogger meetups) Shiny Gemma, Annie Mole, Guernican, and TikiChris.

EDIT: here it is written up on the Qype blog, with a few pics of me looking weird.

Qype Hype

I’m really starting to get into Qype.

I’ve mentioned them before: they sponsored one of the earlier London Blogger Meetups. They also gave a case of wine to whomever wrote the most entertaining review of the pub that meetup was held at; whomever turned out to be me (the case arrived today! woohoo!).

Since I joined Qype to write that first review, I’ve found it to be a fun little reviewing community. I’ve written 26 of my own – most of them places I’ve reviewed or mentioned here at The Plummet Onions in the past anyway. And I’ve just spotted that my review of Camden club Koko has been tagged as their London review of the day.

EDIT: and, just now, I’ve gotten enough review points that I’ve made “Qype Insider”. Which means I get a T-shirt and some stickers, I think. Hey, works for me.