The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 31 of 115

32  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2015 TASTES OF ASIA S ushi, wagyu beef and saké are staples in California restaurants beyond neighborhood sushi bars, thanks to the sophisticated palates of both restaurateurs and their clientele. However, Los Angeles–based Toshio Ueno, Executive Instructor at the Saké School of America and Manager of Business Development at Mutual Trading Company, is dedicated to enlightening beverage buyers and sommeliers about the untapped potential of saké as well as shochu. "Wines have a longer history of being marketed in the States, and because of this, consumers are more familiar with wine terminology, pairing rules and so on," Ueno explains. "Saké and shochu, on the other hand, are still relatively new to many Americans. My job is to shift the perception that they are the same, and show buyers and decision makers there are differentiations in styles, grades [of quality] and other factors that will impact how they stock, serve and pair them." On March 6, 2015 at Shiki Beverly Hills, Ueno teamed up with the Japanese government's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to introduce food and beverage trendsetters to a full spectrum of Japanese libations in concert with washoku (Japanese cuisine) dishes. Though sushi was offered, there were several different cooked wagyu items and other dishes with cooked vegetables and seafood. The bar offered Shirakabegura MIO Sparkling Saké, premium sakés Nanbubijin Daiginjo, Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo, Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai and Cowboy Yamahai, and premium shochus Ikkomon and Kinjo Shiro. In a private room upstairs, Ueno conducted two tasting classes that described the history and manufacturing of the featured Japanese alcoholic beverages, as well as reveal their specific personalities. "I want to encourage buyers and sommeliers to bring these products into their beverage program, even if they're not a Japanese restaurant," Ueno said as he was setting up for his first session. "One interesting thing of note is that saké contains an amino acid which allows it to pair with different shellfish and (scaled) fish. However, some sakés have versatility beyond seafood. Cowboy Yamahai, for example, is great for pairing with beef because of its complexity and finish. Other sakés, which have the sweetness and viscosity of Sauternes, are nice with hard cheeses and foie gras." Attendees seemed genuinely surprised that although saké has been around for 2,000 years, the premium products the West is familiar with only date back 50 years. Ueno's mentioning that the U.S. is one of the top saké export markets was also an attention grabber, as was the fact that there are definitive differences between Korean soju and Japanese shochu. "Shochu is distilled only one time, while whiskey and other spirits are distilled multiple times to get the bad elements out," Ueno continues. "Because shochu is distilled only once, making premium shochu is a very precise process. I encourage people to discover how complex good shochus are, that they are more floral and fruity than customers will expect." For more information on the Saké School of America, visit www.saké For more information on Mutual Trading Company, visit CERTIFIED SAKÉ EDUCATOR TOSHIO UENO EXPLORES THE EVOLVING SCOPE OF JAPANESE ALCOHOL DURING A PAIRING DINNER AT SHIKI BEVERLY HILLS by Elyse Glickman / photos by Cal Bingham Now and Zen Left to right: Mr. Jiro Seto, President, Zen-Noh Unico America Corp.; Toshio Ueno, Vice President, Sake School of America; and Mr. Kazuhiro Shimane, Deputy Director, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. "Because shochu is distilled only once, making premium shochu [like the pictured Kinjo Shiro and Ikkomon (left)] is a very precise process," explains Toshio Ueno. A chef from Shiki Beverly Hills prepares one of the many non-sushi dishes of the evening.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - May 2015