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French-Sake Pairing Dinner

In December 2022, Story of Sake held the first French-sake pairing dinner in La Maison Shirokane Grand. We will have the second one on 7 March 2023, so please mark your calendar.


French course paired with Yamagata sake arranged by professional sommelier

Chef: Ken Umino

He is a chef who values esprit of French cuisine and aims to always entertain guests with plates that make the best use of the ingredients. He has served as a sous-chef for Brasserie Paul Bocuse and Roppongi Hills Club, and as the chief chef for other restaurants. He will provide us with a traditional yet innovative French cuisine course to be paired with Yamagata sake.

Sommelier: Takahiro Isa

Having served as a sommelier for L'OSIER at Ginza and La Coupe at Shirokane, he is obviously knowledgeable about French cuisine and wine. However, that is not where he stops. His curiosity has come to a stage where he pairs sake (not just one glass but multiple glasses of sake) with French, which not all sommeliers can do.

Owner: Nao Ohira

Former lawyer at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Nao obtained his LL.M. at New York University and MBA at INSEAD before joining his family company. His company is well known for its chocolate brand Bel Amer.

Brewery: Mitobe Sake Brewery

Established in 1898, this prestigious brewery is located in the Yamagata Prefecture, regionally famous for its sake making. Yamagata Masamune, their flagship brand, is brewed with hard water that results in a crisp and sharp finish, good to be paired with food rather than had at a bar. In 2018, a rice-growing company, “Mitobe Inazo,” was incorporated, allowing them to brew the sakes with their own rice and build a sustainable sake economy.


Charcuterie x Yamagata Masamune Usunigori (crowdy sake)

Cold meat appetizer (including house-made ham) meets crowdy sake.

The brewing season for Mitobe Sake Brewery starts in late October, and they usually make this crowdy sake in one of their first batches. The brewery master says that this crowdy sake would indicate how well they can brew sake in the year ahead.

Carpaccio x Yamagata Masamune Omachi

Carpaccio of scallop (帆立) and sea bream (真鯛) together with a sauce made of apple and ginger. The freshness of the sauce matches the fruitiness of this sake.

Omachi is the name of sake rice (like Koshihikari and Tsuyahime), grown in the Western part of Japan. The most famous region for the best Omachi is called Akaiwa, Okayama, and indeed, this sake is brewed from Akaiwa Omachi.

Tomonobu, the brewery master, is an Omachist, meaning a sake guy from loves Omachi. In that sense, this is the sake Tomonobu himself wanted to brew and taste. Indeed, this is one of the sake that represents Yamagata Masamune. In fact, Omachi fits very well with its hard water, making it fruity yet crisp.

Galantine x Inazo

Galantine of lobster and Tanba black chicken to pair with Inazo. The thickness of galantine and its sauce should match a bit of maturity of Inazo.

“Make a fabulous product from the raw material you generate, and make it enjoyable.”

Who can make the basics of manufacturing simpler than this. The brand “Inazo” started with this simple statement.

Started in 2004 and rebranded a few years ago, Inazo has been special for Tomonobu Mitobe, the CEO of Mitobe Sake Brewery. Sake is made from rice, and most breweries procure it from market. Mitobe Sake Brewery was obviously one of them. However, Tomonobu wanted to do it differently.

“We cannot control the quality of rice if we rely on the market or rice farmers, but we can if we make rice by ourselves,” said Tomonobu. “That way, we can brew better and consistent sake.”

Of course, things have continued to challenge his aspiration. It cannot be so easy to grow rice; otherwise there should not be so many abandoned rice farms throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, their first year turned out to be red ink. However, this did not let down Tomonobu and his team.

Now, Inazo is brewed only out of the Yamagata-origin sake rice – Dewa Sansan – that is grown at his farm. What is even more notable is that it is the sake brewers (kurabito) of Mitobe Sake Brewery who work to grow rice. Historically, sake breweries hire a lot of rice farmers just for winter when breweries are the busiest and rice farmers do not have much to do with their rice field covered by snow. Mitobe Sake Brewery does both sake brewing and rice farming by itself.

Inazo is a great example of the effort toward SDGs. When sake is brewed, sake lee (sake kasu) come out of it. Instead of throwing it away, Mitobe Sake Brewery sells it to a livestock farm so that it can be fed to cows. Then, they buy from the livestock farm the farmyard manure to toss to the rice farms. That way, nothing is wasted.

Tomonobu is fairly simple-minded when it comes to what sake he would like to brew. “I want everyone to enjoy my sake,” said Tomonobu. “I do not take sake as difficult. Sake can delight people all over the world.” To embody this vision, he put a short phrase on the back of the label – 「人生は、遊びだ。」, meaning “life is pleasure.” Also, rare enough for a sake bottle, there is no word on the front label but only a drawing of an elephant holding paddy (“Ina” in Inazo means paddy and “Zo” means elephant in Japanese).

Kadaif x Yamagata Masamune Kurenai

Kadaif of flounder and mussel from Mont Saint-Michel to be paired with Yamagata Masamune Kurenai (紅). Kurenai is one of the “traditional colour series” that consists of Kurenai, Ai (藍) and Kikujin (麹塵). This is the most luxurious sake in this brewery.

The difference between Kurenai, Ai and Kikujin is the rice that is used to brew sake. For Kurenai, Dewa San San from Tendo Area (where the brewery is located) is used. As compared with Omachi, sake brewed from Dewa San San tends to be dynamic yet clear. Moreover, what’s special about this Kurenai is that this has been aged for more than three years. You may feel the maturity in this sake, and this goes very well with the oily kadaif.

Roasted deer x Takahata Barrique Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

It is now a good season for deer meat, and this is to be paired with red wine. We definitely can pair sake with deer meat. However, we decided to use the Merlot Cabernet for you to enjoy the comprehensive French pairing. Yamagata has growingly been famous for wine, and Takahata (the southern part of Yamagata) is traditionally known as the wine district.

White chocolate mousse x Yamagata Masamune Umeshu

This sake brewery is not only famous for its sake but also for plum wine (umeshu). The umeshu has been selected as the top umeshu in an umeshu competition several years ago. In the beginning of summer when sake brewing season is over, the brewers themselves handle tons of plums and soak them into sake to later make umeshu. The jelly on top of the mousse is also made of the umeshu.

Gateau chocolat

What’s surprising about this gateau is that it contains Yamagata Masamune sake. Super delicious.

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