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Sake Challenge – Sake Vs. British Fare At The Cavalier

Sake Challenge March 2015b

Welcome back to another Sake Challenge, where we try to break the “sake only goes with sushi” paradigm. We use the Sake Challenge to make you great readers and everybody to think outside the box and to start pairing sakes at home or at restaurants with western cuisines. Trust me when I say sake goes with so many flavors that you would never think of trying. It’s truly eye opening.

This month I was joined by Holly Quan, a reporter and anchor for KCBS radio, and a big fan of the store and an even bigger fan of sake! Armed with two bottles of sake we ventured to a restaurant called The Cavalier, a place known to have a British slant to their kitchen.

We used my “rating system” that I invented to get people to understand that when you bring a bottle of wine or in this case sake to a restaurant you are looking for general flavors to pair well with the brew. In this context I coined the following rating system:

  • W = Works
  • WW = Works Well
  • WWC = Works World Class
  • DNW = Does Not Work

I selected two sakes not really knowing what to expect with the chow, but I had a general sense. Typically I will bring a dryer sake and a more full-bodied brew. For The Cavalier I brought:

First Course: Duck Liver Pate (with blood orange gelee, kumquat jam, and toast)

Sake Challenge March 2015c

Uh Oh! This course was massive, and the liver was really livery! As such our poor Kariho got swamped and we both gave it a DNW. Holly said the sake laid down and played dead. The Denshu did a little better because it had more body and I gave it a W. Holly said there was too much conflict! DNW. Darn!

Second Course: Lamb Scrumpets (with pickled mint and chili)

Okay this course had a better result! The Kariho worked like a champ to clean up the fatty oil of the lamb and drank a little ricier creating a nice blended flavor. I gave it a WW, and so too did Holly who said it balanced the dish. Holly then said that the Denshu was a W because it was a big flavor meeting a big flavor without conflict. I gave the Denshu a WW because it created a smoky blanket flavor that covered the entire taste without being obnoxious.

Third Course: Hen Egg Hollandaise (ham and cheese finger sandwiches)

This was a fun flavor and the sakes did well with Hollandaise – really! Holly said the Kariho was like a magic carpet ride with the dunked sandwhiches as the sake carried the flavor! She gave it a WWC! I thought the Kariho remained balanced and even but didn’t really make the flavors excel. I gave it a W. The Denshu really worked with the creamy and salty flavors of the Hollandaise and it created a new fun sweeter flavor to the sake. I gave it a WW. Holly also said it did surprisingly well and did not bulldoze the dish. She also gave it a WW.

Sake Challenge March 2015d

Fourth Course: Wild Mushroom Pie (with creamed chard, red kuri squash, French curry)

This was a very big flavored dish with a lot going on. The Kariho stood up to the richness of the dish, but it drank a little thinner without personality. Holly said the spice of the dish hurt the sake but didn’t overwhelm it. We both gave it a W. The Denshu had more body to stand up to the pie, and Holly said the big dish and the big sake did not scream at each other. She gave it a WW. I gave the Denshu a W because the richness turned into a zestiness.

In Summary:

First and foremost, we purposely selected some pretty rich and large flavored dishes, and on the whole the sakes held their own. There were some new flavors created between these two sakes, which I really liked, but I would retool my selections if I went back. The rest of the menu was very sake friendly and they would have been far easier pairings. This was perhaps one of the weaker showings for sakes in the Sake Challenge, but I feel that they did as well as wine would have given the large flavors.

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