Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Japan Times Sake dinner

Although I wrote that I wasn't going to update this blog until I got my new PC, there are still things happening worth writing about. Specifically, this time, dinner. I just won't be able to include photos right now...

2 weeks ago, the Japan Times newspaper ran a small column mentioning that they were hosting a tasting of the season's new sake from Takara, Co., and that they'd accept requests from anyone interested in joining in. There were 50 open slots, and if more people submitted their names and e-mail addresses, we'd be put into a lottery. The deadline for entry was Feb. 15, and on Feb. 16 I received an e-mail saying that I made the cut, and if I wanted I could bring friends with me. There was no mention of an upper limit on who could come with, but it looked like 1 table had been set aside for 5 people. The tasting was set for Feb. 24, in Sake Bistro W, near the Roppongi district, not that far from the Tokyo Tower.

I went with a partner, and we arrived a little ahead of the 7 PM start time. We wandered around looking at the outside of the Japan Patent office a block away just because we could. A few minutes before 7, we went inside and were seated with a Canadian/Taiwanese couple that have been in Japan for 20+ years. We enjoyed talking with them, but I expect that my part of the conversation was probably not all that interesting.

Representatives of both the Japan Times and Takara gave short speeches, and then the food came out. We'd been expecting the opportunity to sample several sakes from one brewer, but it turned out that it was an "all you can drink" event for just the Shirakabegura label. Which was fine, because it's a mild, semi-sweet sake that was served slightly chilled, and complemented the meal well. The meal itself consisted of about 8 courses, with a salad, a meat dish, a fish dish, cream cheese (made from the water used to make the sake), rice balls and a miso soup. Before the niku jaga (boiled beef with boiled potatoes) dish came out, the Takara rep made a bad pun about Mick Jager that I had to have explained to me, and then the restaurant played the Rolling Stone's "Honky Tonk Woman" as we ate the niku jaga. I'll let you imagine the groans from the people that got the joke. The food was very good, especially the thinly slices sections of Kobe beef.

At the end, we were given a feedback form to fill out, asking our opinions of the sake, and we got to keep the Japan Times ballpoint pens. Then it was time to leave. As we exited, the staff gave us our "thank you presents" - a shopping bag with a Japan Times review of Sake Bistro W, two volumes of the story of Ryoma Sakamoto - from the Japan Times press, in English and with audiobook CDs - and a bottle of the Shochikubai Shirakabegura sake, each. Definitely worth the effort of responding to the drawing.

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I do have to say that the Japan Times contests have been good to me. Back when I first lived here, there was a drawing for a bottle of wine that I won, and more recently, I got 2 free tickets to the Osamu Tezuka exhibit last Summer that I'd wrote about at the time. A lot of the giveaways don't appeal to me (especially the ones for museum exhibits of western artists), but of the 4 drawings that I've responded to, I've won 3 of them. I like those odds. Thank you for a nice evening of good food and sake, Japan Times!

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