The clear, seemingly innocuous elixir that Japan is known for is gaining popularity for its versatility. Made by fermenting polished rice, sake is commonly enjoyed with almost any meal from an omakase to yakitori.
In fact, there’s a science to the complementary nature of sake. A research published in 2015 named The Difference Between Wine and Sake in Tasting by Hitoshi Utsunomiya found that the chemical make-up of sake makes it a more fitting choice compared to white wine when paired with seafood. It has high levels of amino acid, which is responsible for umami flavours, and very low amounts of iron. Both qualities help downplay seafood’s undesirable fishy odour as well as accentuate the ingredients’ natural sweetness.
To prove exactly how compatible sake is with seafood, JFOODO brings together fine dining restaurants over the course of two months from 1 October to 30 November. An organisation within Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), they’ve enlisted the help of the crème de la crème of Singapore’s food industry to showcase award-winning sake from various prefectures in Japan. The participating establishments, are béni, Burnt Ends, CURATE, FOC Restaurant, Iggy’s, Morsels, Nouri, Preludio, Punjab Grill, Whitegrass and Zen. For the pairings, the restaurants use a combination of new culinary creations and signatures to bring out the subtle flavours of the sakes.
For the ultimate pairing of French fine dining with Japanese ingredients, look no further than this one-Michelin-starred restaurant. The intimate culinary experience is led by chef Kenji Yamanaka, who has dedicated his career to perfecting French cuisine at three-Michelin-starred establishments such as Georges Blanc in Vonnas and L’Osier in Tokyo.
An expert with seafood, he pairs the first sake with a delicate homemade ravioli stuffed with Hokkaido uni and fennel cream then garnished with Polish Antonius oscietra caviar and a splash of langoustine sauce. The second is a simpler pairing of ZAKU Kanade No Tomo and béni’s signature scallop with celeriac purée and a mesh of squid ink crisp.
One of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, chef David Pynt’s barbecue joint brings a unique smokiness to the table. Tucked away in a shophouse at Chinatown, the cosy restaurant hides a massive, two-oven brick kiln where he burns copious amounts of coal, apple and almond wood each night. His obsession with barbecue has come far from its beginnings as a pop-up in London to an expansion in the Maldives.
Replacing meat for a fatty fish with firmer texture, he serves up charred kingfish collar with miso and lemongrass to go with ZAKU Gen No Tomo. Its simplicity speaks of the restaurant’s fuss-free approach when it comes to enjoying a good barbie and is also reminiscent of Japanese yakitori cusine.
A playground for foodies, this is where you’re encouraged to have fun with your food. Named the ‘Best Dining Experience’ at the 2018 Singapore Tourism Awards, CURATE is a glitzy dining affair where dessert could be stones on a plate. Four times a year, the restaurant hosts international chefs to showcase the culinary creations they’re known for. This year’s theme—French culinary tradition and Japanese ingredients—invites chef-owner Shinya Otsuchihashi from one Michelin-starred Craftale in Tokyo.
The 2016 winner of the IWC Sparkling Sake Trophy, ‘John’ Sparkling, is paired with Hokkaido scallop grilled on binchotan then glazed with malt. It’s completed with pork terrine, braised sauerkraut consommé and parsley emulsion to give an explosion of umami and earthiness. The second sake—Tatenokawa Seiryu pairing goes with pan-seared pike perch resting on a blanket of smoked beurre blanc sauce and Le Puy lentils.
Unpretentious Catalan dishes is what makes FOC Restaurant a firm favourite with diners. Large papier mache heads known as capgros stare down from the ceiling as tables quickly fill up with tapas and cocktails. Group ambassador and culinary director, Jordi Noguera, grew up in a family of chefs in Barcelona, making him the perfect man for recreating a little slice of authentic Spanish dining in Singapore.
Sea critters feature frequently in Spanish cuisine, which explains why there are six dishes Noguera has prepared for sake pairing. To go with a crisp Sanzen Daiginjo sake is a prawn, scallop and sweet potato ravioli while a smoky classic grilled Galician octopus with pork belly skewer proves to be a worthy companion to the Hatsukame Tokubetsu Junmai Homarefuji. There’s also a citrus party of grilled Mediterranean tuna belly with pieces of strawberry and green apple that goes with Keigetsu Cel24 Junmai Daiginjo and an explosion of umami from sea urchin toast with mushrooms and crispy Iberico ham for a richer-tasting John Sparkling IWC Trophy 2016 sake. To cut through the creamy alaskan king crab canelon and FOC’s signature squid ink paella are the Katafune Tokubetsu Honjozo and Shimazaki Junmai Yamahai Uroko respectively.
A beloved and long-standing establishment in the local industry, it gained international recognition thanks to the Michelin awards and was given a star in 2018. The mainly European-Japanese cuisine benefits from owner Ignatius Chan’s grasp of the Singaporean palate and reflects his love affair with quality seasonal ingredients from Japan.
Tender Hokkaido scallop tartare is served with bafun uni and oscietra caviar and a dash of coriander oil for the first pairing. While the second course of grilled amadai with a side of smoked zucchini and cabbage wrapped luffa, topped with seaweed-butter sauce offers smoky and umami flavour profiles to go with Hideyoshi Junmai Daiginjo.
At chef-owner Petrina Loh’s barnyard-styled restaurant, it’s best to leave any preconceptions of Asian or Western cuisine at the door. Known for her bold flavour combinations inspired from around the world, the banker-turned-chef is quickly getting the attention of critics and diners alike. She’s honed her craft at various Michelin-starred restaurants in the US and has gone on to bag ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the World Gourmet Summit’s Awards of Excellence in 2017.
Mutsu Hassen Pink Label is paired with a plate of freshly shucked oysters garnished with mangosteen shrub, marigold cress, Himono Kuhlbarra barramundi, berry jam and toast. To go with the second sake—Keigetsu Cel24 Junmai Daiginjo 50—is a duo of appetisers: wild Sri-Lankan prawns and sweet potato with pistachio yogurt, scamorza along with venus clams cooked in fig chicken broth garnished with homemade kimchi. A third more complex sake finds a match with the house-poached charred octopus with squid ink risotto and salted egg sauce. To end it off, aged wild New Zealand Tarahiki is grilled on the plancha served with tri-coloured quinoa and a Hock Chew-inspired red wine lees sauce.
Food takes an experimental turn at chef-owner Ivan Brehm’s study of the culinary arts. Having been Heston Blumenthal’s development chef at Fat Duck for four years, he’s intrigued by how ingredients, techniques and flavours can strengthen social ties no matter the geography. He draws inspiration from his mixed heritage—Brazilian, Lebanese, Italian, German, Russian, Spanish, and Syrian—and the people around him.
The nutty notes in the Kamoizumi Aged Junmai Ginjo Sachi 1997 is paired with parsley, kulim and hazelnut fish. Also paired based on aromatics is the second sake that is enjoyed with scallop coconut. While the third sake—Shimazaki Junmai Yamahai Uroko’s distinct flavour from the Yamahai brewing method brings out the richness of the black pepper crab.
A newcomer to the fine dining scene, this restaurant likens its growth and evolution to a story that captivates with each chapter. Every 12 to 18 months, Preludio sheds the skin of last season to build on its identity. Taking the reins with a Monochrome-themed debut is executive chef Fernando Arévalo from Bogotá, Colombia, who has worked with the likes of Daniel Boulud and Mario Batali.
Not to be outdone by the intense flavours that come in the Kamoizumi Aged Junmai Ginjo Sachi 1997, he pairs it with monkfish, seasonal mushrooms, truffle, cod Liver and a dash of vin jaune from Jura in eastern France. To go with tropical notes from Keigetsu Cel24 Junmai Daiginjo is the obsiblue prawn with fresh mangosteen, almond and caviar while the delicate ZAKU Kanade No Tomo pairs with a poached nantucket scallop with black garlic and salted corn.
With decor inspired by the resplendent era of the Maharajas, dining here is fit for Indian royalty. Think glass chandeliers and an impressive wine cellar entrance. Aptly located at the home of Singapore’s largest hotel and casino, Marina Bay Sands, this restaurant serves South Asian cuisine with generous portions of glamour. Heading the kitchen is corporate chef Javed Ahamad with more than 11 years of experience under his belt.
Going easy on the spices to avoid overpowering the sake, he pairs the Uzume Tokubetsu Junmai with chargrilled barramundi tikka with grainy mustard. Next, the Kinryo Junmai Yamahai goes with a spicy pan-seared tellicherry pepper prawn with coconut and curry leaves sauce.
Mindful of the effort that goes into cultivating the ingredients he uses, chef Takuya Yamashita cooks by the ‘La Cuisine Naturelle’ philosophy. His degustation menu aims to highlight the purity in flavours. He combines this sensibility with French techniques he acquired during his time at Étude and Les Enfants Rouges in Paris and Japan’s Ciel et Sol.
Notes of fresh herbs in the ALPHA Kaze no Mori TYPE 3 helps enhance the flavours of vinegared INA Mackerel, fennel and Fuji apple. While the more robust Hanahato Kijoushu that has been aged for eight years acts as the final touch on his take of Shanghai crab stewed noodles – Hokkaido crab somen made with hand-pulled noodles from Nara Prefecture with sherry vinegar sauce.
Sister to three-Michelin-starred Frantzén in Stockholm, the restaurant is chef-owner Björn Frantzén’s foray into Singapore’s fine dining scene. Taking on the challenge of seamlessly meshing Nordic and Japanese cuisine is executive chef Tristin Farmer. The Scotsman is no stranger to the pressure of Michelin-starred restaurants; he’s worked at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus and Chelsea.
The humble chawanmushi is first up, chosen for its strong umami flavour especially with pork belly dashi and Rossini Golden osetra caviar. To match the crisp notes of Tosa Brewing Company’s John Sparkling IWC Trophy 2016 next is norwegian scallop and bafun uni crudo with fermented plum and salted tomato water, watermelon radish and olive oil.