The Umami Mart Sake Dinner this year happened on April 1st. There were many firsts for this event – in past years, our annual sake dinners were held at Camino, which bade us farewell last year.
We needed to find a new venue for the sake dinner, and partnered with Soba Ichi, one of our favorite new spots in Oakland. Soba Ichi serves soba and an izakaya-style menu, Wednesday through Sunday in their light-filled West Oakland location. You can read about our recent dinner experience there on our blog.
It was also a first to collaborate with Kosuke Tada of Kosuke Bistro, who took over the kitchen at Soba Ichi for our event. Tada trained as a chef in both France and Japan.
Kayoko and I first tried Tada's food at his bi-monthly pop ups at Ordinaire. His food is creative, simple, approachable, and always makes me feel like I'm celebrating something special – without it feeling stuffy or forced.
We enjoyed his food with wine at Ordinaire, and wanted to try his food in a different light. So it was decided that we'd have a sake dinner with him!
Here is the sake we chose for the event to pair with each of Tada's four-course menu.
Another first was to hold an event with Yoshi Sako of Den Sake Brewery. Sako's Oakland-made sake is lively and robust, and continues to be a best-seller at Umami Mart. His brewery is located right around the corner from Soba Ichi, so it was nice to keep it super local. We were lucky that Sako could join us and greet attendees with a glass of his nama nama (unpasteurized sake) as they walked into Soba Ichi.
Here is Sako alongside Washi of Soba Ichi (center), and Chris of Umami Mart (right).
The kitchen was staffed with Keisuke Akabori (left) of Stonemill Matcha alongside Tada (right).
At 6pm, the dining room started to fill up.
Most of the guests were Sake Gumi members, so we handed them their sake bottles for the month of April.
Akabori, plating the first course: hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) with tumeric and smoked avocado.
The tender hiramasa was complemented with a green sauce consisting of smoked avocado. This dish was paired with the lively, fruity Den Sake.
While the guests enjoyed the hiramasa, the second course of maitake with fermented mushroom bouillon and egg yolk pickles were being prepared in the kitchen.
People could not stop talking about the egg yolk pickled in beer. And for good reason – it was a pure umami bomb, with an earthy fermented flavor from the beer.
The second course was my favorite pairing with the custard and chestnut-like Kagatsuru Junmai Ginjo.
The vibe in the dining room was lively and bright.
Kai from Soba Ichi, who was also in the kitchen, plating the second course.
As the third course was being prepared, night fell. Soba Ichi in the evening is simply enchanting.
The three musketeers in the kitchen putting together the third course.
The third course, braised lamb cheeks with bergamot and asparagus, was both a pleasure to look and to eat. The rustic lamb flavors were complemented by the bright bergamot. I love pairing gamey meats with yamahai sakes. So the sake pairing for this course was the Manzairaku Junmai Yamahai – a dry, smoky brew. This pairing was a favorite among the guests.
Dinner is never complete without dessert. In this case, it was a Nougat Glacé with nuts and honey. We paired it with the Kamotsuru Junmai Nigori.
A huge thank you to the hardworking Sake Dinner crew (l-r): Kai, Chris, Yoshi, Washi, Kosuke and Keisuke!