Monday, 15 February 2010


Feng Sushi
Festival Hall
Unit 9 Festival Terrace
London SE1 8XX

It is said that Japanese kamikaze pilots downed sake before embarking on suicide missions during the second world war. Now, leaving aside the toll such a potent brew might have taken on their ability to aim straight, it strikes me that if anything ought to convince a man of the folly of self-immolation it is this life-affirming rice drink.

I had assumed sake was rice wine, but god (Wikipedia) informs me it's made through a brewing process more akin to beer. Before the fermentation can begin the rice must be polished to remove protein and oils - the more polishing involved, the better quality the sake.

I couldn't say how much polishing went into my little ceramic flask of Ozeki Ginkan, at Feng Sushi, but I liked it a lot. For me, sake is like a smooth, milky wine, without any of the the acidity of fermented grapes. Not particularly sweet, sour, salty or bitter, I'm tempted to suggest the savoury presence of umame, the so-called fifth taste that characterises a good deal of Asian food.

We ordered our Ozeki Ginkan (14% abv) warm, partly because it was cold outside, but also because of the deliciously boozy rice-flavoured vapours that occur when sake is heated. I understand that premium sakes are generally served cold, since warming them is said to dull the flavours. If that is so I would strongly recommend sticking with the sub-premium ones. In any case, our Ozeki wasn't cheap, at £7 for 250ml. At least the tiny drinking vessels, known as choko, help such a serving last a good while.

For those with a more substantial sake thirst I prescribe a bottle of Sawanotsuru, from Waitrose, which at £7.25 for 72cl will tend to make one feel the opposite of suicidal.

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