The word 'Izakaya' literally means a type of Japanese establishment, a Japanese tavern, usually found scattered everywhere in Japan even near train or subway stations. Basically, some may call it the Pubs of Japan where you can have comfort food and have drink on the other hand. Being a compound word, the word itself has its combination of two meanings of stay and sake shop which is a quite a unique way of interpreting and putting a name into a certain something, especially one now that Japanese Izakaya are starting to open worldwide.
Located on Boundary St, a small establishment with limited dining space but as soon as you enter, you may find yourself being in the middle of Japanese art and backdrop making you feel as if you weren't in Brisbane so much. Izakaya Goku has opened its doors collaborating with Ippin Sake as well as Huon Tasmania for this very special night of Degustation consisting of 5 courses with Sake pairings.
|Various types of Japanese Sake and Whisky.|
A sommelier from Ippin Sake also attended the event and talked about the history and culture of Sake. Satoshi Yoshikubo, is one of the grandsons of the Yoshikubo family who owns the Yoshikubo brewery in Japan which has been brewing sake for more than 200 years. A family business that has been passed down from generation to generation. He is now currently residing in Australia continuously promoting Ippin Sake and their historic sake. Their brewery has exports sake all over the world and is still growing strong.
Starting off the Degustation night with an 'Assorted Tofu Plate' accompanied with Ippin Japanese Limoncello.
There were three main different kinds of tofu served, the Prawn and Edamame Egg Tofu, Spinach Tofu (Shiraae) and Cream Cheese Tofu. These Tofu isn't your typical kind, the ones where you can just buy off the Supermarkets or even when dining at a Japanese restaurant and you would order their Agedashi Tofu and such. Instead, they have created a unique way of presenting Tofu using different elements in which others may not have thought of before, just yet.
Spinach Tofu isn't something I would have thought of however the texture of the slightly wilted spinach and the grounded tofu worked quite well together. There was also a bit of a grainy texture within the tofu.
The Cream Cheese Tofu was rather interesting at first not being able to see how it might work. However, when you do give it a try, you are able to taste the strong hint of cream cheese but yet there is also that soy milk residue. It's interesting how the Tofu can be blended in with the cream cheese but yet it doesn't overpower but instead blends in and soaks up the cheesy flavour. It isn't as smooth as cream cheese though it does depend on what kind of Tofu was used to create this.
This Prawn and Edamame Egg Tofu was such a delight and the green and light pink colours of the Edamame beans and Prawn simply pops out of the Egg Tofu and made itself being a very petite yet pretty dish. It was great to see that there was big chunks of prawns as well as whole Edamame beans mixed into the Egg Tofu. This was such a delight to eat that it makes you forget you're eating Tofu as it didn't really have that strong Tofu texture nor flavour but instead it reminded me of a boiled egg white with Edamame and Prawns in it.
The second dish was a 'Cured Kingfish Salad' paired with a chilled Ippin Junmai Daiginjo Sake. A sip of the Daiginjo will allow you to taste the fruitiness of the sake though tempered by the savoury yet having the right amount of acidity. The fruity flavour seemed to be a Pineapple aroma and an interesting fact is that this sake was kept under 3 degrees to be this way.
At first I wondered why they had decided to serve a chilled sake but after devouring down the second dish, I realised that it matched each other perfectly and allowed us to have a refresher from the first dish which was filled with various types of Tofu. The salad was fresh with Yuzu pepper salsa of cubes of capsicum, cucumber with cherry tomatoes and fresh salad greens.
The cured Kingfish was thickly sliced, preserved well and the freshness of the fish allowed the whole dish to be enhanced. The highlight of the salad was definitely the cured Kingfish complemented with the Yuzu pepper salsa giving it a punch of tangyness.
For the third dish, we were served with two different kinds of Sake, first, the Ippin Chokara, was a super dry and super smooth sake. I was actually quite surprised at how smooth it was as I was not expecting it at first glance. It was also slightly less sweet than the usual sake you would drink.
Second, Ippin Junmai served cold in the masu (square box) which is traditionally used for drinking sake at ceremonies but a funny fact is that it has also been used in the past as a measuring tool for rice and/or sake. Knowing that this was a traditional way of drinking sake allows you to not only enjoy the food and the sake itself but also you gain more knowledge while at it.
Ippin Junmai is a very dry but clean sake. It has a fragrance reminding me of freshly cooked rice in a way but when you do have a sip from one of the corners of the masu, you are able to taste that hint of sweetness but yet the acidic citrus after taste is also present. The Ippin Junmai has a medium standard and also smooth at the tip of the tongue.
'Assorted Sashimi Bowl' was served in a bamboo leaf plate with Miso Soup and homemade pickles on the side. I did feel that they had to squish in quite a lot in this plate and maybe the plate was just a tad too small for the dish itself. There were assorted sashimi placed elegantly on top of a bed of rice which had a variety ranging from Tuna, Kingfish, Salmon, Prawn and so on.
One thing that did bother me was that the prawn head and the prawn skin was still fully attached. Although I don't mind using my bare hands to open up prawns when eating seafood, but sometimes during these kind of events or when eating in restaurants, I do feel as if that maybe they could've peeled off either the prawn skin and left the prawn head there or maybe the other way around instead. Not the full prawn all attached, though it does make the dish look photogenic.
The next sake paired for the main courses was the same as previously served in a masu, the Ippin Junmai, but instead of being chilled and served in a masu, it was served warm and in a pottery cup. Serving it warm definitely does affect its taste as it was smoother than it was served chilled. Having a warm sake allows you to enjoy the main meals much more than a chilled sake. Though still retaining its bitterness, its smoothness increases.
'Japanese Style Pork Cutlet' was a mouthful to eat and even to look at, topped with crispy onion rings and a gravy based sauce with onions served with fresh salad greens at the side. Nicely plated on a curved plate allowed the dish to be elaborated by its own elements. The gravy based sauce was poured over the crispy onion rings and the pork cutlet and although it did make a part of the onion rings soggy, it did enhance the texture and flavour of the pork cutlet.
The pork cutlet was cooked well with a light crumb exterior, slicing through the pork meat and dipping it into the gravy based sauce was a delight to eat. The salad greens mix was quite dry but when eaten together with the pork cutlet, it tones down the strong flavour of the sauce. I did feel that maybe the sauce could've been poured over the salad greens too instead of it being fully dry. The crispy onion rings were lightly battered and being able to see actual thin slices of onion ring made me have a smile on my face. It is always such a bother when seeing onion rings being made with full batter and only a little onion.
'Great Tasmanian Salmon with Saikyo-Miso' was served with roughly chopped mash potatoes with Edamame beans and fresh salad greens on the side. The cherry tomato did give it a nice pop of colour to the dish. Oh, and also some saffron which was another nice touch.
To be honest, for a Degustation night, I did not expect the portion of the mains to be this much. The Tasmanian Salmon was grilled to perfection I do have to admit. The smoky flavour and the grilling marks scored points for me as sometimes some grilled dishes don't necessarily show the grill marks or even any hint of smokiness whatsoever. Being not sure what the sauce base was but from what we tasted, it seemed to have been a soy sauce based with a hint of saffron but also a tad salty.
Overall, the marination was done well as the salmon has absorbed it all allowing you to taste it with every bite without having to pour further sauce as you would probably with your seafood or steak when sometimes, they just haven't done enough marination for your meats or seafood.
The choppy mash potatoes was quite cold but added a touch of freshness along with the salad greens. Edamame beans was mixed into it which blend in nicely together and would have been great to even eat it by itself. It was subtle and did not have a strong dressing which allows the juices from the salmon and the sauce to soak in slowly when you smear it.
Ippin Dancing Rabbit was the final sake to be served and was the only cloudy sake out of all of the ones served throughout the whole night. It was intentionally brewed by not using any pasteurised paper but was able to have that slightly white colour..
'Green Tea and Strawberry Rice Cake' with Berry compote and Plum Wine Sorbet. Having tried so many different Mochi and other similar desserts in Japan from my Japan trip, I was quite excited being able to eat it again. Styled elegantly, two medium size ice cream filled mochi dusted with icing sugar was the dessert of the night.
The rice cake seemed to have been frozen since they were stone cold but not even a few minutes as soon it arrived on our table, it became not as freezing cold as it was before. We were quite worried if it would have been hard to even fork into it.
The berry compote and the plum wine sorbet surprisingly complemented both flavoured mochi well. The berry compote was not sweet and still had that bitterness but what I liked best was the plum wine sorbet. Sadly there was only a little spoonful of it topped with a bit of mint leaves. If you're not a big fan of strong green tea, then eat it with the berry compote and it would lessen the green tea flavour. The plum wine sorbet may not be everyone's favourite but if you like your plums or your wines, I'm sure you will love this too, it was sweet and refreshing. However, it was a very pleasant and lovely dessert to end the night.
*mynameisFood. was invited to dine as a guest of Izakaya Goku for the Degustation, as always, opinions are my own.