A5 wagyu, ikura, ceviche: Food at Friday’s Joy of Sake

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Sake and food go together like yin and yang, heaven and earth, ebony and ivory — all the good pairings that add up to more than the sum of their parts.

IMG_2866You think I’m overstating it? My eureka moment at Joy of Sake was back when it was at the Sheraton, before I became a board member and restaurant coordinator, before I knew anything about sake. I had in my hand a plate of Chez Kenzo’s mentaiko spaghetti, and seeking the yin to the spaghetti’s briny yang, I took it to the nearest sake table and went down the row, nibbling and sipping, until yin met yang and bloomed on my palate.

With a record 408 sakes this year and sakelicious bites from 20 restaurants, you’ll have plenty of moments like this. Some things to keep in mind:

• Sake is forgiving. It doesn’t fight with food. So don’t overthink your pairings.

• In general, elegant daiginjos go with delicate foods like sashimi; fuller, fruity ginjo sakes go with chicken, seafood and herbaceous dishes; and big, bold junmai sakes go with fried foods, pork belly, pizza.

IMG_2108 copy• There’s lots of umami in sake. That’s why it tastes so good with mushrooms, cheese, pipikaula, dried squid, poke … you get the picture.

• Nearly half the sakes — 49 percent — are in the most delicate, expensive daiginjo category.

• All the sakes are judged the week of the event. That means they’re in peak condition, just recently bottled and kept chilled.

• Gold stars on sake cards mean the judges consider them exceptional; silver stars are very good. Small black stars mean the sake isn’t sold in the U.S. — 59 percent are in this category.

Food-wise, the restaurants have collectively gone luxe this year. Here’s a sneak peek at some of what you’ll taste.

BANZAI SUSHI BAR: Fresh Striped Marlin Carpaccio in an olive oil dressing of grated onion, banana peppers, capers

BANZAI SUSHI BAR: Fresh Striped Marlin Carpaccio dressed in olive oil, grated onion, banana peppers, capers

BLT STEAK: Sake-Braised Molokai Ranch Short Ribs over Iliʻili Farm greens

BLT STEAK: Sake-Braised Molokai Ranch Short Ribs over Iliʻili Farm greens

BUHO COCINA Y CANTINA: Peruvian Ceviche of fresh island fish and octopus on fried plantain chip; and Mama’s Pastor Tacos: Marinated pork and cilantro on a homemade tortilla

BUHO COCINA Y CANTINA: Peruvian Ceviche of fresh island fish and octopus on fried plantain chip; and Mama’s Pastor Tacos: Marinated pork and cilantro on a homemade tortilla

CAKEWORKS: Green Tea Pavlova with yuzu crème and sake-marinated seasonal fruit compote

CAKEWORKS: Green Tea Pavlova with yuzu crème and sake-marinated seasonal fruit compote

CHEZ KENZO: Chilled Seafood Pasta with shrimp, ikura, tuna, tomatoes and fresh herbs

CHEZ KENZO: Chilled Seafood Pasta with shrimp, ikura, tuna, tomatoes and fresh herbs

FORTY CARROTS at BLOOMINGDALE'S: Caviar Chip of sake-marinated ikura, little neck clam dip, potato chip

FORTY CARROTS at BLOOMINGDALE’S: Caviar Chip of sake-marinated ikura, little neck clam dip, potato chip

KAHALA HOTEL & RESORT: Kiawe Smoked & Braised Beef Brisket with flatbread, Hawaiian Gold pineapple, cucumber mint & yogurt slaw; Kahala BBQ Spiced Popcorn

KAHALA HOTEL & RESORT: Kiawe Smoked & Braised Beef Brisket with flatbread, Hawaiian Gold pineapple, cucumber mint & yogurt slaw; Kahala BBQ Spiced Popcorn

KAIWA: Chilled Crab & Tomato Chawanmushi with yuzu-flavored gelee

KAIWA: Chilled Crab & Tomato Chawanmushi with yuzu-flavored gelee

MW RESTAURANT: Seafood Panna Cotta with shrimp, Hokkaido scallop, abalone, ponzu gelee

MW RESTAURANT: Seafood Panna Cotta with shrimp, Hokkaido scallop, abalone, ponzu gelee

PIG & THE LADY: Grape & Ogo Poke with nori gel, smoked macadamia nuts, rice chip

PIG & THE LADY: Grape & Ogo Poke with nori gel, smoked macadamia nuts, rice chip

TEPPANYAKI GINZA ONODERA: A5 Wagyu Beef Tataki

TEPPANYAKI GINZA ONODERA: A5 Wagyu Beef Tataki

TOP OF WAIKIKI: Nigiri-inspired New Zealand King Salmon with ochazuke risotto

TOP OF WAIKIKI: Nigiri-inspired New Zealand King Salmon with ochazuke risotto

– Photos by Darryl Watanabe

Joy of Sake Honolulu
Friday, July 22
6:30 to 9 p.m.
Hawaii Convention Center
joyofsake.com
Tickets are now SOLD OUT online; there will be some at the door just before the event