August 31, 2023

The victory mountain

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Zhongmeister has been a big fan of the sakes from Katsuyama Brewery (勝山酒造), so when the owner of the brewery came back to Hong Kong to showcase some of their offerings, he quickly rounded up a few of us for a tasting dinner arranged by Berry Brothers and Rudd at Man Ho Chinese Restaurant (萬豪金殿). Since I also like sake from Katsuyama, not to mention Jayson Tang's cuisine at Man Ho, I was happy to put my hand up for this event.

Once I arrived at the restaurant, I was introduced Isawa Heizo (伊澤平藏), who is the 12th generation and current owner (蔵元) of the brewery. Also in attendance was his wife Julie, who is of Malaysian origin and has been responsible for expanding their presence in ex-Japan Asia as well as internaionally. Their son Isawa Heiki (伊澤平輝) is being groomed to take over, and also came along to introduce his new creation. Katsuyama Brewery was established in 1688 so there is a ton of history behind it. Isawa-san also told us a few stories behind a number of innovations the brewery has embarked on, such as introducing premium-priced sakes and using centrifuge.

In terms of the cuisine, I was pretty happy to see a few of my favorite dishes from Jayson.

The amuse bouche was a button mushroom with some kind of sour sauce. I guess it helped to whet the appetite.

Chef's specialties (萬豪金殿獻萃):

Marinated cuttlefish stuffed with preserved vegetables (鹵水墨魚仔) - always liked this.

Steamed crab meat and yellow fungus dumpling (鮮黃耳蟹肉餃)

Signature barbecued pork loin with honey sauce (萬豪貴妃叉燒) - very tender and tasty as always.

Katsuyama Junmai Ginjo Ken (勝山 純米吟醸 献) - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%. Very fragrant nose of starchy rice, along with fermented notes and a hint of umami.

Poached slice abalone (過橋鮮鮑片) - the broth was really nice.

The little abalones were tender and lovely.

Katsuyama Tokubetsu Junmai Sensho Masamune (勝山 特別純米 戦勝政宗) - seimaibuai of 55%. Bigger nose, also showing some starchy rice. Rounded and soft on the palate but ends up a bit dry on the finish.

When you see these condiments, you naturally expect snake soup to come next.

Shredded duck meat soup with fungus, mushroom, and bamboo pith (金殿非蛇羹) - except it's not snake season yet, so we've got shredded duck here, along with other finely-shredded ingredients.

The flavors of ginger was certainly noticeable, and the fragrance of aged tangerine (陳皮) was pretty nice, too.

Steamed egg lobster fillets in saffron sauce served with mullet roe (金影玉玲瓏) - this is a dish I tasted a couple of years ago, and still enjoyable tonight. I do love the rich flavors of the lobster.

Katsuyama Junmai Daiginjo Den (勝山 純米大吟醸 伝) - seimaibuai of 35%. More lean on the nose, definitely more dry and spicy on the palate. Drinking after the soup actually made it show much sweeter on the palate.

Pan-fried fish maw with almond and chicken sauce (杏仁濃湯煎花膠) - I was pretty impressed the first time I had this from Jayson, and I still love it. It's not often that one sees fish maw pan-fried, and I thought the almond sauce works really well.

Katsuyama Junmai Daiginjo Akatsuki (勝山 純米大吟醸 暁) - seimaibuai of 35%. Nose was kinda big, while the palate was very soft.

Chilled fish maw jelly (花膠一口凍)

Braised sliced pork belly, pork tendon and quail egg in sweetened vinegar (懷胎十月) - I really loved this dish. I'm a huge fan of the classic pig trotters with ginger (豬腳薑) that Cantonese women are fed after giving birth, and this was basically the same dish done with pork belly insted of trotters. We did get some tendons from trotters, as well as a quail egg in lieu of the usual hen's egg, along with pieces of dried ginger that is dipped into the sauce. Slurp.

Katsuyama Junmai Daiginjo Hyojuku (勝山 純米大吟醸 氷熟貯蔵酒) - seimaibuai of 35%. More rounded and viscous on the palate, very nice. Slightly more fermented on the nose and showed some umami. Also a little sweet, pretty rich and starchy. I love aged sake and this is exactly why.

Steamed bamboo pith rolls stuffed with vegetables in rice broth (竹裡居賢) - really elegant and tasty. Love the strained rice broth.

Chilled avocado cream with apple and premium bird's nest (燕液牛油果露) - pretty decent as usual.

Baked red dates pastry with macademia nuts (夏果棗蓉酥) - I love jujube so this was totally up my alley.

Katsuyama Tarujuku Junmai Ginjo (勝山 樽熟 純米吟醸) - seimaibuai of 55%. This was aged in oak barrels for 2 years, and showed lots of vanilla notes thanks to the wood. Pretty sweet and definitely toasty oak.

It was a rare occasion to taste a wide range of offerings from Katsuyama, including a couple whose productions are fairly limited. I was also happy to meet Isawa-san, and let him know that I'm a proud owner of a bottle of their limited edition bottling sold in the Hakone yoseki himitsubako (箱根寄木秘密箱). It's certainly a special bottle I would save for a very special occasion.


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