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November 25, 2009
Tales of Sake

Rumours and recommendations with a Japanese twist ...

The windows are still covered with brown paper, and other than the "Opening Soon" sign scotch taped to the door, there's not much to indicate who is about to debut in the space once occupied by Chow restaurant at 3121 Granville St. We have it on good authority however, that it will be Japanese restaurant. Rents are not cheap on this strip of upscale home furnishings stores, so we're guessing that the new restaurant will be a notch above the standard neighbourhood sushi joint.
     Now that the retail euphoria season has been thrust upon us ("Only 30 days till Christmas!" shouts one South Granville shop sign), we miss those nice little shoppers' lunches that Chow used to do. Luckily West is just one block down the street and offering a nice little lunch of their own.

Down at Granville Island, tenants are wrangling with management over the extended evening hours they will be required to work during the Olympics. We've heard everything from 9 p.m. to midnight. "Never mind", says a market vendor, "I'm just going to bring in a cot and sleep under my table." 
     Over on Railspur Alley however, Sake master Masa Shiroki will have bigger things on his mind. In 2010 he will be moving his Granville Island Artisan Sake studio nearby to new quarters that will be approximately four times larger than the cubby hole he currently works out of on "Artists Row".
     For Shiroki it's a change that will be more than welcome. As it stands now, he has to get up at 3 a.m. in order to wash the rice (a step that must be done within a single day) in four separate batches instead of just one. Also, at each stage of Sake production, every piece of equipment on the floor must be moved and removed to accommodate whatever process is underway.
      "With the new place we'll be able to enjoy a dedicated area for each stage of production," he says. "Plus there will be room enough for a proper retail section and tasting bar".
     Incidentally, the Shirokis' rice growing project at Kamloops is going well and they anticipate being able to make their local Sake from locally grown rice in a couple of years time. This is a better result than the one from the field Masa and his wife planted last year at Ashcroft. The very day the Ashcroft press release went out, the entire crop was ravaged by a large flock of starlings that swooped in and stripped the field of every last grain of rice. Says Masa, "We won't be planting there again. That place was for the birds".

Does Sake make a good match with Italian food?
     One might not think so, but Chef Lisa Gervais proved doubters wrong with the amazing cross cultural dinner she designed for the Italian Cultural Centre last Friday night.
     With Masa Shiroki of Granville Island's Artisan Sake on hand to introduce the six different styles of Sake chosen to match her six-course menu, Gervais managed to find compatible partners for such Diva ingredients as capers, parmesan cheese, tapenade, radichio, balsamic vinegar and proscuitto, to name just a few. "This is not so surprising" remarked one of the Italian guests. "Sake has similarities with Vermouth." We hadn't thought of that before, but that's probably why the Sake Martinis made at C restaurant taste so "right".
     We will have complete tasting notes for the dinner posted soon. In the meantime, the photo below shows the appetizer course of Blueberry Cured Gravlax, Salmon Tartare and Sambuca Flavoured Mascarpone matched to Osake Junmai Sparkling Sake.

The "Sake meets Parmesan" dinner took place within the small museum of the Centre, which at present, is displaying Dalle Vigne Alla Tavola "From Vine to Table", an exhibit dedicated to the tradition of home wine making within the Italian community of Vancouver.  Some very interesting, and amusing, objects and photos are on display - most of them excavated from the basements of the donors' homes. The exhibit is free, but it ends on November 28th, so you will need to hurry to catch this charming show.  Open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver.

This next one is an unconfirmed rumour at this point, but we've heard that the Hapa Izakaya people have taken the lease for a space next door to one of their restaurants and plan to open a Sake bar. More later. 

Incidentally, if you are a Sake fan you might want to check out the The Sake Club at
     Up till now they have been communicating with a list of members via a Facebook page, but with this new online ordering system, launched only one week ago, they will offer customers a convenient way to acquire unique and high quality Sake products that are unavailable on BCLDB store shelves.
     This is how it works. You log onto the site, select a Sake, pay via credit card and then pick up your purchase at your nearest participating liquor store. Or the club will deliver right to your doorstep. In the near future, the site will also announce special Sake tastings and club events.
     As for products, here's one of their newest imports that we sampled at the Italian Cultural Centre dinner (see above), the Sakehitosuji Junbasishu Plum Sake. It's a sweet dessert Sake with aromas of salted plums, dried prunes and spices. Reduced down it would make an excellent drizzle over ham or charcuterie dishes, and it's delicious sipped straight up alongside a serving of BC goat cheese.

Last but not least, check the calendar listings  for information about a special Sake tasting taking place at the bar of Coast restaurant on Alberni Street. It's coming up November 29, 2009.

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Copyright Cityfood Magazine 2009