- Sake tasting and umami

I was invited to a sake and tapas tasting… What’s the heck was that ? Sake and sushis, sake and chocolate all right but sake and Spanish tapas ? 

I went to the restaurant ‘Toro Gordo’ in Hammersmith wondering why I accepted to go to mix a rice alcohol with tortilla while I could have stayed in Southbank with my friend and enjoy the end of this sunny day…

Greeted by my smily host and directed inside where numerous sake producers freshly arrived from Japan were waiting for us… with chorizo !

Mr Takeshi Nakamura who is the Chief executive of  ‘Japan UK’ kindly gave me a lesson about umami and why they married the sake with Spanish tapas on that day. 

Umami is our fifth basic taste (sweet, savoury, bitter, sour and umami). Umami is a loanword from the Japanese meaning ‘umai’ : delicous and ‘mi’ : taste.

We can taste umami through specialized receptors cells of glutamate present in humans and animals tongues. Glutamate is the salt of glutamic acid, the wow fact when our taste buds meet savoury food.

Described as a meaty/brothy taste, glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate nervous system, Basically, we produce it and our brain needs it to function properly.  

The glutamate acts as enhancer and lenghtener taste and is overly used in Chinese food (that’s where the ‘Chinese restaurant headache’ comes from) as its excessive consumption can be a pain neurotransmitter too. 

So why sake and tapas ? Simply because the sake enhance the umami wow fact. Meaning : sake can be paired with any kind of food. Spanish but also Indian, French etc… While a certain wine won’t pair with a certain type of food, when we have this tendency to drink white wine with fish and go to wine tasting to learn more about the ingredients story and origins and that’s why it goes so well with that kind of meat but very rare and only with a chili mayonaise and not mustard because mustard would spoilt the long lasting taste of blueberry of this fabulous red wine blah blah blah…, Japanese people don’t make such a fuss and enjoy their sake with absolutely everything. 

 It was a very nice experience with very nice people where I learnt about sake but not only. I tasted a Mikan wine for the first time and it was beautiful. From Hiroshima, the Mikan is a Japanese tangerine fermented, lovely light citrusy taste, very fresh and grassy aromas. 

kitatani-cc.com or contact Akimutsi Takata at ‘Japan at UK’ (as the website is in Japanese) 0044 (0) 203 642 6958




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