A Sake Pairing Experience
While there are many Japanese eateries around in our nation, few focuses on sake, Japanese’s fine rice wine made by fermenting rice. That’s where Hana Dining Sake Bar comes in. Opened barely half a year, Hana Dining Sake Bar features an eclectic menu of modern Japanese cuisine paired with premium sake. Hana is the sister restaurant of the famed A-Plus Dining Sake Bar in Taiwan. The restaurant cum bar offers an extensive list of 53 types of sake currently and is already planning to add on more to this premium list.
Located in the heavily populated area of Sunway, on the ground floor of Oasis Boulevard in Sunway Pyramid, one might need a little effort in locating this eatery. The entrance to Hana is on the side of the main area so one should make sue to turn into the little alley to enter the restaurant. Nevertheless, it is an effort worth the search as this establishment is a hidden gem of deliciousness
With so many restaurants now focusing on wine or liquor pairing, owner, Eddie Beh together with his other partners felt it was time sake was given the limelight to the many Japanese ardent foodies here. We met up with him recently and was treated to an education of the various types of sake to be pair with the menu at Hana. Filled with much passion over Hana, Eddie filled us up with all his travels to Japan and how he looks forward to having Malaysians enjoy sake with Japanese cuisine.
Hana is well designed with various sections that include a Japanese ikazaya bar, a main dining area filled with sakura tree and several private rooms. For more casual and easy going ambiance, the ikazaya bar is perfect to grab some bites while enjoying the beautifully decorated room filled with lots of sake barrels and rows after rows of Japanese sakes and liqueurs. Lots of high tables with high stools fill the room to sync up the bar theme.
The main dining room is designed to allow lots of natural lights and features various furniture and banquette seatings. A sakura tree centerpiece reminded diners of its culture as well as adding beauty to the room. Our private room was decently spacious too and has beautiful Japanese art pieces filling the room with much elegance.
Helming Hana’s kitchen is Head Chef Thomas Lim, whose previous stints in many Japanese establishment allows him to create Hana’s modern list of Japanese inspired dishes that has influences from Taiwan and Western flavours. To ensure freshness and quality of Hana’s dishes, ingredients are air-flown in from Japan and Europe twice a week. Hana also carries premium seasonal fishes for sashimi for the Japanese connoisseurs.
From L to R: Josen HuaJiuZhang Junmai Daiginjo, Shirokawago Junmai Ginjo Sasa Nigori, Hokkan Ichimonji Junmai Ginjo and Inanbu Bijin Honjozo
Our sake pairing journey began with a brief on the four sakes of the restaurant’s choosing. There are at least 80 types of sake rice in Japan but the more popular ones are Yamadanishiki, Gohyakumangoku, Miyamanishiki and Omachi. Due to the preference of taste, rice with only starch is the choice for sake brewing, hence the rice is polished to remove the outer layer of bran. Hence, the more the rice is milled down, the more expensive the sake is due to its quality of taste. Seen in the picture is the various stages of rice being milled for sake.
There are always debates on what temperature one should enjoy sake. However, sake experts recommend premium sake be enjoyed chilled rather than warm. Sake is produced all over Japan, hence various prefectures also produces different quality and taste. Sake is also divided into two types with one being ordinary sake - Futsū-shu and the other being special-designation sake - Tokutei meishō-shu. The special-designation sakes are categorized into eight varieties. Hana carries a solid list of these special-designation sakes.
To kick start the meal, we first savored Fried Burdock Salad with Honey Mustard Sauce (RM20) before any sake to whet our appetites. Served in a large portion, the dish had lots of thinly shaved burdock fried to golden crispiness. Crowned with slices of fresh avocado, prawn and tomato before being drizzled with house made honey mustard sauce, the salad is light, creamy and delicious.
Josen HuaJiuZhang Junmai Daiginjo (RM290/bottle) from Niigata prefecture
Sitting on top of the list of sake at Hana is a premium Josen HuaJiuZhang Junmai Daiginjo, acustom-made sake available only at Hana by Shirataki Sake Brewery. We had this served chilled. This filtered sake is very smooth and sweet, with a rather full flavoured note. It is brew and left to ferment in special cask and there are only 100 bottles available in Malaysia currently.
This sake is best paired with fish and we had three fishes of fish prepared in different ways. The full- flavour of the sake goes really well with heavier flavoured fish which can be raw or cooked. Its sweetness complimented all the three fish dishes we had differently in positive notes. The sake also makes a great palate cleanser after the dishes with its aromatic and clean finish.
The Maguro Tataki (RM35) is a classic Japanese crowd pleaser. Tuna just lightly seared on all sides are sauced up with a light soy and citrus sauce with crispy bits and thinly sliced onions.
Chef Olic Tuna Marinade (RM25) is Chef Thomas’s signature of white tuna marinated in olive oil, garlic and a few other ingredients. It has a creamy and salty flavour and evoked a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Pretty to look at too, the saltiness of the fish proved to be match as the sake’s full flavour sweetness balanced out the salty notes.
Engawa Nigiri (RM10 per piece) is my favorite dish of the three. Ever since I was first introduced to Engawa, which is flounder fin, I am madly in love with the ultra-smooth and lightly bouncy texture of the fins. Here, the flounder fins are beautifully roasted with caramelized edges of sweetness. Served warm on the rice, the creamy, rich and luscious flavours are simply divine!
Shirokawago Junmai Ginjo Sasa Nigori (RM160/bottle) from Gifu prefecture
Our next sake is an unfiltered sake that hails from the center of Japan. The lightly cloudy liquid is a must-try and has even garnered a Silver award in the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America 68th Annual Convention & Exposition Wine Tasting Competition. It has a mellow sweetness flavour compared to the first sake but has a sharper and rawness appeal which I really enjoyed. Best paired with grilled or fried items, we had three fried dishes paired with this sake.
First one is Crispy Cod Fish Layered with Sweet Potato (RM28). Cod wrapped in kataifi pastry with creamy sweet potato has lots of crunchy factor contrasting against the soft creamy fish. The sharp and rawness of the sake cuts the deep fried factor very well, evoking a clean and neat finish to the fish.
Crispy Chicken Stuffed with Sweet Potato (RM18) is such a pretty dish. Decent flavours but I would have preferred more chicken and less sweet potato. The sweetness of the sweet potato did paired well with the unfiltered sake.
The third dish of Crispy Soft Shell Crab Wrap with Lettuce (RM18) was rather classic. Its soft shell crab cooked well with light batter and crispiness. A creamy based sauce did give another element of flavour to the crab together with the lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
Hokkan Ichimonji Junmai Ginjo (RM120/bottle) from Tochigi Prefecture
Our third sake originates from east of Japan. This sake has an overall lightness of sweet and sour note. It is pleasant but didn’t have that rounded note that I enjoy in the first two sakes. This sake is a perfect sake starter to those who have never tried much sake. Recommended pairing are grilled seafood.
The Squid Stuffed with Preserved Cucumbers (RM25) looked so pretty in colors. Specks of pink from crab and green from preserved cucumber are stuffed into squid and cut into even rings. The squid is nicely sweet from the crab while I can also taste a hint of sour and salty notes from the preserved cucumber. It’s a delicate dish to match the light flavours of the sake.
The next dish had lots of umami flavours in the Seared Seafood Skewer in Green Shiso Sauce (RM23). Prawn, scallop and salmon trout are grilled and covered with a vibrant shiso leaf sauce with a hint of spiciness. The dish is tasty but I felt it covered up the light flavours of the sake. Nevertheless, I would still order this dish but maybe enjoy it with the earlier sakes.
Inanbu Bijin Honjozo (RM140/bottle) from Iwate Prefecture
Our final sake is produced in North East of Japan. This one is medium dry and has a robust and sharper note compared to all the sakes we had. Best paired with heavier flavoured dishes as well as meat, it is recommended for dishes of Yakiniku or Sukiyaki.
The Roasted Beef Ribs in Tomato Sauce (RM59) is another signature of Hana. A cut well loved by Japanese, the beef ribs were beautifully tender with fatty bits. Cooked in light sweet tomato sauce, this one tasted more Italian. The caramelized onions gave the dish its oomph and added a richness to the beef ribs. It is a great match with the medium dry sake.
Though the Grilled Pumpkin Ham Roll top with Goose Liver (RM32) was decent, it could be improved with less pumpkin for less sweetness. The lightly smoky aroma on the ham is rather lovely and the salty notes did paired well with the sake.
Our meal ended with Homemade Tofu Cheesecake (RM9) and White Sesame Ice Cream (RM7). Both desserts are super yum. The Homemade Tofu Cheesecake is decadently rich and cream with a good balance of cheese flavours and yet did not weight us down with the usual heaviness that associates with cream cheese. The White Sesame Ice Cream is very aromatic, nutty and creamy.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Hana Dining Sake Bar. The modern food menu is great while the sake list is even better. The various sections of the dining area is cater towards many from casual to private. It’s definitely a great place to hang for food and sake after a long day at work!
HANA DINING SAKE BAR
OB2.G.U1 Oasis Boulevard, Ground Floor
3 Jalan PJS 11/15
Tel: +60 3-5624 0888
Mon-Thu 11:30am – 11.00pm
Fri-Sat 11:30am – 1.00am
Sun 11:30am – 11.00pm