Known as the “drink of the Gods” in ancient China, the history of the simple rice wine known as “sake” spans as far back as 4000 B.C. Accounts dating back to the 18th century record the Japanese using sake as an alcoholic beverage. It soon became mass produced in the 20th century and quickly became an international favorite at Japanese restaurants and bars throughout the world. Boasting one of the largest special imports of sake in the UAE, Okku is clearly one of the best Japanese dining spots in which to experience this revered drink. I visited Okku one evening to experience a firsthand a selection of the restaurant’s most coveted sakes paired with their delicious Japanese cuisine.
My guest and I were comfortably seated at a table within the back of the restaurant eager to begin a dining escapade which we equated to the Dionysian experience of fine wine. Having already eaten at the restaurant on a number of occasions, I knew more or less what to expect from Okku’s top-notch creative Japanese cuisine. A friendly waiter greeted us and explained that we would be served a different sake fitting to each dish. The first of which was a sparkling Fukuju Awasake sake boasting a light, sweet, citrus taste akin to that of a champagne aperitif and meant to clean the palette in preparation for the meal. Starters of spicy edamane and ‘O’ Style Hotate of seared scallops with figs and chives in a sweet and salty truffle-wafu goma. We were also served an Ouka Ginjo derived from the Northwestern part of Japan and featuring touches of pear and melon which left a soft feeling on the tongue. A very popular standard sake we were told; it’s often one which is used to introduce newcomers to the drink.
On with mains which included the restaurant’s renowned Black Cod and the Swordfish Shoyuyaki made of ginger chili-soy butter baked swordfhish with chives, scallions, shallots and seaweed was rich, soft and with a surprising kick of invigorating ginger. Our dishes were accompanied by an Azure Deep Water Sake. Very light, dry with hints of sea and pear, the taste is smooth, subtle and mellow. The water of this particular sake is derived from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and only a limited amount can be taken each year. The brewery where is it made has history dating back to 1773. We were also served a delicious Isake Classic Junmai. Refreshing in taste with a nose of white melon and peaches, it was sweet and full with a clean finish – a wonderful alternative to white wine for main courses.
And to finish off with our dessert of delicious apple strudel, we were served a sweet drink of Shushinkan Umesh. Umeshu, we were told, has been infused with Oshuku plums which gives the drink a spicy, sour and fruity taste. The consistency of the Umeshu is slightly thicker than a sake but rests smoothly and delectably on the tongue especially when paired with succulent taste of sweet cream and warm apple strudel.
As always, stunning service, wonderful cuisine and this time, an invigorating and informative tasting of the taste and history of some of the best sakes around.
Okku, The Monarch Hotel, +971 45018777