Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the very first Washoku Lovers Kitchen cooking event held at Sydney Seafood School in Pyrmont.
The itinerary for the afternoon read as followed:
1: Cooking show by Raita Noda – Former executive chef of Ocean Room and now chef of Raita Noda’s Chef’s Kitchen
2: Cooking class
3: 5 course lunch with sake matching by Andre Bishop – ‘Australia’s official Dassai Sake ambassador’
Pre-drinks: Sparkling with Choya Umeshu (Japanese plum wine)
Opening the event, Yuri Tazunoki, Managing Director of SD Marketing gave a presentation on Washoku, or ‘Japanese Food Culture’. Washoku is centred around the fundamental concept of ‘Ichijū-sansai’, which are meals consisting of one main dish, two side dishes, soup and rice. She also explains that Washoku Lovers is a community established by SD Marketing to promote Washoku and that this event allows us a collaborative cooking experience as opposed to just visiting one of their partnered restaurants.
We are then introduced to Raita Noda, the former executive chef at the now defunct Ocean Room. At the start of the year he opened Raita Noda Chef’s Kitchen, which offers an omakase only dinner, a Japanese style of dining where each morsel of food is made from seasonal ingredients and pieced together right in front of you. Unfortunately his restaurant is unable to cater to walk-ins as the seats to his establishment are booked out months ahead.
Raita is a charming host, he is warm and funny, cracking jokes while remaining focused on instructing. Today he demonstrates making a traditional Wagyu Sukiyaki as well as his interpretation of the dish, calling it Raita’s Original Wagyu sukiyaki. Along with these he also makes a dish of table smoked zuke marinated blue fin tuna sashimi, which he serves at his restaurant.
The traditional Wagyu Sukiyaki consists of thinly sliced Wagyu fried in a sukiyaki pan. A sponsor of the event is Osawa Wagyu, a top-quality Wagyu beef produced in Australia so we are using their beef to cook with today. Raita prefers to grease the pan with Wagyu fat over conventional oils as he thinks it benefits from the beefy flavour. With the delicious aroma of melting fat permeating my nostrils, I wholeheartedly agree. Into the pan also, goes some cut leeks, shallots, mushrooms, chrysanthemum leaves, tofu, konnyaku and adding enough sukiyaki sauce to simmer. It’s advised that when making this at home, we eat the cooked food whilst replenishing the skillet with more ingredients as space permits. And if we like, dipping them into raw beaten eggs.
Throughout the demonstration, we are given tips for cooking Washoku at home. For the liquid to cook the Kinoko Gohan (Japanese mushroom rice) in, Raita prepares a dashi stock and warns against leaving the bonito flakes in the simmering pot of water for any longer than a minute to avoid bitterness leeching out.
In comparison to the traditional Sukiyaki, Raita’s Original Wagyu Sukiyaki includes a dizzying array of ingredients, plenty more preparation and the method is about five times longer. The table smoked zuke marinated blue fin tuna sashimi is also labour intensive, involving the use of a smoker. As he’s putting the dish together, he forgets to marinate the tuna sashimi pieces lightly in soy, but instead of just doing so, he moves the pieces onto another plate and declares it for his lunch.
We are actually going to have a go at making these fine dining dishes ourselves. Fortunately, all the ingredients have been prepped, all we have to do is handle the protein and put everything together. Unfortunately, I chose the dish that involved cooking and culinary finesse, both of which I don’t possess a proper grasp of. A for effort though.
Raita Noda and I
As we enjoy our DIY gourmet meals, we are treated to a sake matching by Andre Bishop, Australia’s official Dassai Sake ambassador. Andre presented a range of super premium sake from Dassai, one of Japan’s most prestigious sake brewers.
Clam Soup “Ushio” Style
I sampled the Dassai 23, 39 and sparkling 50. The numbers are to let us know how much outside of the rice is milled. The lower the Dassai number, the more refined in taste it is. First we try the Dassai 23, which has the rice milled to 23% I’m not a sake drinker, so I’m no expert, but this stuff went down the throat like silk. Andre described it as: With a nose of grapes, flowers, strawberries and mineral water, hints of brown sugar and fleshy plums. The difference between the Dassai 23 and 39 is actually quite noticeable. The Dassai 39 is fruity with koji rice, apple, honeydew, and strawberry aromas but the flavour of alcohol is definitely more pronounced and isn’t as smooth as the Dassai 23. The Dassai sparkling 50 tastes mildly fruity and has very fine bubbles.
Whilst sipping on the fragrant sake, Andre explained the fermentation process and advised us that unlike wine, sake doesn’t benefit from aging. consuming it fresh is best, but within a year.
After the meal concluded, we were given a gift box that included 250grams of Osawa Wagyu, some Choya Umeshu and a bottle of Sukiyaki sauce. I fried up some of the wagyu later that evening, didn’t need to use any oil as the beef was already so fatty. Slick with fat, I ate it straight with a little bit of the sukiyaki sauce and oh boy it was such a treat.
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MsBrulee attended the event as a guest of SD Marketing, opinions are however my own.