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Friday, August 27, 2010

Interview with sake master Toshi Maeda + win a chotto and cocktail package for two at Ocean Room Sydney

Surely every Sydneysider realises we are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.

The recent sake masterclass at Ocean Room reminded me of how exquisite Sydney Harbour looks at night: the iconic images of the Harbour Bridge -- sturdy, graceful and reassuring -- and the elegant sails of the Opera House, illuminated by the twinkling lights of the city as ferries quietly chug through the gently lapping waters.

Toshi Maeda was our sake master for the evening, owner of Sake & Grill Maedeya in Melbourne and driving force behind the online sake shop Sake Japan. There is so much to learn about sake that I was keen to ask him ten questions to find out more. Don't forget to read to the end for details on this week's Freebie Friday competition where you can win a chotto and cocktail package for two worth AU$80.

Ten Questions with Toshi Maeda, Sake Master

1. What prompted you to become a sake master?

The very first time I tried the Tatsuriki Daiginjo YK40 from award winning brewery - Honda Shorten. A life changing experience, I was blown away by the complexity of its flavours. It definitely removed my image of sake as burning, harsh and an ‘old man’s drink’. When I found out that this sake came from my hometown of Kobe in Japan, I started thinking about how I could introduce this beautiful Japanese drink to the Australian people.

2. What makes a good sake?

Rice, water, yeast and Koji mould, but the most important thing is the love and passion that breweries put into their products!

3. What should people look for when choosing sake?

If you want premium grade sake, look for the words Ginjo or Daiginjo on the bottle labels. Otherwise and similar to choosing wine, if the label looks great in your eyes, just try it!

4. What misconceptions do you think people have about sake?

The most common misconception is that all sake is strong, burning and a harsh alcohol option. The truth is, if you drink premium grade sake such as Ginjo or Daiginjo, you can taste how clean, fruity, subtle and sensitive it really is.

People also think that sake should be drunk warm or hot. Ginjo and Daiginjo are best enjoyed slightly chilled or at room temperature, and this is exactly how brewers want people to consume their products. Interestingly, brewers only taste their new sake in room temperature.

5. Can sake be paired with food, and how should people approach it?

Honestly, I believe that sake is one of the rarest alcohols in the world that can be matched with any type of food from different cuisines. Matching sake with Japanese cuisine is customary but it also goes well perfectly with French, Italian and Chinese food. I think the umami (or savoury taste) and sweetness of the rice can hold to different cuisines quite well.

Bascially, when I match food with sake, I choose a light, clean, fruity style of sake such as Ginjo or Daiginjo with light, entrée type dishes such as sashimi, carpaccio and vegetable dishes. I choose an earthy and full body type of sake such as Junmai or Honjozo with mains like wagyu beef, tempura and hot pot. I like to match sweet flavoured sake with desserts.

6. Why are some sakes served hot and others served cold? Does it indicate a difference in quality?

Frankly, when you drink good quality sake, drink it cold, but when you drink bad quality sake, drink it warm. But at the end of the day it’s all down to your personal preference.

7. You're originally from Kobe, Japan. Is there anything you miss about Japan that you can't find here?

I miss Nama which is a type of sake which is made without pasteuring. Other types of sake are usually pasteurised twice before shipment but because Nama sake doesn’t go through this process, you can taste its fresh and fruity notes at its birth.

8. What were some of your favourite foods or snacks in Japan when you were growing up?

Rice grown in my grandmother’s fields and the local Kobe wagyu beef. They were the best!

9. What foods do you crave when you're sick?

Steaming Japanese hot pot with lots of vegetables with hot sake mixed with egg yolk and honey.

10. You initially arrived in Australia with the intent to study English for a year, but never left. That was over ten years ago. What made you decide to stay, and what keeps you here?

The nature and its beautiful minded people. There are a lot of opportunities and plenty of hope
in this country. I love Australia!


This week's Freebie Friday is a chotto and cocktail package for two at Ocean Room's O Bar. Chotto are like Japanese tapas - small snacks to be eaten with a cold drink or cocktail. Ocean Room's selection includes tuna cornets, soft shell crab tacos, wasabi crispy king prawns, shiso oysters and crispy panko pork tenderloin skewers.


A chotto and cocktail package for two at Ocean Room's O Bar consisting of:
  • Two chotto selection plates (Raita's recommendation of five assorted chotto)
  • Two cocktails.
Prize value: AU$80

  • The chotto and cocktail package is valid Tuesday to Thursday, during either lunch or dinner
  • The prize must be redeemed within six months.

All you have to do is fulfil the requirements below:
  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell us: What do you love most about Sydney?
  2. And then send an email to grabyourforkfreebiefriday@yahoo.com.au with the subject heading "Ocean Room" and include your full name and a copy of your published comment from this post.
  3. OR ENTER VIA THE GRAB YOUR FORK FACEBOOK FAN PAGE - Simply leave your answer on the event listing here.
The winning entry will be decided on honesty, creativity or entertainment value. Don't be shy! You gotta be in it to win it! Readers may submit one entry per day as long as each answer is different.

The Ocean Room competition closes on Sunday 19 September 2010 at 5.30pm AEST. The winner will be announced on Grab Your Fork on Monday 20 September 2010.

EDIT: This competition has now closed. Congratulations to the winner announced here.

More Grab Your Fork competitions to enter:
(entries close Sunday 5 September 2010)

(entries close Thursday 16 September 2010)
33 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/27/2010 01:52:00 am


  • At 8/27/2010 9:00 am, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    Ah - more fascinating insights into sake! Great stuff!

  • At 8/27/2010 9:42 am, Anonymous Kirsty said…

    What do I love about Sydney? The tropical feel without the overwhelming humidity. I feel like I'm on holiday every day.

  • At 8/27/2010 11:21 am, Blogger Berry Mak said…

    What do you love most about Sydney?
    I love the weather the people and most of all the variety of great food we have here in Sydney. Their's the fine dinning all the way to the cheap eats. Sydney is most definitely the best city in the world!

  • At 8/27/2010 11:26 am, Anonymous Rhonda (thedaintybaker) said…

    I love the versatility of Sydney, there is so much in terms of culture and food! U can get genuine cuisines from all over the globe without having to travel too far either! Our weather, people & lifestyle absolutely rocks!

  • At 8/27/2010 11:33 am, Blogger Ignite said…

    i love that even though we live ina major international city we have world class beaches and surf on our doorstep.... nowhere in the world has that!

  • At 8/27/2010 12:16 pm, Anonymous Ceymour said…

    What do I love about Sydney?

    The places, the faces and the experiences that don't make the postcard.

    It's wandering into a new suburb, town, village, street that shows you just how wonderfully different Sydney is to the rest of the world.

  • At 8/27/2010 12:59 pm, Blogger Win said…

    What I love the most about Sydney? The food ofcourse. You can basically eat your way around the world in Sydney, it's just great! :)

  • At 8/27/2010 1:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What I love most about Sydney is the anticipation of it. My husband and I are moving there in October--from Seattle, Washington. We can't wait to explore a brand new city--especially since everyone has told us how wonderful it is. And, of course, we can't wait to try all of the different restaurants. The only thing I know for sure we will miss is Mexican food. Maybe some other cuisine in Sydney will delight us?

  • At 8/27/2010 11:28 pm, Anonymous Seiryra said…

    The best part of Sydney is the variety of foods it offers. it has almost all countries' cuisine available in a single city. I love Japanese food the most !!

  • At 8/28/2010 12:01 pm, Blogger Karina L said…

    I love a the abundance of vitamin d on my skin, even in Winter.

  • At 8/28/2010 2:36 pm, Blogger Mim said…

    I love looking up in Sydney, something many Sydney-siders forget to do as they busily rush around the city. But every time I walk down George Street and remember to look up, just beyond the shopfronts, my breath is taken away by our beautiful buildings framing the stunningly blue sky.

  • At 8/28/2010 3:59 pm, Anonymous Kate said…

    I love walking along Balmoral Beach early Saturday morning, before lingering over the papers and scrumptious rhubarb french toast at Bather's Pavilion. What a way to start the weekend in one of the great cities of the world!

  • At 8/28/2010 6:20 pm, Blogger Brian Wong said…

    I love the summer vibe. I love the people. I love the laid-back atmosphere and above all, I love the rich diversity of food!

  • At 8/28/2010 8:12 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love the fact that i can get some of the most amazing food here in sydney. Damn we have some amazing restaurants here.

  • At 8/28/2010 9:07 pm, Blogger Susan said…

    You know you're in Sydney when...
    In no particular order
    -all the birds sound angry and are ready to attack food aka you
    -you have to sort out all your problems by 5pm Friday because noone is available on weekends even if they're supposed to be working
    -the sun is bright enough to shine out your ass
    -the bus fine for putting your feet on seats is twice as much as drinking alcohol on bus.
    -Chinese restaurants barter for you to go eat there
    -they charge you money for take out boxes
    -Uni IT guys are willing to go out of their ways to help you
    -nothing the IT guys say can revive your computer
    -you almost get hit by 5 cars in one day
    -crazy homeless people chain smoke 17 dollar pack cigarettes
    What I love Most about Sydney is that even when a lot of things in life are going wrong, I am still enjoying every single minute in this awesome city.

  • At 8/29/2010 5:49 pm, Blogger YoudDegustMe said…

    What do I love most about Sydney?

    Theres not many places in the world where I can:
    * Run down to the Fish Markets and eat 1.5kilo of fish between 3 people for < $40.
    * Enjoy real French pastries from La Renaissance by Darling Harbour.
    * Gorge on shanghai delights @ Ashfield
    * Demolish leb food from Jasmines in Darlinghurst.
    * Feast on authentic Indian cuisine at Jenani's @ Homebush, for less than $10 for dinner!
    * Wolf down an authentic Malaysian laksa at Tamasek in Parramatta.
    * Pig out on Thai at Satang Thai on a student budget!
    * Top it all off with ice-cream from the French Riviera.
    * Drive 2hrs to the snows
    * Take 30 minute bus ride to the beach.

    Sydney is all of this, and more!

    Sydney is convenient and not too pricey.

  • At 8/29/2010 9:33 pm, Anonymous alice said…

    I love the abundance of restaurants we have here. Because Sydney is such a multicultural meltping pot, there are restaurants specializing in foods from all over the world, right on our doorstep. We can wander up one road and find Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, German, Spanish foods and more at our fingertips, merely metres apart.

  • At 8/29/2010 11:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee very interesting interview as always and kobe beef *drooolllllllll*

  • At 8/31/2010 11:17 am, Anonymous Kat said…

    Sydney - there's so much to love! A Sydney winter is still good for a swim and walk back home with wet hair and the sun on your back. In Sydney, you still have to put sunscreen on before the weekend barbeque. I love having an auburn kebab followed by an eggy portuguese tart from petersham and peking duck in eastwood for dinner. I love admiring the river and harbour from the ferry as you cruise your way to work. I love being harassed by seagulls as they guard their spring babies in the cliffs and hearing about fully grown men cowering under a bush after a magpie's swooped them. I love walking into an Indian spice shop to buy bulk garam masala cos it's next door to the dim sum shop where you can get 2 kg of frozen siu mai. I love that it's warming up and purple trees will bloom. Justdon'tmentionthecrappublictransportandtraffic ;)

  • At 8/31/2010 10:46 pm, Anonymous J said…

    Mm, sake... I think I've only ever had it warm - guess I've been having bad quality sake all this time then!

    The thing I love about Sydney is how beautiful it is without really trying to be beautiful. Not just the harbour, the weather and the things that so many people see. If Sydney was a person, it would be that effortlessly chic girl that everyone else secretly wants to be.

  • At 9/01/2010 12:02 pm, Blogger Bex said…

    Sydney (in Haiku)

    Sharp breath cold ocean!
    Hot blow dryer summer days
    Eating salty prawns

  • At 9/01/2010 4:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The thing I love most about Sydney is its water - the harbour, the rivers, the beaches. Sydneysiders are blessed with some of the most magnificent natural beauty to be found anywhere on the planet. There is nothing more pleasing than to dine on Sydney's cuisine while gazing out onto her harbour.

  • At 9/03/2010 12:48 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love the prawn takoyaki from Chinatown markets on a Friday night in Sydney. You can't find these anywhere else and I'm told by a number of friends who have visited Japan over recent years that, surprisingly, prawn takoyaki isn't available in Japan.

  • At 9/05/2010 3:08 pm, Blogger Mrs Moffat said…

    Looking out of the window yesterday evening before leaving for a dinner date, the wind and rain fought for attention, so I dressed appropriately in many layers including singlet, shirt, jersey, jacket, scarf, woollen gloves and leather boots, then dashed out at the last minute to catch the ferry across to Circular quay. On leaving the house we realised that it was 26 degrees outside and we were VERY overdressed. The problem was that we had so many clothes, that if we stripped them off, we couldn't even hold all of them, so we kept them on, sweltering like a hot summers day. As it turns out, we weren't the only ones. Half the streets of Sydney had other jacketed up and the other half were in tees! This is why I love Sydney and Sydneysiders - anything goes and we do it in syle! :)

  • At 9/08/2010 10:18 am, Blogger Lilla said…

    Sydney may have a beautiful harbour, but it is the diverse cultures and cusine that makes Sydney one of the best cities in the world. Sydney also has a wonderful history that has been perseved ready to be shared with every Sydneysider and visitor. But the one thing I love the most about Sydney is a day at the SCG watching the one day test or a game of AFL - the atmosphere is electric!!

  • At 9/10/2010 10:52 am, Blogger A Sydney Foodie said…

    The blueness of the sky, the lovely weather, and the variety of food experiences available. World class food at not-world-class-prices.

  • At 9/12/2010 4:51 pm, Anonymous Jason Ko said…

    Wide acceptance of culture, lovely food and most of all the awesome people!!

  • At 9/14/2010 5:55 pm, Anonymous Cynthia L (via Facebook) said…

    I love the contrast of how Sydney is like the door step to cultures from all around the world, yet it's simultaneously the place I can call home

  • At 9/17/2010 1:40 am, Anonymous Giulia F (via Facebook) said…

    I love BYO, people walking in flip flop all year round, the fish market, the variety of food, mangoes and the possums in Hyde Park :)

  • At 9/17/2010 1:41 am, Anonymous Peter W (via Facebook) said…

    what I love about Sydney is the simplicity of living - give me sun, sand, surf, seafood and great coffee .... all within the confines of a large and complex city.

  • At 9/17/2010 1:38 pm, Anonymous Anna P said…

    I've just moved to Sydney from Adelaide and there are two things which I love most about Sydney straight away

    1) Sydney is the merging capital of Australia, changing lanes is super easy because people let you in

    2) Fresh delicious sushi is available everywhere and I've never had to hunting for it. Yum.

  • At 9/17/2010 9:57 pm, Blogger dimplistic said…

    This is my experience of Sydney. And exactly why i love everything about it.

    Sydney. What isn't there to love?
    Multi-faceted, multi-cultural and multi-awesome.
    Whether it's Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn
    There's always something to experience!

    The smile from my neighbour,
    The smell of mildew, a freshly mowed lawn.
    Or even the smell from the local burger shop,
    Where school children flock to buy their milkshakes

    The seagulls squawk at me at the Fish Markets
    As i hungrily slurp freshly shucked oysters.
    The sights of the grand Harbour Bridge and Opera House
    Breathtaking, and strangely soothing.

    A touch of class with our Art Gallery
    Bohemic cultures flourish in Newtown and Surry Hills
    With beautiful boutiques, markets and quirky cafes!
    Cuisines of the world at my doorstep
    Chicken feet, ramen, lasagne, curries
    The food is endless, and spectacular
    Especially out West- ethnic cuisine, at its best

    Beaches, parks and urban life make me appreciate the sunshine
    Lazy Sunday mornings- walk the dog, read the paper.
    Beach weather. Which beach to go to?
    Bondi? Coogee? Manly? Decisions, decisions.
    Golden grains tickle my feet, as the water engulfs them
    Sinking deeper and deeper into the sand.
    The smell of sunscreen hits my nose
    As the salty taste of the sea lingers in my mouth.

    A night life like no other.
    Bright lights, loud music, great time.
    I start at a pub. Then a club. Then end up at a karaoke bar.
    Vodka! Tequila! Bourbon! Down!
    Not to mention, i've made 8 new friends.
    Too many drinks. A midnight snack calls.
    The local kebab shop? Harry De Wheels? Mamak? Chat Thai? Or McDonalds?

    This is what makes my Sydney,
    An iconic, cultural hub.
    We've got it pretty lucky here....

  • At 9/20/2010 1:52 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thank you everyone for your entries. The winner has been announced here.


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