Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink, London

5.14.2015

Growing up in Hong Kong, there was always a huge Japanese culture influence. I remembered during the 1990's and early 2000's, it was all about the Japanese TV dramas. Staying up late to catch the Cantonese subbed version of the dramas. Through out to now, manga and anime seem to never die out. Even if you were not into the Japanese dramas or manga or anime, there was one thing for sure that you will associate with. Japanese cuisine. Japanese restaurants are everywhere in Hong Kong and it is so accessible to everyone whether for a cheap meal to the very high-end Michelin starred restaurant.

Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink is an event showcasing the top quality authentic Japanese agricultural products organised by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries (MAFF) and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). Rice, wagyu beef, seafood, tea and flowers & bonsai. They're all highly praised products, not just in Japan but also worldwide. Ever since the 2011 earthquake in Japan, consumers have shied away from Japanese products because of the minute trace of radiation (so small compare to that of the radiation from a long haul flight) and there was an import ban from certain countries not to import products from the affected area of Japan. It was not until recently in 2014, when the EU import ban was lifted from Japan that you can finally able to savour the real Kobe beef. Anyhow, I was lucky to be invited to the event. I managed to learn a lot especially on tea and was able to taste so many fine food and drinks.


Deputy Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso

It was a big event, so much bigger than I thought possibly with 2-300 people and most people were in their business attire. Thankfully, I was in my slight informal business attire (just wasn't wearing a blazer). So big so, the deputy prime minister of Japan Taro Aso was here and gave a speech to the audience. I was surprised by how good his English was and we were laughing to his jokes. Unfortunately due to other business matters, he left after the speech.

Display of Sake

Display of Sake

Sake, a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Here are just a small selection of it, frankly I've tried two of them before in a sake tasting.

Wagyu Beef 

Wagyu Beef

Think you've tasted the fasmos Japanese Wagyu beef. Think again. What was sold in restaurants or in retails are not Wagyu beef from Japan. You were definitely duped into thinking so by the name even if the word "Japan" is not placed in front of wagyu. It was from America or Australia or even Britain. It wasn't until 2014 when Japan lifted the EU import ban that you can taste the real Wagyu beef in UK. Despite the hefty price tag, believe me it is lush the meat. Beside Japan, I don't think there is any where in the world where you can get the full Wagyu beef experience. Read more about it in this Forbes' article on "The Great Kobe Beef".

President of Japan Tea Export Council and Head of MAFF

Ice Brewed Sencha

Crude Tea

Sencha

Sencha

The event was split into two section, a seminar on rice/wagyu/seafood/tea/flowers & bonsai in the late afternoon and a reception in the evening. It's not hard to guess which seminar I chose to attend, tea. Presenting the seminar was Shinmura Junichi, president of the Japan Tea Export Council. Yoshimasa Hayashi, head of MAFF also gave a short speech. The enthusiasm of the speaker was undeniable and it makes it a joy to listen and learn. You can feel the love he has for tea explaining everything so detailed. Ice brewed sencha was presented at the start, then a presentation of the processing of sencha green tea and lastly a tea tasting of crude tea (the first initial process of green tea), and two different types of sencha. Before the seminar ended, we were shown a lesson on brewing sencha. It's very important to brew sencha correctly as the taste can be tempered easily if brewed too long or the temperature is too high.

Char-grilled Wagyu Sirloin, Confit Garlic Potato Purée, English Asparagus Tips 

Coco Dusted Seared Yellowtail Tuna, Shaved Fennel, Orange and Avocado Salad

Gin Cured Scottish Salmon, Pickled Radish, Toasted Cobb Nuts

Miso Glazed Scallop, Soba Noodles, Tempura Green Onions

Sencha Poached Chicken Breast on a Spring Salad of Baby Gem, Green Peas, Broad Beans, Radish and Lemon Dressing

English Truffle and Wild Mushroom Risotto, Shaved Berkswell Ewes Milk Cheese

Kamaboko

Scallops, Yellowtail and Wagyu nigiri

Yellowtail Shabu-Shabu

Spring Vegetables with Kinome Miso

Gobo Tempura Udon with Japanese Brown Tea Dashi 

Held in the beautiful ballroom of the InterContinental Park Lane, it was a night of feasting tasty food. Food expertly prepared by Head Chef of Nobu, Yashin Ocean House, Koya, InterContinental London and MuraTa Synergy & Associates (I think they are a private catering company?). As there are too many food to talk about, let me just pinpoint my favourites. The char-grilled wagyu sirloin was lush, melt in the mouth with the potato purée soaking up all the jus. The risotto was full of earthy flavour and the nigiri was fantastic. If you never had udon from Koya before, you're surely missing out. Fresh handmade udon with a bouncy texture in a light broth which I sipped it all up leaving no drip. I did not catch any of the desserts due to being full and I missed out on the second wagyu dish.

Hibiki 12 Year Old Whisky

Japan whisky seems to be dominating the whisky world at the moment. If you had a taste, you will understand why they are at the best of their game right now. Cheekily Mr. T had three tumblers of the hibiki which we have been eyeing up to buy. You can buy at Master of Malt for £50.87, the cheapest is at Waitrose for £37 but it is out of stock.

X3 Rose, Junmai (Japan Food Hall, £45.43)

Ginrei Gassan, Junmai Daiginjo

Shichida Junmai 75 (Ministry of Drinks, £24.99)

Dewazakura Tobiroku, Ginjo Nigori Nama Sparkling Sake (Hedonism Wines, £35.90)

Miyasaka Junmai Ginjo Yamahai 50 Nama (Hedonism Wines, £39.40)

Yamabuki Gold, Koshu Aged Sake (Japan Food Hall, £41.68)

Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo (Japan Gourmet, £31.40)

Houraisen WA Junmai Ginjo

Hakutsuru, Junmai Nigori Sayuri (Wai Yee Hong, £10.95)

Urakasumi Umeshu (Hedonism Wines, £64.60)

These were all the sake that was available for tasting. Truthfully, not going to comment on the sake because I don't remember the tasting note of it but I do know I absolutely love the umeshu. Plum wine is something that I don't get to drink much of it in UK but I'm horrified by how inflated the price is. It's priced at £64.60, Hedonism Wines is the only seller seemingly. The RRP is ¥1200 which is roughly less than £10. I'm guessing all the sake prices are quite inflated too. Ginrei Gassan is the only one that seems to be unavailable to buy in UK and Hourisen Wa I can only find it in two restuarants' drinks menu price respectably at £88, Matsuri St. James and £75, Tsunami. With an estimated of 2.5 markup price, roughly around the £30-35 mark if bought in a shop.

Wagyu Beef - flat iron cut(?)

Teapot and Tea Tasting Cups

All I can say is wow to this amazing event organised by the Japan External Trade Organization and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. It was a honour to witness a speech given by the deputy prime minister of Japan, Taro Aso. Not only that I walked away with unbelievable amount of knowledge about Japanese tea, I also had the chance of meeting the people behind Jing Tea makes me want to put my foot into the tea world and achieve my dream even more than before. A great end to the night was the amount of freebies received. Oh yes, I received a pack of wagyu beef (and tea leaves, teapot, soya sauce). I simply cannot deny wagyu beef when it is free.

Ballroom
InterContinental London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane
London, W1J 7QJ
Email: london@jp-food.jp
Twitter: @jpfoodlondon @JETRO_info
https://jp-food.jp/london/

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