One of my favorite Christmases involved a 2019 trip to Japan… After all, there is something to be said about Japan having some of the best sights, people, transportation, shopping, food, and drinks on earth. It was the experience that cemented my love for sake, Japanese beer, and pairing them with scrumptious food from a nearby neighborhood izakaya.
With travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, we had to make do with what we could find locally for a couple of Christmases. Much as we love Japanese mom and pop groceries in different parts of the metro, however… There is nothing like a wonderfully curated, readily stocked proper Japanese supermarket.
This notion (and admittedly a bit of longing) made us excited when we heard that Mitsukoshi Fresh was coming to town, making JETRO-approved products available in the market.
The Japan External Trade Organization is a “government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.” They have been continuously finding means to help small to medium Japanese enterprises around the world to “maximize their global export potential.”
One of their programs is the “Certification of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas,” an initiative that has been around since 2016. It certifies restaurants and retail stores that use Japanese food and alcoholic drinks as “Japanese Food Supporters.”
One of these stores is the Mitsukoshi Mall at Bonifacio Global City. Admittedly, our family initially explored the mall during its opening weekend because of Kinokuniya… but we were quickly distracted by Mitsukoshi Fresh. Unfortunately, as it was opening weekend, it was impossible to move around with the amount of people. We were pleasantly surprised with the selection, though.
The disappointment of not being able to shop to my heart’s content (I’ll go back on a weekday) disappeared during the JETRO x Mitsukoshi Dinner held in Ikomai, Salcedo Village. While undoubtedly Chef James Antolin made delicious interpretations of Japanese food (the Glazed Sendai Wagyu Sirloin Beef Yakiniku Sando, Aburi Sendai Wagyu Beef Sushi, and Tropical Tokyo are forever seared in my memory), I have to say that the drinks served were nothing short of awesome.
Bonus: These drinks are available in Mitsukoshi Fresh, giving all of us the opportunity to give the gift of proper Japanese alcohol to friends.
Here are my favorite featured drinks:
Shichiken Furinbizan Junmai
This multi-awarded sake is one of the creamiest, richest sakes I’ve ever had the good fortune to taste. It went fantastically with Truffle Sendai Wagyu Beef Tartare and the Aburi Sendai Wagyu Beef Sushi. We were told that its sparkling version is coming soon, so I’m looking forward to that.
I’m also hoping they’d sell the masu. 😉
Rokuchoushi Shochu Red Label
I have a confession: I’m not too fond of shochu. Most of them have been too rough for my palate.
HOWEVER. Rokuchoushi Red Label is the first shochu I fell in love with.
A little primer: Sake is fermented while shochu is distilled… Also, shochu has a higher ABV than sake. Sake involves rice as its key raw material while shochu can be distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat brown sugar, chestnut, sesame seeds, potatoes, or even carrots.
That said, the Rokuchoushi Shochu Red Label is made from rice. After distillation, it was aged for 13 years in oak barrels… giving the shochu a smoother texture and a better flavor concentration.
Sakurajima Komikan Gin & Tonic
In my years of Japanese alcohol consumption – whether it’s their spirits, wine, cocktails, or beer – there is one underlying flavor profile in every one of them: a beautiful sense of subtlety. A Japanese whisky aficionado once told me that they make their liquor to match their food… and really, very few Japanese food can be described as having intense flavors or aromas.
Having said that, the Komasa Sakurajima Komikan Gin stays true to this philosophy. It’s got elegant, refreshing, refined notes and flavors of oranges from having Sakurajima Komikan included in its list of botanicals. Top a shot of it with tonic water on ice, add an orange peel… The perfect, quick, and easy holiday cocktail.
Trivia: The Sakurajima Komikan is the world’s smallest mandarin orange.
Beniotome Shochu Lemon Sour
I’d love to try the Beniotome Superiore 10 Years Aged Barley Shochu on its own. It’s supposedly a sweet smelling shochu made by adding roasted sesame to the barley shochu. It’s then aged for at least 10 years in French oak barrels, lending to it a sweet vanilla aroma. It comes in a pretty wooden box, too.
It worked wonderfully as part of a Lemon Sour, though. I particularly loved how the tart acidity of the cocktail cut through the rich textures of the Sendai Wagyu Sirloin Tonkatsu Ramen.
Hot Hojicha Komasa Gin
A gin made out of Japanese green tea? Yes please. Hojicha is a type of Japanese green tea that is roasted in a porcelain pot over hot charcoal (as opposed to other Japanese teas, which are steamed) and is light gold in color. It’s got roasted aromas with a hint of charcoal, and there’s an unmistakable green tea tannin and flavor profile.
It completely blew my mind because yes, I’m used to having hot Japanese tea… but a hot Japanese gin? It was a wonderful first. I thought it was a perfect digestif and paired well with the Tropical Tokyo, Chef James’ take on the quintessential Tokyo pasalubong.