in a shrinking world!
Large saké bottles line the counter; remnants of good times past and a promise of good times to come. The aroma of bincho smoke, grilled fish, meat and vegetables permeate the modern Izakaya in the land of the rising sun. Things have changed since my last visit. The west has insinuated itself into the beverage lists as fine wine from California, France, Spain and Italy push the classic libations of saké and beer to smaller sections. I love saké and beer with traditional Japanese fare but it also makes sense that more attention is being paid to wine.
Fresh seafood, meats and veggies, baptized by the subtle smoke of the binchotan grill, welcomes the introduction of bright whites and juicy reds into the Japanese culinary vernacular. The umami of soy sauce, mushrooms, bonito flakes and miso mixed with high notes of ume, shiso leaves, shredded cabbage and the juicy savory notes of grilled fish and poultry, make big bottles of Pinot Blanc just as appealing as that big bottle of saké. But then there are also the straight presentations of both raw and fried oysters, shellfish and crustaceans that just want to be paired with a great bottle of white wine.
The west was once the melting pot of great cuisine. Now, all cultures seem to be mining each other’s culinary traditions for inspiration. There is something wonderful about celebrating authenticity and tradition but there is also something very exciting about being inspired and borrowing a shared appreciation of craft. After all, the American wine industry was inspired by the traditions of France, Italy and Germany. We emulated their techniques, adopted their varieties and eventually honed our craft and are now making some of the most enjoyable wines in the world. The same is true of cuisine, but the difference is that the melting pot is now the whole world.