Whenever Dr. Grape Pairings and I want to celebrate and go out for a meal, we tend to go for sushi. We go all out with our orders, choosing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Dr. Grape Pairings prefers the rolls, where as I go for the nigiri/sashimi meals. When Dr. Grape Pairings and I celebrate, we usually go to Tachibana in McLean, Virginia, but more on that later.
Sushi can be a tricky food to pair with alcohol. There are so many different sauces in the different rolls, from spicy mayo to soy sauce to sesame seed oil. The fish can be fatty and flavorful (like tuna), or lean and flavorless (like yellowtail). What should you pair with your sushi?
When eating sushi, there are three drinks that I would recommend to accompany your meal. If you like beer, order a Japanese one. Mr. Grape Pairings usually goes for Sapporo or Kirin Ichiban. He enjoys how the body and foam of the beer goes with many different heavier sauces that you find in sushi rolls, such as spicy mayo.
If you prefer wine, you have two options. The first is sake. Sake is a rice wine that is fermented more like a beer than a wine. It can be served cold or warm. It has an interesting, umami flavor that you also get in soy sauce. The flavor is also very earthy fresh, with flavors like grass, cedar, and rose. While the taste of sake is smooth, it goes down like a shot, where it has a nice but slight burning sensation going down your throat. This is not due to the alcohol level (there is about 15% alcohol), but the acidity. To me, sake pairs best with nigiri or sashimi. Those earthy flavors are heightened by the freshness of the fish and not lost in the sauces or other ingredients of a roll.
If you don’t like sake or have not tried it yet, you can’t go wrong with pretty much any white wine. Champagne or any sparkling wine is a great choice for sashimi or nigiri. It is flavorful enough to be eaten with fattier fish, but also delicate enough to enhance lighter, less flavorful fish. On top of all that, bubbles are fun! White wines, such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, or Gewürztraminer are great pairings for rolls, as they go with the fish as well as the avocado, vegetables, and sauces inside the roll.
Tachibana is a sushi bar and Japanese restaurant in McLean, VA. They are known for their fresh sushi and their overall delicious Japanese food. They are somewhat pricy, but the food is quality and top notch. Tachibana’s menu is extensive, with classic rolls that you would find at most Sushi restaurants (like a Spicy Tuna Roll), but they also have creative rolls such as the Natto Maki Roll (fermented soybeans).
I almost always order the Chirashi Bowl when I go out for sushi. Chirashi Bowls include cuts of a variety of raw fish on top of a bed of sushi rice. Usually there is a shrimp tail and three cuts each of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, mackerel, and crab sticks. The chef may include other cuts of fish of which there may be excess, but it is always fresh. I also order the warm house sake to go with my Chirashi because I feel like I get the fullest flavor out of the fish. I always leave Tachibana feeling light and refreshed, and know that I enjoyed a wonderful, healthy, celebratory dinner.
Questions for you:
- Do you like sushi?
- What do you usually drink with sushi?
- When you celebrate, is there one cuisine/meal that you tend to have?