We’re back for more nigori and chocolate!
We enjoyed the first attempt to ask “does nigori go with chocolate?” so much (mainly by countering with “which form of chocolate?”) that we wrote up a short list of what other forms we’d like to try and after a brief trip to the shops we were ready to try again.
I was in town on a Sunday on my way back from a spectacular coffee tasting at MAME – Emi had just won the Swiss filter championship, Matthieu had won Swiss barista, and Matt had won Swedish barista! They swapped coffees with the other contestants so it was a lineup of truly outstanding espresso and filter coffees, although some would have been a bit much for everyday drinking.
This being Switzerland, very few shops are open on Sundays but restaurants are so I stopped in to Yooji’s sushi restaurant to pick up a bottle of the nigori I had seen there. It’s supplied by Shizuku, like the sarubobo cup from the Hirase brewery in Takayama they’ve had in stock for the last few months. That seems to be on its way out as the “sake club” selection, being replaced by Square One from the Masu-Ichi brewery in Obuse, Nagano. Not sure about the dynamics of replacing a 180 ml cup for about CHF 6.00 with a 720 ml bottle for CHF 70.00, but fingers crossed.
Anyway, back to the nigori. It was Shirobuta (white pig) from the Nihonkai brewery, presented in a modern straight-sided bottle with minimalist white labelling and a cartoon of a pig. The ingredients were short and sweet as it’s a junmai, so the Japanese just listed rice and kōji rice (both from Japan) whereas the German label also listed water. (I have the bottle and the Kikusui Gorohachi bottle to look at the labels later.)
We tasted the nigori on its own first. The aroma from the bottle was full of lactic acidity, but more milky than the sour-cream-like notes of the Gorohachi. There was plenty of lemon and sharp acidity. There was also rice, some flowery and fruity notes, maybe peach – peaches and thin cream. When poured it also looked thinner than the Gorohachi, and in the small ochoko it smelled a bit sweeter with some chalky vanilla/kōji notes.
On tasting, it was noticeably sour, quite thin with a strong note of lemon juice, some unripe peach and very strong acidity. I was slightly worried about whether it was going to pair with anything.
- Chocolate brownie The slightly dry chocolate cake in the first tasting hadn’t worked so well, so we went for something fudgier this time and it worked! The Shirobuta was actually pretty pleasant in the mouth with the brownie and the acidity cut through the fudgy chocolate taste. The nigori came out refreshingly fruity, better than on its own. There was a zingy aftertaste, with the alcohol more prominent.
- White chocolate truffle With the white truffle and nigori in the mouth together, there was a flash of lemon/acidity that was drowned out by the truffle centre, then a flash of alcohol but less noticeable. Was the flavour profile too similar and they were cancelling each other out? The butter and sugar in the truffle were really noticeable, and although they were all right together I wonder if nigori could be incorporated into the truffle instead.
- Milk chocolate truffle This worked well – the sake was a bit more noticeable but also mellow. The nigori thinned out the chocolate taste a little but blended with it, again it would be good incorporated into the truffle if possible. There was good contrast, a bit stronger than with the white chocolate, and the alcohol not as noticeable. Tasting the nigori after the chocolate wasn’t so good, it came out very bitter.
- Dark chocolate truffle This was excellent, with many of the same positives as the milk chocolate truffle but the richer, more intense flavour of the dark chocolate truffle increased the contrast even more. It felt like the nigori was floating on the dark chocolate flavours rather than blending with them, but it worked well with the alcohol and acidity much less noticeable. Like the milk chocolate, nigori afterwards came out very bitter.
- Rice pudding Surprisingly nice! The pudding highlighted some acidity but the overall sweetness and heaviness neutralised a lot of the acidity. There was a pleasant tang that highlighted the sugariness and heaviness of the pudding. Again, it occurred to me that incorporating nigori into the pudding would work well. (I’m seeing a theme here.)
- Chocolate milk Oh yes. The flavours blended really well, with the chocolate milk giving the Shirobuta some creaminess and sweetness that it needed. Again the nigori gave the whole some tart, tangy notes so they would be a good combo. The chocolate milk I got wasn’t that intense, so I’ll try it again with another brand (or make my own) and I think it would also be worth a try hot.
Overall, David rated the dark chocolate truffle as top combination, followed by the brownie and milk chocolate truffle. He didn’t rate the chocolate milk, rice pudding or white chocolate truffle. I couldn’t decided between the milk and dark chocolate truffle for top spot, brownie definitely next. I still liked the chocolate milk and rice pudding combination, but the white chocolate truffle really didn’t work.
And – no points for guessing this – we got some more ideas for another tasting! I’ll pick up another nigori (probably Hakutsuru’s Sayuri as I can get it easily) and a few more sweet things – maybe even a few savoury – and we’ll do this again soon!