On October 12th, New York Mutual Trading’s 20th annual Japanese Food & Restaurant Expo was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion. It was my second time attending and like last year the crowd was outstanding.  You had to carefully snake your way through the swarm of people and the jumble of tables and vendor booths. But persistence paid off with the enjoyment of yummy samples and some interesting oddities as well.

The day started off with a clever fusion of Japanese cuisine and Hawaiian poke. I can live on poke (in fact it was all we ate on our last vacation to The Big Island.)  The sample was a piece of sashimi marinated using koji and mixed with seaweed and sweet onions.  Miyako Oriental Foods also offered a blend of Yamajirushi Yuzu base seasoning mixed with mayonnaise and served as a dipping sauce for veggies or tofu cubes.  Simple and delicious!

Mr. Chef was very excited to find 100% frozen wasabi.  Nothing but wasabi.  No horseradish no nothing. Now we just need to explore and see if Mitsuwa, H-Mart, Daido or Fuji-mart carries it.  You can get fresh wasabi at Mitsuwa (next to the mushrooms in the veggie isle) but we live too far away to shop there more than once a month.  Having a pure frozen option would be great; can’t stand the powder and tube choices – yuck.

dassai beyond at 2013 jfre nyc

Now onto the serious stuff.  Sake! I know. I am super biased.  I <3 Dassai.  But those clever folks at the brewery had a trick hidden up their sleeves.  They presented 3 sakes that I had never had or heard of before.  The first was a variation using centrifuge pressing technology.  The second was a milky New Year’s exclusive only offered for the holidays.  But the third, oh my, a new star is born. They just introduced a brand new jewel to their lineup called Beyond (“Sonosakie.”)  And it couldn’t have been named it better.

Into the Beyond

As a response to many customer requests to craft something new and uber-premium, this is Dassai’s reply. And I applaud the brand for the integrity they put into the challenge.  They could have easily drafted a fancy label, tweak the recipe slightly, and slap on a higher price tag, and call it a day.  Instead, 10 years in the making, they pushed the limits and themselves beyond. 23 percent polishing was thought to be the final frontier, any further and the rice grains crumble.  But if you go just a bit beyond that point what will you find.  Apparently you find perfection.  This sake shines and is truly a luxury.  Wholesale price is around $400 and after experiencing it, you know why.  I should find better adjectives, but a zen experience which is delightfully smooth is the best I can do.

They skillfully delivered on their mission.  While Beyond might be out of reach for many, the fact is they are still one of the best priced premium sakes on the market.  High quality at an accessible price.  So if you get a chance to try Beyond don’t miss it.  If not, then do indulge in their 50, 39 or 23.

katsuboshi ebi green tea and miso pizza

The unexpected find was Miso Pizza.  This was a ridiculously simple snack made using a slice of bread smothered in a rich red miso paste.  It was topped with onions and cheese then toasted till the cheese melts.  A super cheap and tasty treat that would be great as an after school snack for kids.  The head of the company (will have to look it up) was the cutest thing ever.  He was decked out in a traditional coordinate and with his bristle brush mustache gave the impression of being Japan’s Colonel Sanders.

Another imaginative item was individually wrapped candies made to look like nigiri sushi.  The design of the plastic wrapper acts as the sushi topping (neta) and includes the nori belt that binds the topping to the rice. And a small white candy characterizes the rice.  On that sweet note, that wraps up my experience at this year’s expo. Itadakimasu!

nigiri style sushi candy at jfre nyc