Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Difficult wine pairings with Japanese non-sushi at Himawari



My favorite Japanese non-sushi in the Bay Area is now officially Himawari. Filled with Japanese families, this hole-in-the-wall place in downtown San Mateo has not disappointed yet. Their ramen soups, agedashi tofu, and fried chicken are just some of the perfectly executed dishes served. But it's notoriously non-obvious which wines to pair with them, outside of the always-safe Champagne. So I asked my friend and wine director at Donato Enoteca - Eric Lecours - for recommendations. Given that Eric has lived in Japan, is married to a Japanese, and was the one who introduced me to Himawari, who better to ask for wine pairing advise?! Here is what he suggested.


Delicious spinach ("goma ae"), amazingly non-stringy and non-chewy texture (as spinach can easily get), with the intensely good sesame dressing.
Paired with: Napa Sauvignon Blanc (slightly grassy with a bit of residual sugar).

Best-ever fried chicken ("chicken kara age"). I guess this is Japanese version of KFC, but soooo much better. Super crispy on the outside, and dripping moist on the inside. Dipped into the Japanese mayo, once you start, you can't stop.
Paired with: crisp (but with some fat) Macon Blanc (white Burgundy) or a nice Fleurie (Beaujolais, France).


Himawari have the best agedashi tofu I've ever had - the sheet of dry seaweed, the bonito shavings, the crispy tofu, the scallions, dipped in an intense broth.
Paired with: Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve (from Alsace, France)


Profoundly satisfying, clear-broth Ramen ("shoyu ramen") with pork cuts and seaweed. I saw tiny Japanese kids devour whole bowls by themselves! (Also, try dropping in a few pinches of roasted garlic shavings, conveniently available at every table.)
Paired with:Baumard Savennieres (Chenin Blanc, Loire, France)


Intensely flavorful, spicy garlic Ramen with ground pork ("tan tan men").
Paired with: Dr Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Riesling (Germany, slightly sweet).

Himawari food is as good as you get in Japan. There is always a line outside, and they don't take reservations, so come early, and enjoy!

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