So a few weeks ago, I attended a craft beer and sake pairing dinner at the RA Sushi Bar and Restaurant in Tustin, California. This was the first of its kind ever and I wanted to share my experience with you.
This event was hosted inside the restaurant, on their dining floor. There was approximately 20-25 guests and we were seated in small groups of 5 to 6 per table. I felt that this was essential to the overall experience since it allowed the guests to socialize and discuss each pairing (instead of just eating/drinking alone). This socialization is an important part of human culture.
The host/MC and his associates were delightful and very welcoming. After a brief introduction, the tables were each brought an order of their signature Garlic Edamame dish to share. Oh my! These edamame were so flavorful!
These little ‘nuggets’ are steamed and then sauteed in a house-made garlic butter to order. Add some spicy sauce and BAM! Garlic Edamame! That seasoning you see around the plate – that’s Togarashi. And a squeeze of the lemon wedge completes the dish! (If you enjoy edamame – step it up with an order of these! So much better!)
THE FIRST COURSE
The first course arrived with a small tasting of the Kizakura “Pure” Junmai Sake. Imported from Kyoto, Japan, this sake is super clean. Very crisp and smooth. I had already sipped through half the glass by the time the crab cake arrived to the party!
This seared super lump crab cake is so tasty! The crab cake is usually served with two – but for the tasting – we each received one. It may not look like much but you’ll be surprised at the robust flavor once you take a bite. Flaky and hot crab mixed with the toasted Panko breading is a delight. Pairing with the spicy mayo gives it a slight kick that will send your taste buds for a ride.
THE SECOND COURSE
The Spicy Shrimp Soup is amazing! It is simple and hearty. Definitely a “must have” on a cold rainy day. The spicy miso broth is filled with soft cubed tofu, sliced green onions, sliced shitake mushrooms and bok choy. Added to the broth are large pieces of shrimp and served with fried sushi rice “bricks” – and you have yourself a soup!
The pairing for this soup was the “Pineapple Sculpin” from Ballast Point. I personally don’t care for IPAs – not a fan of the hoppy beer. But this one wasn’t that bad. By itself, I wouldn’t have drank it. But when it was paired with the soup, it tasted more balanced.
Just a few editor notes: When you order this in the restaurant, you can modify it “less spicy” if you desire. For those who are vegetarian, you can omit the shrimp and add more veggies and tofu. And for those who love ramen – my suggestion is to add on an order of yakisoba noodles or Udon noodles – and beef up this soup to make it a complete meal!
THE THIRD COURSE
The Pacific Roll is a RA classic that has made an impressive comeback. Years prior, this roll was a huge hit. But over time, it was removed from the menu. More recently, it was featured on the seasonal menu and the guests went wild! So now it’s back on the menu – available every day.
The sake pairing for the Pacific Roll was the Hakutsuru Sayuri “Little Lily” Nigori Sake. This sake is imported from Hyogo, Japan and has a sweet finish. It paired perfectly with the Pacific Roll because of the sweet mango salsa.
THE FOURTH COURSE
Chicken Yakisoba was next up. This stir-fry dish was very filling. Stir-fried Asian vegetables with yakisoba noodles and chunks of chicken breast are a hit. Lightly tossed in yakisoba sauce, the vegetables have a slight crunch to them. It paired well with the Asahi, Super “Dry”.
THE FIFTH COURSE
To finish out the tastings, we were served an amazingly sweet dessert. Lite yet full of flavor – the Mochi Trio were a fan favorite! Strawberry, Mango, and vanilla flavored ice cream wrapped in sweet rice cake.
The pairing with the Nigori Lycheetini was perfect! The Lycheetini was a creamy sweet sake martini that ended the night on a high note. Very sweet and a great end to an amazing dinner!
I’d like to take a moment to thank the RA Tustin team for an awesome night of tasty food and delicious drinks! Your service is always impeccable! I look forward to your next one!