With it being the 31st of December and oysters featuring traditionally on the evening’s menu, two questions arise: which wine is the best match with raw oysters and how do we open them ?
When pairing food and wine there are a few general guide lines to follow:
find a wine that will not overpower what you are eating;
match (or contrast) the main features of the food/dish;
and not least importantly choose a wine that suits your budget and that you enjoy.
What are the main attributes of oysters? Undoubtedly their utter freshness above all things, as well as their lightness and their delicate mineral, salty taste.
You will want to choose a wine that shows the same characteristics as the oysters: a wine that is light, fresh with a clean finish, that will not override with power nor complexity the delicious, subtle taste from the sea.
So don’t think so much about the grape variety but more about the style of the wine. Your ideal wine should thus be dry, white, young, and unoaked with refreshing acidity. Many wines will fit that description and that leaves a wide choice of grape varieties and points of origin. Here are some classic suggestions of wines to choose from.
A Muscadet from the Loire Valley, France
A Sauvignon de Touraine, or another young Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley such as a Menetou-Salon or a steely Sancerre
Gros Plan du Pays Nantais, from the Loire
A Chablis, from Burgundy, France
An Entre-deux-Mers, a Pessac-Léognan, a Graves, a Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, or a Bordeaux Blanc from Bordeaux, France
A Riesling from Alsace, France
From outside of France:
An unoaked Chenin Blanc from South Africa
A Pinot Gris from Oregon, USA
An unoaked Chardonnay from Sonoma, California
A Sauvignon-Sémillon or Chardonnay from Margaret River
And the list can go on…
What about bubbles with oysters? Doubtful that a celebratory bottle of fizz won’t be opened on the 31st, so can it wash down the oysters?
If champagne is your drink of choice throughout the evening, select one that is as dry as possible and that has a high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend. An Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc will work nicely.
Now to opening the bivalves… I confess that I have until last year been nervous about doing it myself and have left the feat to others.
I found out, however, that – holding the oyster steady under a folded tea-towel with your hand in a thick leather gardening glove whilst your other hand prises the oyster open – does the trick!
Sushi Sho has been for some years now on my “must-go-and-eat-there-before-I-die” list or, if that sounds rather unnecessarily tragic, on the “must-go-and-eat-there-before-it-closes-down” list. I say that because I never made it to Fäviken to partake in Magnus Nilsson’s edible artistry before it closed. That is one of my big regrets.
Back to Sushi Sho.
I was commissioned recently to write an article on sake, so I seized the occasion to venture down to this much talked-about restaurant whose traditional Tokyo-style sushi have been making waves in Stockholm since its launch in 2014. I threw to the wind the idea that feasting in a one Michelin star warrants either a celebration, or diners-in-crime, or the end of the week, and rocked up on my own, casually, on a very cold Tuesday night.
The restaurant is located in Vasastan, right opposite Bacchus Antik, an antique shop I used to love spending time in when visiting Stockholm, in the days before I settled here. The shop is crammed full of Scandinavian ceramics, furniture, lamps and other household goods. I would glance through the earthenware hoping, as one does, to find an affordable vase or figure by the iconic Swedish designer Stig Lindberg.
On the other side of the road, tucked away behind a small windowed front is Sushi Sho, an unassuming cosy eatery with an L-shaped bar that seats twelve people. The sushi is served omakase お任せ, meaning the meal is left up to the chef, and he will have selected only the best and freshest produce in season. The food is presented as otsumami お摘み, the Japanese equivalent to tapas, i.e. small dishes to pair with drinks .
The idea at Sushi Sho is that you book a time and you share it with all the other diners. It’s a bit like being invited to a dinner party without knowing the other guests. You make yourself comfortable at the bar and the chefs prepare the food in front of you and serve everyone the same menu at the same time. One platter is followed by another. I lost count but I think there were about 8 or 9 dishes in total. Here, there is no risk for a waiter to forget your first course, or to leave you interminably stranded with no main. Like a ballet performance, your empty earthenware dish is smoothly whisked out stage right and a delicious new course makes an apparition from stage left.
So bravely I relinquished all control and let the restaurant decide on both my food and the sake. I say bravely as, like most people, I play it safe and tend to stick to what I know. Furthermore, eating raw fish feels slightly risky and the most comfortable for me has always been salmon or tuna with rice. At Sushi Sho I broke through my mental boundaries and the whole meal was an adventure.
The first dish threw me into the deep end. It was a sashimi 刺身 with the thinly sliced fresh raw fish served with nothing other than a little wasabi 山葵 paste and nori 海苔 dip. No salmon, but razor clams, octopus and scallops. This was followed by ankimo あん肝, monkfish liver, cooked in a sweet dashi and sake sauce. Unknown to me (I had no idea that the flat-faced ugly looking monkfish had a huge liver – what has he been drinking we wonder…), ankimo has become a delicacy and I was struck by the airy and creamy texture and how little it tasted of fish. Another surprise for me was sushi 寿司 or to be more specific nigiri 握り (sushi without seaweed) made with “röding” (char) a typically Swedish fish, that is caught in mountain lakes and streams. Delicious, but my preference went for Sushi Sho’s seabass and yellowtail nigiri.
If fish is the main staple, a few less fish-only dishes punctuated the menu: a wonderful classic cooked daikon 大根 (winter radish) with a white shiro 白 miso 味噌 sauce, and Sushi Sho’s signature dish, a soy cured egg yolk with okra, puffed rice and of course … a little sashimi.
At the end of the meal the chefs offered as an extra some special tuna they had in and let us choose how we wanted it prepared. I opted for sashimi and I have to say it was the best and tastiest raw tuna I have ever had. It was a cut from the fattiest part of the tuna’s belly, otoro, おとろ. The pink flesh is streaked with thin lines of fat that melt in your mouth thereby releasing sweet, savoury and meaty flavours.
There are a few places in Stockholm that you have to go to if you want to drink good sake and Sushi Sho is one of them. I took the sake package and was not disappointed. It included four different styles of premium sake, nihon-shu 日本酒.
The opening sake was a Junmai 純米 Daiginjo 大吟醸 from the brewer Dewazakura. Delicate, precise, alive, creamy and light in body with very fruity aromas, it was a perfect accompaniment to the sashimi. (Dewazakura Ichiro Junmai DaiginjoMuroka Nama Genshu – Picture: top left)
The second sake was a Tokubetsu 特別 Junmai 純米. Crisp and clean with a neat finish and elegant richness. This palate cleanser of a sake was a good transition from the fish to the daikon. (Hirotogawa Tokubetsu Junmaifrom the brewer Matsuzaki Shuzo in FukushimaPrefecture – Picture: top right)
A pretty pink label with white and silver writing was the next sake tasted. As the colour of the label suggests, this is a fun sake, easy to drink and quite popular at the moment. It is an Origarami おりがらみ – as can be read on the neck of the bottle. It is a little cloudy, slightly spritzy, fresh, with very fruity tones, a hint of vanilla and some sweetness. This is a result of the sake being unfiltered 無濾過, unpasteurised 生 and with a high rice polishing ratio. It is also non-diluted 原酒 and at 17% abv, a little higher in alcohol. You can pick up this information through the kanji on the left side of the label. (Fudoh Junmai Ginjo Origarami Nama from the brewer Nabedana in Chiba Prefecture)
The last sake tasted was an earthy Junmai 純米. A memorable punchy orange label, which helps with identification, it is a trophy sake from the same brewer as the first one tasted. The sommelier poured out two glassfuls of the ninhon-shu, one cool and the other warmed, to compare its expression. Junmai sakes are characterful, flavourful, have more body and acidity. They are well suited to be served at room or warmed temperatures. This brings out the ricey and earthy flavours of the sake. In addition to that it procures physical satisfaction on a cold evening. (Dewazakura Dewanosato Junmai)
I am very pleased to have made it to Sushi Sho. The food is outstanding, the sake excellent and last but not least the staff was welcoming, friendly and totally invested in creating the best experience for the diner.
Sushi Sho Upplandsgatan 45 113 28 Stockholm Sweden