Shōchū and The Power of Our Team at Cavatina
I did a fun thing at our Shōchū Tasting Event at Cavatina: I brought a guest who had never been to the Sunset Marquis. And then, I had her send me some of her thoughts from this event. So, what follows is an amalgamation of my descriptions of the event, her first-time experience of the hotel and restaurant, my quippy thoughts on everything, as well as details from the event’s menu. All in all, this entire blog is dedicated to the magnificent Shōchū Tasting Event, and – more generally – the prowess of our restaurant, Cavatina, and its capacity to throw inimitable dinners and events.
First of all, the Shōchū Tasting Event was an extraordinary, luxurious, and thorough introduction to Shōchū. Shōchū, for those who don’t already know, is a Japanese distilled beverage that is less than 45% alcohol by volume. There are multiply distilled Shōchū and singly distilled Shōchū, and it can be distilled by a remarkably wide range of foods, including rice, barley, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and sometimes even chestnut, sesame seeds, potatoes, or carrots. Our event was presented by The Miyazaki Prefecture of Japan, which is a Japanese prefecture on the island of Kyushu.
Tori Gleeson had only moved to Los Angeles from Georgia two weeks before our Shōchū dinner, and, again, it was her very first time at the Sunset Marquis. She wrote to me, “Upon arrival to the Sunset Marquis hotel, what I now consider to be one of West Hollywood’s hidden gems, I was instantly greeted by friendly hotel staff members and curious lobby-gazers. I made my way through the zen gardens of the property, passing the pool and crossing the koi fish pond by way of a lovely garden bridge.” If you’re reading this blog, you either know this walk well or are interested in doing it soon for the first time. In either case, we highly recommend.
Tori continued: “My short walk led me straight to a group of what I would come to know as ‘adventurous spirit-tasters’ or better yet, ‘my kind of people.’ I was among an exclusive group of ladies and gentleman that had been invited to partake on a journey to learn about the ancient art of distillation of the famous Japanese beverage, Shōchū.” The night was simultaneously focused on learning about the ancient art and tasting its wide range of flavors with different pairings and in different cocktails. We had three different Shōchū makers presenting. In total, this extraordinary dinner event presented food pairings featuring nine different Shōchū varietals that were custom crafted by our very own and dear Executive Chef Luis Morales. And did you clock Tori’s “exclusive group of ladies and gentlemen”? Well, we’ll keep it simple and say that there was no shortage of intrigue when you gazed around at the fellow attendees.
“The tasting began with what would turn out to be one of my favorite sips of the night, a cocktail containing Shōchū but with gorgeous ginger notes that were the perfect balance to a spirit that could very well stand alone,” Tori wrote, and I couldn’t agree more! I was sitting next to Tori, if you’d like to picture it further, and this first cocktail of the night was absolutely divine. Rihei Ginger (Ochiai) was used to make the “You, Me, & Boshi” cocktail with umeboshi, lemon, and rihei. Executive Chef Luis served his first pairing: Spot Prawns, shiso, and lardo.
We sipped our cocktails, ate our prawns, and smiled with several other fabulous friends, while looking at the pile of resources about Shōchū and goodies around us. Tori wrote, “We were then encouraged to bring our attention to a generous packet in front of us, which not only included bountiful information on the traditional spirit, but a map of the evening’s tastings and food pairings.” I will add that there were nine sparkling, empty glasses in front of us too, which added a luster and extreme elegance to the table settings, as well as an impending excitement for all food and beverage that were coming.
“After an eloquent introduction to the evening’s events, we embarked on a journey to taste the Japanese beverage in its variously distilled forms—a trip not made by the weak. By weak, I mean if you can’t hold your own on the liquor front, you probably (most definitely) weren’t going to survive the night…keeping in mind that we had 9 rounds of taste pairings ahead of us.” To be 100% honest with you – and I am audibly laughing as I write this – a dear friend in attendance, who was suffering from jet lag (he travels a lot for work), fell asleep as I drove him home from the event later that night. I consider this a success for everyone involved – the nine Shōchū and food pairings made a robust culinary experience, and my friend got a throughly good night’s sleep afterward.
For all the experts in the house, I am going to run you through the Shōchū we had the honor of tasting, as well as the insanely delicious food pairings Chef Luis Morales created for the evening. From Tori, “As we moved on to try diverse distillations of the most common base ingredients including sweet potato, barley, rice, buckwheat, and sugar cane, we were also able to enjoy some of Chef Luis Morales’s dishes [which were] the most delectable plates I’ve ever been met with.” Ask anyone who was at this event, and they will tell you that the food was out of this world. For us regulars – who already show up again and again to eat our favorite dishes from Chef Luis Morales – it is a shock when he outdoes our already infinitely high opinion of his culinary skills. So “stellar” and “extraordinary,” these words are understatements.
Ok, now for the pairings, easy reading, and the detail-oriented, I am going to list the extreme superiority that went onto our tastebuds that night:
Heihachiro (Kyoya) paired with Tako & Caviar (dashi emulsion, sea greens, and lemon)
Yanagita (Koma) paired with Kanpachi (seasme leche de tigre, gooseberries, and tomatoes)
Kaze No Fukuro (Ochiai) paired with Duck Speck (plum)
Akae (Ochiai) paired with Trout Nanbanzuke (crispy rice and pickles)
Kappa No Sasoimizu (Kyoya) paired with Scallop (black garlic aioli and sweet potato puree)
Yanagita Mizunara (Yanagida) paired with Miyazaki Wagyu (mushrooms, mustard, and spring onions)
Aokage (Yanagida) paired with Robiola (kadota figs, truffle honey, and sesame)
Yuzu Gin (Kyoya) paired with Mango Tapioca Pudding (cocunt snow and yuzu sorbet)
Can you believe all that? Truly, I’ll have to thank Chef Luis again next time I see him – for ruining food for me forever by making this unbeatable dinner.
And as you can imagine, with all the Shōchū in our systems and with everyone getting wildly excited by the food, “The energy in the room began to pick up as the spirit was doing exactly what it was created to do,” continued Tori. I concur. By the end of the night, this was the most boisterous and sophisticated dinner event you could imagine. Everyone I know that was in attendance was blown away by the presentation of the history of the distillation, by the Shōchū itself, and by the out-of-this-world food. Friends that attended bring up the event persistently with me, constantly wanting to attend more like it.
This unique and intimate event is one of the many examples of how our Cavatina Restaurant at the Sunset Marquis is going above and beyond for her guests. Our events have heart and are niche and expert, and I liked the way Tori put it best: “It was an event masterfully orchestrated to introduce your palate to a new world of flavors via different Shōchū flavor profiles.” And we offer much more in the way of that.
Please sign up for our email list to stay up-to-date on more events like this one! Thank you to Tori for throwing some words at us for the blog, and thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more indelible events – like this one! – at the Sunset Marquis Hotel.