Tucked away down an alley in Green Point, Izakaya Matsuri is a little Japanese restaurant that’s fast becoming known for its authentic cuisine. Every nook, cranny and corner is filled with the ebullient personality of its chef-patron, Arata Koga: from colourful artwork collected over the years to paper lanterns in different hues and little café tables made comfortable with patterned cushions.
Traditionally, an izakaya is a place to go after work for food and drinks, but don’t let this Cape Town version’s casual demeanour fool you. Arata is a chef of note, having previously worked at Tank in Cape Town and Genki in Stellenbosch, before striking out on his own to offer fresh, inventive sushi and tapas-style Japanese dishes. As for dessert, he keeps it simple with offerings that include ice cream, wasabi, black sesame and green tea.
Nevertheless – for the exercise of pairing a dessert with sake – Arata created a whimsical sweet sushi dish comprising four balls of sushi rice topped with different flavourings, which were all chosen to go with a dry Kikusakari sake: sour dried plums to offset the fruity flavours of the wine, slices of strawberry and mango to enhance it and, lastly, matcha to show how well sake can pair with other umami flavours. “The best way to serve sake is at room temperature, as opposed to straight from the fridge,” Arata explains. “On the other hand, overheating sake can kill its flavour,” he adds.
When comparing it to traditional grape wine, sake has a lower acidity. “But it’s also similar in the fact that it has different flavour profiles that pair better with certain foods, just like wine has,” Arata elaborates. Furthermore, sake is a drink that’s high in amino acids. When it comes to serving it, Arata has some extra words to the wise: “Remember, it’s a Japanese custom to pour for your companions before filling up your own cup!” he concludes. 6, THE ROCKWELL, 32 PRESTWICH STREET, GREEN POINT, CAPE TOWN; 021-421-4520; IZAKAYAMATSURI.COM
IZAKAYA MATSURI’S CHEF-PATRON, ARATA KOGA