We know of no more fervent advocate for the advancement of sake than Masa Shiroki. The dynamo behind Granville Island’s Artisan Sake never rests in his efforts to convert more people to the idea of matching sake with food.

Artisan Sake's Masa Shiroki and ShuRaku's Iori Kataoka, Tim Pawsey photo

His latest undertaking involved a six course dinner at ShuRaku Sake Bar and Bistro (833 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-970-7801), on Granville Mall. Shuraku used to be the humbly efficient Kitto Noodle House.

ShuRaku chef Masahiro Omori, supplied

But owner Iori Kataoka (who also runs west-side Zest) has transformed the room and the kitchen, by bringing in an extremely accomplished young chef, Masahiro Omori to explore a far more contemporary style of cuisine.

Shiroki used the occasion to introduce people to his range of Osake—that includes an unusual sparkling wine—as well as to a couple of sakes made by others.

ShuRaku Orange infused egg tofu, Tim Pawsey photo

Omori is a passionate and highly inventive chef who doesn’t shy away from the dramatic, such as serving orange infused egg tofu (in a whole orange) with Dungeness crab sauce; and even making Japanese ‘sliders’—pretty challenging when the beef comes between rice cakes!

Generally speaking, the pairings worked well—in some cases very well: Our highlight of the night was delicately presented Hamachi Carpaccio Yellowtail tuna sashimi, with Tosa-Zu pickled daikon. It was a shoo-in for the Masukagami Junmai Ginjo. The sake  seemed to have just the right acidity to stand up to the pickles as well as the right mouthfeel, with a touch of citrus on the palate.

As it happens, the same sake paired also with the ‘Chicken Gift’ that followed: steamed chicken in a lemon butter sauce with ponzu vinaigrette. The prettily parchment wrapped dish did complement the served Osaka Junmai Nama—but we couldn’t resist taking sips of the previous wine to pick up on the zestiness that was prevalent in this dish.

Overall, it was a highly enjoyable exercise—and one that would certainly sway us to explore the ‘premium’ side of the sake list next time we’re back at ShuRaku—which we certainly will be.

In the meantime, we’ll also be following Masa Shiroki’s continuing adventures, as he works with others to grow his own sake rice in BC; and continues to expand his range of products, that includes Kasu—the ‘must’ that remains after each batch of sake is made, already a popular ingredient used by many of Vancouver’s top toques.

Read more about him here.

Masa Shiroki with his ever expanding line of condiments, Tim Pawsey photo