Updated: May 13, 2019
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Luxurious Sake Pairing Course at the Famous Gonpachi


We loved the Dassai Sake Pairing Course at the world-famous Gonpachi restaurant in Nishi-Azabu. Whether you're a sake connoisseur or just curious to try some truly high-grade sake, we recommend you check it out, too!

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High-end seafood paired with high-end sake

A classy, beautiful meal!
We were invited to Gonpachi, near the famous Roppongi Hills, to try out their new 'Dassai Pairing Course.' The main dining area of this Gonpachi restaurant is famous from it's appearance in the move 'Kill Bill,' but today, we were welcomed into the beautiful, quieter 3rd floor area to enjoy a fancier dining experience on the patio.

Gonpachi sources all of their seafood from the Toyosu fish market, and the Dassai Pairing Course features 6 super-fresh fish courses. Paired with the first 4 courses are 4 different Dassai Sake products. Dassai is a famous sake brand, known for its high quality (apparently president Obama was gifted a bottle of Dassai 23 on one of his visits to Japan).

The food was outstanding, and it was really fun drinking and comparing the 4 sake drinks. We didn't know that sake could be so much fun to drink!
The 3rd floor patio, viewed from inside.

Sake comparison

Dassai flag and barrel.
Before brewing sake, the rice grains used are polished to a certain degree. The amount that the rice is polished effects the resulting purity of the sake. The more polished, the higher the purity (and price).

In the Dassai pairing course, we were served Dassai 45 (meaning the rice was polished until only 45 percent of the grain remained), Dassai 39 (39 percent remaining), and Dassai 23 (polished until only 23 percent of the grain remained). Each had a different aroma and flavor, and each was delicious in its own way. Trying them side-by-side was a lot of fun!

Course one: firefly squid with vinegared miso paired with Dassai shochu with soda

The firefly squid. It's delicious to wrap the squid in the shiso leaf when you eat it!
The juicy, delicate firefly squids burst in your mouth with umami, and the vinegared miso sauce adds a nice hint of tartness. Paired with this appetizer was a Dassai Shochu that was made with sake lees (the leftovers from the sake brewing process) with soda water. Shochu is a bit different than sake, but this was very light and refreshing with a sweet aroma.
Cheers! The sparkling shochu

Course two: Sashimi paired with Dassai 45

The whitefish sashimi
The second course is a sashimi plate with bonito and white fish. The bonito is super tender, and the scorched exterior adds a subtle smokiness that is quite delicious.

The sake paired with this sashimi is the Dassai 45, which is very clear and super smooth, despite being the least polished of the three sakes. The sake has a very delicate sweetness to it, and is so easy to drink that it's almost hard to tell that there's alcohol in it!
The Dassai 45. (You can drink the sake that's spilled over into the box)

Course three: sakura shrimp tempura paired with Dassai 39

Sakura shrimp tempura. Amazing!
Course three was a single tempura of sakura shrimp served with dipping salt. The scrumptious tempura was crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The lovely shrimp flavor really shined through, and I was reminded of those addicting calbee prawn crackers.
Paired with the tempura was the next level up on the sake scale; the Dassai 39 (meaning all but 39 percent of the rice grains were polished away before brewing). This sake had a fruitier aroma, and was even smoother to drink. The flavor was also fruity, reminding me of grapes.
Fruity and delicious.

Course four: grilled Spanish mackerel paired with Dassai 23

This thick miso sauce is to die for!
The Fourth course was a piece of Spanish mackerel, grilled to perfection and topped with an amazing house-made miso paste. The lightness of the juicy mackerel meat perfectly balances with the saltiness of the miso.

To go with this fancy dish, we received the fanciest of the sakes, the Dassai 23. This is apparently Dassai's best sake, and is the most highly polished commercial sake in the world. It was served in a large wine glass so to show off its beautiful aroma of melons and peaches. You really could just smell this sake for hours without getting tired of it, but drinking it was also great. The flavor fills your entire mouth, and the finish is long and smooth. This is definitely the best sake we've ever tried.
The prized Dassai 23, served in a large glass.

Course five: 3 nigiri and 3 international rolls

From left to right: tuna, flounder, sardine, California roll, dragon roll, spicy tuna roll.
The fifth course is an interesting sushi plate. There are three nigiri sushi and three "international" sushi rolls. The quality of the sushi was great, the fish was super fresh (as would be expected seeing as it came from Toyosu), and we enjoyed every bite. This was our first time to see American-style sushi rolls such as the California roll and dragon roll served in Japan, and it was really fun to eat them! Avocado really does go great with sushi.

Final course: clam miso soup

Opening the lid.
the meal was rounded out with a steaming bowl of clam miso soup. The clams make for an amazing umami that adds so much depth to such a simple item. We were again impressed with the quality of the clams used.

Overall impression

Thumbs up!
The food was fresh, used high-quality ingredients, and was delicious. On top of that, the sake was amazingly fun to drink and compare, and added a lot of value to the experience. For ¥8,000, this course is a great deal and shouldn't be missed! This would be a great place to have a romantic date or hang out with friends. We definitely want to go back.
All 4 drinks, lined up.

Details and access

Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu is open from 11:30 am until 3:30am. A reservation isn't necessary, but we recommend making one anyway, in case it is busy when you choose to go. The majority of the staff here can speak English, so there's no need to worry about that!

The closest train station is Tokyo Metro Roppongi Station, and that's how we got there. You can take either the Oedo or Hibiya line and walk about 10 minutes from the station.

I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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