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Gen Yamamoto | Tokyo | Dec ’14 | “a cocktail conductor”

4 Jan
  • Rating: 4.75/5
  • Address: Japan, 〒106-0045 東京都港区 麻布十番1-6-4 アニバーサリービル 1F

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Bar Gen Yamamoto is a one man show – the eponymous Gen Yamamoto, who spent a decade in New Jersey and New York (most recently at NYC kaiseki place Brushstroke), before moving back to Tokyo.

Located in Azabu-Juban near Roppongi, Gen Yamamoto offered a bespoke six minicocktail tasting session (6500 Yen) which showcased his abilities. His cocktails are quite unique, in that he has a masterful command of “tempo”. If we may draw a music analogy, most cocktails are like a chord – they contain several notes, usually pleasing – but they either never develop profoundly different tastes after the first sip, or perhaps the transition between taste and aftertaste is driven by one ingredient – which either fades away allowing you to focus on a second ingredient, or changes in taste profile by itself. But Gen Yamamoto’s cocktails are like compositions for two or more instruments, which play different notes in time but always in concert with each other.

I had two cocktails which showcased Mr Yamamoto’s unique ability to compose cocktails with a temporal dimension. The first was a quince and rice shochu combination, and the second was a persimmon Yamazaki concoction. I was especially impressed by the Yamazaki cocktail (notes below), because it is a whisky with which I am especially familiar. It is a labor intensive process – Mr Yamamoto generally took 5-10 minutes to prepare each cocktail.

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  • Quince, rice shochu.
    • Taste: Upward attack of shochu on palate, brought out the fruitiness of quince at exact same moment.
    • Aftertaste: Expansive
    • (4.75/5)

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  • Vodka, red kiwi fruit from Shizuoka, matcha
    • Fruity. Matcha added a bit of tea structure, but not very much.
    • (sic?) “Kosen”
    • (3.75/5)

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  • Persimmon-Yamazaki cocktail, with hints of mandarin
    • Peat is not obvious in the Yamazaki no-age whisky, it is usually floral. But here the smokiness and peat really came out, I would guess because the floral flavors were in my mind attributed to the smooth persimmon puree. The third flavor was a tinge of sourness from the mandarin.
    • Then, it was as if two instruments started on a new passage together, the persimmon became a genial sweetness, and Yamazaki became more floral again. It was amazing how in-sync the tempo of flavor evolution in both the Yamazaki and the persimmon were – as if they were kept in time by a conductor
    • Masterpiece. (5/5)

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  • Ginger from Kochi, cloves, bayleaf, lime from Iwagi, rye vodka from Lithuania
    • (4/5)

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  • Yaki Imo (sweet potato), with potato shochu and chocolate
    • A bit heavygoing, with the heavy-powder texture of grated chocolate competing with the sweet starchiness of this cocktail. The idea was perhaps a visual one – with chocolate mimicking the color of sweet potato skin. (3.5/5)

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  • Shochu of sweet potato, from an ancient and more flavorful potato (Yasuda potato, from Tsuruhachi, which is difficult to cultivate); akane apple from Hokkaido
    • Warm cocktail. Sweet, mild, apple flavor.
    • (4.5/5)