Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3:30-5 p.m.
While normally this is a strictly happy hour blog, we decided to make an exception because we were invited as guests to a special Suntory Japanese Whisky dinner at Raven and Rose restaurant. None of us had ever been to Raven and Rose, and none of us had ever attended a whisky dinner, so we were all pretty excited. Note: our dinner was complimentary, but our host made it very clear that he did not expect us to do a blog entry or advertise for his company. We wanted to do a review because we had such an amazing time--so much so that we are definitely going to go back to try out their happy hour in the future!
I have always wanted to go to a dinner that paired multiple courses with alcoholic beverages. Sadly (well, actually happily...except when it comes to alcohol!), I am pregnant. I wasn't able to partake in the whisky part of the dinner, but I still had a great time! One of the reasons the dinner was so exciting for me was that I was able to try things I would never choose to order on my own. I was pushed a little outside of my comfort zone, and (for the most part) I enjoyed everything I tried.
Raven and Rose is a very beautiful restaurant. It is a restored carriage house, and our special dinner took place in what used to be the hay loft. It seems like the perfect place for a private party. We were seated at a long table with multiple people that we didn't know, but everyone was very friendly and enthusiastic about getting to know each other. Normally, this kind of situation would make me nervous (especially since I felt a little out of place at such a fancy dinner), but we were seated next to some very nice people who made us all feel at ease.
The service here was perfect. Everything came out at just the right pace, my water glass was never empty, and the servers contributed to the overall feeling of being spoiled rotten.
The first course was paired with an Umeshu Sour cocktail. Umeshu is not available in the United States, but it is very popular in Japan. My co-bloggers both thought this cocktail was delicious. The food was a bit outside of our comfort zone because it was a duck liver mousse paired with strawberries and rhubarb. I loved the strawberries (it seems they have been my number-one pregnancy craving besides bread), but I didn't love the duck liver mousse.
Every other course was paired with a different kind of whisky. Our host told us about each whisky, and he let us know that it would be served two ways to show the change in flavor. One way was straight, and the other way was as a highball with water and ice. From what I gathered in my pregnant jealousy, the flavor was very different depending on how it was served. I have never been a big whisky fan, and neither have my co-bloggers, but both of them seemed to find it quite enjoyable served as a highball.
The second course came with a whisky called Hibiki 12. This was probably my second favorite course of the night. It was a Dungeness crab salad with Sunchokes. It had the prettiest presentation, and it was delicious. I had recently decided I didn't like crab after a couple of not-so-great crab experiences, but I changed my mind once I tried this crab! I even ate my vegetarian friend's serving. What? The baby was hungry!
Paired with a whisky called Hakushu 12, the third course was the most adventurous. It had morel mushrooms, English peas, Strozzapretti pasta and tripe. Yes, tripe. Also known as cow's stomach lining. I was a bit hesitant to try it, but I did try a number of bites. I discovered tripe is just not for me (it wasn't bad, but I just couldn't get past the weirdness factor). I actually really enjoyed the pasta, mushrooms, and peas (and I am not a pea fan), so maybe I do like the flavor given off by tripe. But tripe? No, thank you.
The fourth course was paired with Yamazaki 12 whisky. By this time people were feeling pretty good...and by pretty good, I mean people were starting to get a little silly and loud. This course was my favorite of the night. Smoked beef coppa with potato croquettes and asparagus, it was a slight twist on a more traditional meat and potatoes kind of meal. I loved it.
As if all of that wasn't enough, they served us a final whisky with a fancy chipped ice ball. For dessert, they gave us a dish of salted caramel ice cream with a shortbread cookie. It was a delicious end to the night (and I could have eaten two more, probably!)
Overall, our whisky dinner experience was so unique and so much fun. It made us all wish we were independently wealthy ladies who could dine like this on a regular basis. Maybe someday...and I will definitely have to give whisky another shot when I am able to imbibe again!
Drinks: Incomplete (due to pregnancy--grade will change next semester!)
Value: Exceeds (for us--pricy for those who were not guests)