Chef Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi, who bought artisanal Soba noodles to Wallingford, is all set to open a new sake bar named Hannyatou in the neighborhood. Hannyatou will occupy the space of the recently closed Lama G’s cafe, which is just two doors down from Kamonegi.
Along with being a chef and artisan soba maker, Soma is also a certified sake sommelier with certification from the Japan Sommelier Association, WSET. Says Soma, “There’s a long tradition of fermentation at the core of Japanese cuisine. At Hannyatou, we are excited to bring those fermentations to our community. Our in-house fermentations will be at the core of the dishes we serve, such as house-made miso, pickles, natto, Koji, and sauces. In addition to our ferments, we will be bringing another very traditional fermentation, sake. Our small dishes will pair delightfully with sake. Sake is still often a mystery to many and we’re excited to combine our passion for traditional fermentation with a diverse sake selection to help explain and educate.”
We asked Chef Soma about what Japanese fermentation actually is and the tradition behind it. It so turns out this one of the thoughts behind Hannyatou—to introduce people to the concept of different kinds of Japanese fermentation and try it out for themselves. Says Soma, “That’s a really complicated question to answer and a good one to ask; it’s also the reason we’re opening Hannyatou. Natto fermentation is traditionally done by wrapping cooked soybeans in stems of dried grass. Nukka fermentation is a live culture supported by rice bran and vegetables are submerged in the inoculated bran in order to ferment them. While lacto-fermentation is a part of the culture of Japanese fermentation it isn’t the whole. Koji is so foundational in many aspects of Japanese fermentation from sake to miso. Koji produces some great enzymes that not only convert complex carbs to simple sugars but also break down proteins to amino acids. Koji “tenderizing” of meat is so Japanese and a great way to add complexity and layers to food.
How is sauerkraut different from kimchi? They are both lacto-ferments but the culture behind them and their respective uses in German and Korean cuisine make them very different. This is why building an experience around traditional Japanese fermentation is so important to us.”
Hannyatou is expected to open later this month. The upcoming restaurant will have a seating capacity of 24 guests. Perfectly in time for spring and summer, the back patio will have additional seating and double up as a fermentation station for Japanese pickles, miso, and koji. The bar will feature unique sake list with flights and a small menu of shareable bites that prominently feature Japanese fermentation. Chef Soma is hoping to raise some money via Indiegogo to support their efforts with your help. You can join them on this journey here.