To complement Kobe beef udon with seaweed, a drink needs gentleness and a focused flavour approach.
The Japanese beef is not to everyone's taste. The marbling gives it richness and tenderness but some people find it too fatty. Most udon soup bases are delicate, which allows fresh ingredients and the slippery texture of the noodles to shine. The udon should offer resistance and soak up the flavourful soup at the same time. Seaweed, often added to udon soup noodles, adds a savoury, slightly salty taste of the ocean.
An accompanying drink must be well balanced and be able to give and take a little, too. Flavours that are excessively deep will level the delicate combination.
Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard pinot noir 2008, Yarra Valley, Australia
The Yarra Valley was home to some of Australia's earliest cool-climate winemaking. Wines from this region differ enormously from those that come from a hot region such as the Barossa Valley. Cool climates often produce wines that are fragrant and delicate. They are seldom heavily textured and good for pairing with food. The clever gang at Giant Steps has been making true-to-the-dirt pinot noir and chardonnay for a few decades. This is one of their single-vineyard pinot noirs and it is sublime. It's a perfect match with the slightly lubricating fattiness of Kobe beef and the nutty seaweed, which link up nicely with the barrel-fermented tones of exotic flavours. You can also pair this wine with Kobe beef sashimi but go easy on the soy sauce.
Available for HK$165 at Altaya (tel: 2523 1945)
Hennessy XO cognac, France
This seems an unlikely match but if the cognac is fruity enough, it will pair well with udon. The sweet cognac links up seamlessly with the sweet Kobe beef and the meaty resistance gives the XO more of a chance to integrate into the combination. The savoury seaweed gives the XO-aged flavours a solid platform as they melt into each other. The udon noodles and elegant broth add width to the focused cognac richness and let their flavours link up.
Available for HK$1,250 at Moet Hennessy Diageo (tel: 2976 1111)
Taylor's Chip Dry Port, Portugal
This port may be labelled 'dry' but it is very fruity and makes a delicious accompaniment for the beef dish and works particularly well with thin slices of the meat. The heady grapey- ness adds interest to the beef, making it feel lighter. The fruity palate and the sweet beef succulence are a match made in heaven and the flavour-sponging noodles add to the fruity port's flavour bandwidth. It's a delicious match, if unusual.
Available for HK$285 at Jebsen Fine Wine Club (tel: 3180 3424)