When you think of olive oil, Japanese cuisine doesn't normally come to mind, let alone pairing with sake. However, as we discovered upon our visit to Kimoto Sake & Japanese Organic Restaurant Hitoshizuku, a delightful synergy of flavors can be achieved when you combine a premium olive oil with organic kimoto style sake and organic Japanese cuisine.

Kandou Olive Oil

Launched in 2017 by entertainment company Amuse, Inc., Kandou Olive Oil (感動オリーブオイル) sells premium extra virgin olive oils from the best olive gardens of the world. Their current selection represents Italy, Spain, Portugal and the United States.

Kandou Olive Oil has organized successful collaboration events in which their products are paired with Western cuisine. Always on the lookout for new collaborations, the executive producer of the Kandou Olive Oil project, who happened to be a regular at Hitoshizuku, decided to conduct an experiment by bringing in bottles of the spicy Coratina and the fruity Nocellara, multiple award-winning single varietals made by Dievole in Italy, on one of his visits to the restaurant. At first, owner and chef Mr. Osamu Yamamoto drizzled them on a carpaccio and was very pleased by the result. Then, he had the bold idea of trying them with the Japanese dishes on his regular menu. To his amazement, these fragrant olive oils, which are also rich in umami, harmonized splendidly with traditional Japanese dishes and the umami-rich kimoto sake. As it turns out, umami-rich foods and drinks complement each other, accentuating their respective flavors and characteristics. "I truly experienced kandou 感動 (strong emotion)," Mr. Yamamoto explains, in a nod to Kandou Olive Oil, an unusual but very apt name considering Amuse, Inc.'s track record providing some of Japan's best entertainment.

Thus, Kandou Olive Oil's latest collaboration and their first foray into Japanese cuisine was born. Coratina and Nocellara are currently featured in Hitoshizuku's seasonal menu and, to the delight of those who attended, a special tasting event was organized earlier this year. Back by popular demand, a second round is planned for March 17th (see details at the bottom of this article).

We were invited to sample some of these dishes and learn more about this unusual collaboration between olive oil, sake and Japanese cuisine.

Tucked away in a residential area just minutes away from the Roppongi Itchome Station in Tokyo, Hitoshizuku ひとしずく (which means "one drop") is a small restaurant with a single counter seating six people.

Source: © Grape Japan

Source: © Grape Japan

Source: © Grape Japan

Authentic Kimoto Sake and Hitoshizuku

Owner chef Osamu Yamamoto opened his health-conscious restaurant, Hitoshizuku, in 2014 after his difficult experience caring for his father who was on artificial dialysis. Through his personal research, he came to the realization that smoking and chemical additives in food are responsible for many of the lifestyle diseases affecting people today. This inspired him to serve all organic foods and authentic kimoto style organic sake at Hitoshizuku.

As Mr. Yamamoto explained, compared to wine, beer and most other alcoholic beverages, sake is richer in beneficial amino acids which produce umami. Within the world of sake, however, kimoto 生酛 style, made by natural fermentation without any chemical seasoning and artificial additives, has ten times the amount of amino acids. Not only does this result in a high concentration of umami, it can strengthen your immune system and even fight cancer by increasing the activity NK cells.

In Japan, the majority of the population considers dry and chilled sake to be the definition of what tasty sake should be. However, this is the result of the mainstream adoption of the sokujomoto 速醸酛 method which uses additives to speed up fermentation. Kimoto style sake, now gaining in popularity abroad (where it is sometimes called "Samurai organic sake"), tends to be rich and sweet and can be stored at room temperature. While sokujomoto sake only matches certain foods, kimoto goes just as well with Japanese food as it does with demiglace or beurre blanc sauce. In fact, a one Michelin starred French restaurant already serves kimoto and other chefs are taking notice. Owner chef Yamamoto is confident that the popularity of healthy and organic kimoto sake outside of Japan will eventually catch the attention of domestic consumers, resulting in a renaissance of kimoto at home.

To match the health benefits of kimoto sake, Mr. Yamamoto spares no effort in preparing healthy dishes, using fresh seafood from the Tokyo fish market or directly from fishing ports, organically grown vegetables sourced directly from Tokorozawa farmers and using only natural seasonings. He only cooks with natural umami-rich bonito and kombu broth, and of course, never uses MSG.

In addition, Mr. Yamamoto believes in an honest dining experience, so unlike many of the other restaurants in the trendy Roppongi area, he serves no mandatory appetizers with a fixed price, nor does he ask for a service charge or a table charge, content to simply add the mandatory consumption tax to the bill.

Source: © Grape Japan

We had the pleasure of trying two types of kimoto sakes during our visit, Daishichi Sake Brewery's Junmai Kimoto (above) in the cuisine and Izumibashi Sake Brewery's Natsuyago Momo Thirteen Kimoto (below) to drink.

Source: © Grape Japan

To kick off our kimoto experience, Mr. Yamamoto served us amazake in its purest, undiluted form. Complex and naturally sweet as a result of koji yeast causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates of rice into simpler unrefined sugars, this amazake could have been a desert by itself.

Source: © Grape Japan

With a broad smile, Mr. Yamamoto then asked us to select a sake cup because he was going to spike our amazake with kimoto for a special treat.

Source: © Grape Japan

Following his instructions, we poured some Natsuyago Momo Thirteen Kimoto into our blue sake cup, spooned in a dollop of amazake and blended the two. The result was nothing like any amazake beverage we had ever tried before and a world apart from the versions often sold at Shinto shrines or corner stalls at New Year's time. Smooth and rich, sake-spiked amazake is certainly worth experiencing.

Source: © Grape Japan

After our delicious aperitif, it was time to try some of the dishes. We began with three appetizers, seasoned hijiki seaweed (bottom), kinpira gobo (seasoned, slivered burdock root and carrot) (left), and boiled nanohana (rapeseed plant) seasoned with a sesame sauce (right).

Source: © Grape Japan

Enjoyed individually, these appetizers are satisfying in their own right. We particularly enjoyed the nanohana, a type of Japanese rapini currently in season. Its crisp, slightly bitter leaves and buds flavored with dashi broth contrasted well with a rich sesame sauce combining both sesame paste and freshly milled sesame seeds. However, when we drizzled some Kandou Olive Oil Coratina and tried it again, we were honestly surprised by the difference it made.

According to Ms. Azusa Nakatsuji, PR and digital media strategy representative for the Kandou Olive Oil project, their Coratina is a single varietal extra virgin oil with a flavor profile which truly expresses the characteristics of the Coratina varietal, spicy and bitter yet with a hint of elegant fruitiness. These characteristics envelop the bitterness of the nanohana and make it easier to eat. Rich in polyphenols and umami, the oil also synergizes with the umami of the dashi and the sesame sauce, highlighting these flavors in your mouth.

Source: © Grape Japan

Our next dish was a household favorite, a simple dish of meat, potato and onions known as nikujaga. Usually made with sweetened soy sauce, Hitoshizuku's version used a light, more savory broth that brought out the deep flavor of the pork and natural sweetness of the potatoes.

Source: © Grape Japan

Once again, a drizzle of Kandou olive oil created a wholly different impression. A common dish enjoyed in families everywhere in Japan was suddenly elevated to something new and interesting, the flavors of the oil blending with the broth to create a harmonious new taste.

Source: © Grape Japan

The third and last dish we were able to sample was a wonderful grilled mackerel directly sourced from the fishing port of Ajiro in Tottori Prefecture, and seasoned with a delicious sauce made from organic hatcho-miso, a type of red soybean miso.

Source: © Grape Japan

The addition of Kandou Olive Oil Coratina accentuated the hatcho-miso sauce's distinctive sweet and tangy taste, while bringing out the natural flavor of the grilled mackerel. As Mr. Yamamoto had told us, the Natsuyago Thirteen Momo Kimoto sake paired perfectly with this dish just as it had with the nanohana and the nikujaga before.

Source: © Grape Japan

Thus concluded our sample of the special tasting event. As Mr. Yamamoto said, the mild and sweet kimoto sake really matched everything we sampled. As we prepared to leave Hitoshizuku, he gave us a final word to reassure us on our way out. Not only is kimoto wonderful for your health, the fact that it contains no additives (including sulfites) or chemicals means that it will never give you a hangover.

Source: © Grape Japan

Kandou Olive Oil Online Shop

What at first seemed to be an unlikely combination turned out to be a surprisingly harmonious blend of flavors thanks to Kandou Olive Oil.

Their fine olive oils are available for purchase on their online shop (in Japanese) here.

"Kandou Pairing Event" at Hitoshizuku

If you live in the Tokyo area or plan to visit soon, the Kandou Olive Oil collaboration tasting event with Hitoshizuku is an experience you shouldn't pass up. Here are the details:

  • Date: March 17th, 2018
  • Lunch: 12:00 to 15:30
  • Dinner: 18:00 to 21:30
  • Maximum party size: 6 people
  • Price: 8,000 JPY per person (tax included, cash only)
  • Cancellation fee: 50% on March 16th, 100% on March 17th
  • Reservations by telephone: 03-6277-6868
  • Policy: No smoking, no ashtrays outside
  • Address: Hitoshizuku Kimoto Sake & Japanese Organic Restaurant, 3-3-25, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0032
  • Event website here

Source: © Grape Japan

Suggested Recipe

Kamatama Udon

Combining the term kama-age 釜上げ (meaning "freshly boiled from the kettle") with the word tamago, meaning "egg," kamatama udon is an inexpensive and popular Japanese dish in which piping hot udon is strained from a kettle of boiling water, poured into a bowl with no broth, then mixed with raw egg. A variety of toppings can be added according to taste.

Kandou Olive Oil asked cooking expert Shiho Yamazaki to come up with a new twist on this perennial Japanese favorite, using one of their premium single-varietal extra virgin olive oils.

Source: Cooking expert Shiho Yamazaki


  • dried udon -- 4 bundles / 400 grams (if your udon comes in bundles, use 4 bundles, otherwise measure 400g)
  • mentsuyu (Japanese noodle soup base) -- 4 tbsp
  • eggs -- 4, yolks
  • green onions -- chopped, as desired
  • Kandou Olive Oil Nocellara -- as desired


  • Put dried udon into a large casserole of water at a rolling boil and cook as per instructions on package.
  • Strain noodles and immediately divide them into four serving bowls.
  • Immediately mix in raw egg and chopped green onions.
  • Pour 1 tbsp of mentsuyu per bowl on top of noodles and drizzle Kandou Olive Oil Nocellara just before serving.

Note: Eating eggs raw is common in Japan due to stringent quality controls, but if you don't feel comfortable with it, you can try an egg substitute or just do without it altogether.

By - Ben K.