Hamachi, that sushi bar staple, has a distinctive flavor. White wine, it would seem, should serve it best. It's kind of a fishy-tasting fish, the sort of thing, like mackerel, that make a red wine taste odd.
So imagine my surprise when, about halfway through our tasting menu at Restaurant Charlie in Las Vegas, sommelier Desmond Echevarre brought out a red wine to serve with seared hamachi belly. See my video for my reaction.
Hamachi belly comes from the same yellowtail you see in every sushi bar, only it's richer in texture. It is to yellowtail what toro is to red tuna, as rich as foie gras and just as delicate in texture, only the omega-3 fatty acids in it are presumably better for us than the duck or goose fat in the foie gras.
The kitchen did a couple of things to tilt the wine match toward red, using some of the wine in a quick reduction sauce drizzled over the plate, and a bit of cured wagyu beef in the breakfast radish salad under the fish. But still, the dominant flavor was yellowtail.
My experience with wine and fish is that white wine often tastes best, but fresh fish will not get in the way of a red. Seldom do I find a fish that will make the red taste even better, but darned if the Domaine Faiveley Haute Côtes de Nuits 2003 didn't wake up and become brighter and more intense in flavor with this dish.
The secret, I think, is the structure of the wine, which is pretty tart on its own. The rich texture of the fish and the added flavor of the red wine/meat component goosed the wine into being even more of a Burgundy than it was.
Surprises like that are part of the fun of drinking wine with food.
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