Iron Chef: Battle Saury

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Theme Ingredient: Pacific Saury
Iron Chef: Sakai
Challenger: Kazumi Nagayama, head chef, Shochiku, Hongo, Tokyo
Remarks: This is a different Battle Saury than the one that airs on Food Network on July 4 and 5. These comments refer to the battle that aired on Food Network on November 26, 2000.

Shochiku is a restaurant in the Hongo neighborhood of Tokyo. It is a traditional elite supper club where admittance had until recently been restricted only to members. It is hideously expensive and caters to the elite of Tokyo society; it's sometimes called "The Kitchen Of Tokyo University" due to its proximity to that institution. Lately, Shochiku has been feeling the pinch of a downturn in the Japanese economy; in response, it has opened its doors to the public and retooled its menu a bit, aiming for the female market.

Kazumi Nagayama is head chef there, and he challenged IC French Hiroyuki Sakai (fresh off his defeat at the hands of Ron Siegel in Battle Lobster). The theme ingredient was Pacific saury (also called sanma), a blue fish similar to the sardine. This was a mixed blessing for Sakai: saury generally isn't used in French cuisine, but he was able to make sardine-style dishes using it. However, this wasn't much of an advantage for the challenger, either; saury isn't often served in high class restaurants. The saury was harvested from the waters off Sanriku, and they're a popular autumn dish since they're fattening up for the winter then.

The guest commentators were singer Johji Yamamoto (previous appearance 1 1/2 years before in Battle Bell Pepper), whose single "I'm Your Man" was on the charts at the time, and actress Kuniko Asagi (previous appearance: Battle Unisex Salmon). The other judges were Lower House member Shinichiro Kurimoto and spiritual consultant Kazuko Hosoki.

Nagayama presented five dishes:

  1. Saury hors d'oeuvre. Saury marinated in the Russian style and stuffed in 'a citrus fruit' (orange or tangerine, I think). French mustard and caviar are mixed with nuts and served on a 'crispy saury cracker.' Salt-grilled saury was also served Peking duck-style. All were served with sake and persimmon cocktail and beefsteak tomato leaf sake. Kurimoto liked the canape (I think he meant the Peking duck-style dish), especially the cashews. Hosoki liked the use of miso, and Asagi liked the different taste experiences.
  2. Saury ball soup. Pounded glutenous rice with grated daikon radish helped mask the fishy smell and soften the taste. Yamamoto wished he could have this dish after a night of drinking to settle his stomach. Hosoki didn't like it so much, saying it was too tough.
  3. Grilled saury on ice. Served with a citrus juice-soy sauce dip.
  4. Smoked saury. Saury was combined with other 'autumn delicacies' and smoked in Japanese maple leaves, persimmon leaves, gingko leaves, and sugar. Kurimoto liked the scent of pine leaves but was turned off by the fishy scent.
  5. Stewed tomato and saury. Celery was used here to suppress the fishy smell. Don't ask me how. Foie gras was added because, well, it's Iron Chef! Kurimoto didn't like the tomato base, and Hosoki thought the dishes were a bit too traditional in general.

Sakai countered with four:

  1. Smoked saury on buckwheat crepe. The saury was smoked in apple chips and sugar, prompting Asagi to ask "What kind of aroma would apple chips give?" It was served with a sauce made from the innards of the fish, with sour cream and caviar. Also served with soup. Kurimoto called the addition of caviar "perfect," Asagi loved the innards sauce, Hosoki called it "transformed into art." Gee, do you think they liked it?
  2. Saury carpaccio. The saury was marinated in vinegar and served raw. It also came with a persimmon sauce that also had kidney beans, udo leaves, foie gras, sun-dried tomato leaves and peanut butter (!). Asagi didn't like the peanut butter at all; Yamamoto loved it.
  3. Roast saury, Provence style. Frying the fish before roasting highlighted the taste and added a crispy texture. He roasted the saury sectioned but not gutted; he also originally had onions on top but discarded them when they ended up overdone in the oven. Kurimoto liked the vegetables but didn't like the overall feel of the dish. Hosoki disagreed.
  4. Saury red wine stew. This dish exploited the slight fishy smell rather than trying to hide it. A whole bottle of red wine was cooked down to make the base.

Yamamoto pronounced afterwards that "I'll never be able to eat my wife's saury dishes again." The verdict was Sakai 4-0 and 78-69: Kurimoto 19-17, Asagi and Yamamoto both 20-18, and Hosoki 19-16.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on July 1, 2005 2:23 PM.

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