Kohlrabi, Albacore, Pickled Celery, Soy Vinaigrette, and Peppercorns

Adapted by StarChefs.com
July 2017
Yield: 6 servings
Jonathan Yao opened Kato on a Tuesday—in a tight corner of a strip mall in Sawtelle. No one came. On Thursday, someone from Eater called, and thus began the reservation slam. “Thank God for Eater,” says Yao. Kato is an improbable success. Yao’s parents wanted to open a traditional Taiwanese restaurant, and he convinced them—after a series of stages in L.A. and San Francisco—that he could run it. Instead, he turned the restaurant into a seafood-centric, tasting-menu spot that also happens to serve outrageous fried chicken sandwiches and two rice bowls (because, well, rice!). There’s also no liquor license, and he doesn’t allow BYOB. The people, they come and they love Kato unconditionally. Yao’s cooking is original, and just like his restaurant, it’s unencumbered by the litany of rules most cooks adopt over years and years of training. Aside from those stages, Yao has only his palate and preferences to guide him. “I for sure don’t have a mentor,” he says, though his parents (in particular his father) influenced his tastes. “My parents are both Taiwanese, but, growing up, we ate lots of Hunan and Szechuan food.” Yao translated one of his favorite Szechuan dishes, husband and wife special into a mysteriously plated, unusual, and addictive seafood tartare for Kato’s menu. He spikes chopped albacore tuna with black vinegar, soy, pickled celery, and Szechuan peppercorns. Somehow, the albacore flavor shines through the mala tingle and all those aggressive flavors. It’s an improbable, memorable success.


1 large kohlrabi bulb, peeled
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Broken Vinaigrette
20 grams minced garlic
20 grams minced ginger
20 grams minced green onion
20 grams minced shallot
0.1 gram toasted and ground black cardamom seed
0.3 gram toasted and ground cumin seed
0.5 gram toasted and ground white peppercorns
0.2 gram toasted and ground coriander seed
0.5 gram toasted and ground Szechuan peppercorn
3 grams toasted and ground chile de arbol
10 grams sugar
37 grams soy sauce
45 grams black vinegar
5 grams rice vinegar
Pickled Celery
10 grams rice vinegar
1.7 grams sugar
1.7 grans salt
0.7 grams white pepper
50 grams celery heart
Pepper Powder
0.5 teaspoon white peppercorns
0.5 teaspoon black peppercorns
0.5 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
To Assemble and Serve
1 albacore loin


For the Kohlrabi

Using a mandolin, cut kohlrabi into paper-thin slices. In a container, dust kohlrabi sheets with salt, cover, and allow to wilt in refrigerator until pliable, about 30 to 60 minutes; drain. Season with vinegar. Cover and refrigerate. 

For the Broken Vinaigrette

In a pan, heat oil and sweat garlic, ginger, green onion, and shallot until soft. Add cardamom, cumin, white pepper, coriander, Szechuan peppercorns, and chile de árbol. When aromatic, and add sugar, soy, and vinegars. Cook over a low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until mixture is slightly syrupy. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. (We usually add a little house chile oil if it’s not spicy or numbing enough.) 

For the Pepper Powder:

In a spice grinder, grind peppercorns. 

To Assemble and Serve

Chill albacore, remove skin, bloodline, and sinew. Cut loin into 1-inch portions and then cut portions into 2-centimeter cubes. In a small bowl, combine 45 grams albacore and 2 tablespoons Broken Vinaigrette. Add 7 grams Pickled Celery, making sure not to add pickling liquid. To one side of a chilled serving bowl, shape albacore mixture into a mound. Drape kohlrabi over mound. Using a small mesh sieve, sprinkle Pepper Powder over top. Serve immediately.