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On the Plate: Notable Presentations
Archive
February 2009

Our traveling editor, Heather Sperling, reports from Japan on three recently spied presentations that range from downright traditional (a la chef Kunio Tokuoka) to barely recognizable food (from chefs Yoshihiro Narisawa and the always ingenious Andoni Luis Aduriz).

+ click pictures to enlarge

Les Creations de Narisawa
Tokyo, Japan

Wagyu Beef Coated in Vegetable Ash

Narisawa has been inspired by wood charcoal since 2003. He uses a powder of finely ground charred vegetables—“carbonization” is his word for the technique—to add a smoky element to dishes. In this case, the char is a coating which transforms wagyu beef into what appears, when first presented, to be a rock, or a piece of burnt wood. The meat is presented on a fine metal grate resting on a slate stone, and then taken back to the kitchen to be sliced and served.

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa

Les Creations de Narisawa
Tokyo, Japan

Wagyu Beef Coated in Vegetable Ash (sliced)

The beef is sliced and served on a slate slab with a wine reduction and organic spinach bottoms. Narisawa uses the ash to create an arresting visual effect, but its true purpose is seasoning. It can add a charred, bitter, smoky element to a dish without having to cook the meat (or fish, or vegetable) over a grill. In this case, the meat is briefly roasted then rolled in the vegetable ash after cooking—a healthier alternative to charring the meat itself, says Narisawa.

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa

Kyoto Kitcho
Kyoto, Japan

Steamed Tilefish in Clay Pot (cracked)

A large, clay-covered vessel is delivered intact to the table, only to be cracked with mallets on arrival. Inside are mysterious paper-wrapped packages which are served to the diners with half a sudachi (Japanese citrus).

Chef Kunio Tokuoka

Kyoto Kitcho
Kyoto, Japan

Steamed Tilefish in Clay Pot (unwrapped)

The diners un-wrap the paper to reveal a rolled bamboo mat that holds a folded houba leaf within. Lifting the corners of the leaf reveals a small piece of tilefish steamed inside the clay vessel. Houba leaf is used for wrapping and steaming in Japanese cuisine the way banana leaf is used in Southeast Asia. The intricate presentation and exciting process of discovery adds ceremony to an otherwise simple, straightforward dish.

Chef Kunio Tokuoka

Mugaritz
at Tokyo Taste 2009

Mugaritz Soap

A panna cotta-like concoction of oat milk, rice, and a gelling agent is set in a custom-made silicon mold shaped like a bar of soap with “Mugaritz” in raised letters on the top. Aduriz says the inspiration behind the dish was the overlapping of the culinary and cosmetic worlds. Soaps, sprays, and moisturizers often incorporate culinary ingredients like rosemary, orange, lavender, oatmeal. Why not incorporate a bit of cosmetics in the kitchen?

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz

Mugaritz
at Tokyo Taste 2009

Watermelon Carpaccio with Balsamic Vinegar, Nuts, and Idiazabal Cheese

From shape and color to texture, Aduriz’s watermelon carpaccio looks shockingly like raw beef. A watermelon half is first semi-dried in the oven then frozen and thinly sliced. The resulting melon slices are dense and pliable in an uncannily meaty way, and even show slight marbling. Aduriz was looking for ways to replace meat as the centerpiece of dishes—and this beats the hell out of tofurkey.

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz

Mugaritz
at Tokyo Taste 2009

Roast Veal, Thyme Branches, Ash, Salt, and Radishes

What appears to be a charcoal briquette is actually a small portion of roasted veal. The meat is coated in vegetable dyes and vegetable ash until utterly charcoal-like, then roasted until medium-rare. The jet black meat is served unadorned, save for a few radishes that have been haphazardly scraped so that only flecks of red skin remain. Why? We don’t know, but it certainly makes for a striking composition.

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz

 
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  • More on Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz
  • Recipe for grilled watermelon from Chef Dan Barber  


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