Hamburgers & fries or Sushi? Sushi or Hamburger & fries? Deciding between two of your favourite cuisines can be as difficult as Sophie’s Choice. But what if you can get a taste of both in one bite? Yep, sometimes dreams do come true! Enter East Meets West, the food festival by JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity, bringing together cuisines from Japan and the US, with an influence of Korean fare. DSSC was given an exclusive preview of the innovative dishes being served by Chef Corey E. Asato and Chef Tomoyuki Kiga, who bring two different cultural backgrounds from the same ethnicity on one platter. Chef Corey comes with the experience of Japanese fare moulded the American way and has previously held the position of Sous Chef at Island Sushi and Hawaiian Grill at Plaza Hotel and worked with Kumi Japanese Bar & Restaurant By: Akira Back at Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas. While his collaborator, Chef Kiga who specialises in Traditional Japanese with a Korean essence, has been trained by L’Ecole Vantan, Japan and has worked as the Chef de Partie & Sous Chef at Yellowtail, Las Vegas and Akira Back, Jakarta, respectively.
The duo realised that even though their respective fortes, American Japanese and traditional Japanese, are at opposite ends of the equator, there exists an undeniable similarity between the two. They decided to explore this by creating fusion dishes, and serving Delhi the best of both the cuisines at the food fest.
The chefs waste no time to get talking about their dishes, and we start right off with chef Asato’s Eiji Black Cod Lettuce Cups. Telling us about the name, he says he borrowed it from his own, “my middle name is Eiji, which means ‘second son’ or ‘second’, used here to inform the patron about what’s coming next”. He’s combined the typical lettuce cup with the traditional Korean dish ‘Bossam’ (salty cabbage & pork belly) to make this delectable one-biter. The lettuce wrap encases cod fish and mango, hitting three different palates all at once- it’s sweet, salty and spicy at the same time! The bite started off with crunchy lettuce, to a salty-pungent cod, moving on to a hint of sweet mango and rounded off by the lettuce again. We enjoyed this power-packed pop, and have added to our list of fave appetisers already!
Next up was the West Coast Curry, this vegetarian dish takes Japanese Tonkatsu curry and disintegrates it to blend in with the western palate. So instead of a curry bowl, with the rice/noodles and vegetables all mixed together, we had a broken down version – Fukujinzuke and Inaniwa Noodle (a type of udon noodles) in the centre, flaunted by vegetables on one side and the Enoky Mushroom Kakiage (mushroom fried in tempura batter) on the other, on a bed of curry. Digging into it, we were reminded of home! The tastes have a slight reflection of our Indian curries, which we loved. Chef Asato came up with the idea of a fragmented curry as he couldn’t stop thinking about the authentic curry he tried in Japan, and, also because “you see people pick & choose parts of a curry bowl, they love one ingredient but don’t want to eat another, so I thought why not give them the option of eating only what they like, without it being mixed with everything else.” The pickled cucumber right in the middle of the dish was the underdog here, sealing our deal with this curry.
Chef Kiga introduced us to his special Kiga Nori Crackers, a union of Japanese rice crackers and nachos. “I’ve loved the traditional rice or shrimp crackers since I was a kid, but I tried the tortilla & dip for the first time only after joining college. I took the dip idea for the Spicy Hamachi (yellowtail fish) and the tortilla as the Senbei (rice crackers).” In a twist to the standard crackers, the Kiga Nori Crackers are made of seaweed & rice. The extremely delicate and crunchy base of the cracker, with the fresh Hamachi on top has none of the raw taste of seaweed, and the savoury flavour made it our favourite snack even before we finished the first bite. “It caters to the umami palate,” he tells us. We had some serious talk about taking classes from Le Chef himself, and plan to reach out to these instead of our bag of chips now on! #SnackAttack.
Coming to our last dish of the evening (reluctantly so), we tried the Samurai Zenbu Sake. Chef Kiga made this sushi roll using the art of Zenbu, “it means ‘all’ or everything’. In Japanese cuisine it is very common for chefs to use everything, from the roots to the leaves in vegetables, from gills, fins, to eggs in fish.” The sushi roll is made with a whole salmon, with the belly and the tail portions on the top, the salmon inside the roll and crispy salmon & fish eggs garnishing. It brings the exquisite taste of salmon eggs to the palate, followed by the layer of rice and raw salmon, mixed with a slight soy aroma. We liked how the soy gave a break to the strong raw fish flavour. If you’re a sushi lover, it doesn’t get better than this!
Talking about their favourite dishes, Chef Kiga picked the Nori Crackers and Chef Asato settled on the West Coast Curry – now you know what you should definitely try! On being asked whether some dishes are trickier to prepare than others, Chef Asato says, “Some dishes take long and some take a short while, but the thing is, the longer it takes to cook something the tastier it is, as there’s that much more love going into it.”
On that note, our very happy palates act as testimonies to the fact that the duo has put in a lot of love in coming up with this menu, which shows not only in their enthusiasm but in their creations too.
East Meets West is on till 11th September, 2016 at JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity.