On November 3 at XIV, James Beard Award-winner Michael Mina teamed with Katsuya Chef Katsuya Uechi on “East Meets West,” a seven-course dinner that featured side-by-side Iron Chef-style riffs on a single ingredient. Katsuya and Mina are friends who both operate SBE restaurants in Los Angeles, and their presence attracted a glamorous crowd. Even Louis XIV was even in the house, backing Mina of course, while Katsuya had a geisha on his side. Each course was a feast for the senses, incorporating premium ingredients like caviar, big eye tuna and American Wagyu beef. Unlike on Iron Chef, guests didn’t resort to scorecards, but by my count, the finally tally was 4-3, with the slight edge going to Mina. Instead of posting a mind-numbing rundown of every bite, here are my five favorite dishes from East Meets West:
It’s not like Mina butchered the AMERICAN CAVIAR by pairing the pile of briny black bursts with a luxurious smoked sturgeon croquette and Hollandaise “foam,” but Katsuya demonstrated a real clarity of flavor with his caviar-strewn Chawan Mushi. The custard hosted an earthy dashi broth and a firm matsutake julienne that played well off of the caviar.
Chef Mina counterpunched in Round Two with his take on JAPANESE TAI (no, not Thai) SNAPPER. The flaky, tapioca flour-crusted fish was feather light and plated on punchy broccoli rabe and white soy vinaigrette before getting dusted with black sesame seeds.
Mina generated plenty of crunch by placing a raw vegetable julienne in the middle of his silky BIG EYE TUNA coils, but it was Katsuya who generated the most big eye excitement. His Nigiri x 3 featured two different pieces of ruby hued sushi and a deluxe version of his signature dish: spicy tuna over crispy rice. The big eye tuna provided a richness that isn’t possible with his standard variety.
The showstopping course involved NANTUCKET “SUGAR DROP” BAY SCALLOPS. So often, bay scallops are overcooked to the consistency of pencil erasers, but that was never a possibility under the oh-so-capable direction of Michael Mina and Katsuya Uechi. Both of their interpretations were spectacular, beginning with Chef Mina’s caramelized scallops plated with a luxurious slab of foie gras and cinnamon couscous strewn with golden raisins and crispy garlic chips. Katsuya kept pace with a skewer of scintillating New England-style fried scallops dusted with shaved black truffle and topped with a slice of sudachi, a zesty green Japanese citrus fruit.
None of the dishes crafted from Jidori chicken or American Wagyu short rib made the night’s short list, but the evening was still a success. Chef Mina also said that he’d be interested in teaming with chefs on other events in the future. Can we look forward to West Meets North, or West Meets South?
Note: Katsuya’s publicists hosted a media table and comped my meal.