"Symon vs. Morimoto: Battle
Asparagus" - October 2
Editor's Note: What follows is a
televised-move-by-televised-move recap. Because a
sixty-minute battle, intro, and judgment has to be
edited into 45 minutes of airtime, not every move will
The Challenger: Mike
Symon, basically what you get when you mix a chef with
"American Chopper." Born, raised, and running his empire
(one restaurant: Lola) from Cleveland, he describes his
cuisine as progressive regional. Food & Wine Magazine
calls him one of the ten best in America. Today, he
draws the OG
of the ICs, Masaharu Morimoto.
Gentlemen... prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Matt Harlan & Frank Rogers, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Asparagus, green and white. An edge to the Iron
Chef, having fought in Battle Asparagus on the original
The Rules: Each chef
must create a five-course meal, with each course
utilizing the theme ingredient, within 60 minutes. The
judges will score the dishes on a 20-point scale: 10
points taste, 5 points plating and presentation, 5
points creativity and use of ingredient. The chef who
best articulates the theme ingredient through his dishes
with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: Morimoto
starts by cutting... tongue. Symon has rice and
pancetta. The shirts on the challenger's side say "Live
to Cook". With a skull-and-crossknives. Where can I get
one of those? Morimoto's timer is out (he's the only
chef, Iron or otherwise, with one) with milk, heavy
cream, and butter. The challenger has ramps, morelles,
and lamb. He's also blending asparagus for a puree while
sous-chef Frank is slicing asparagus. Morimoto is
working with tongue, slicing into... yes, one of the
dishes he made in Japan, tongue skewered with asparagus.
It goes into the pressure cooker. Symon is separating
eggs. Custard? Maybe. White asparagus going into stock
on the challenger, fish broth on the IC. Makoto is
buttering custard cups. That and the cream suggests
custard, yes. Challenger works cinnamon & sugar.
Meanwhile, Morimoto is
shaving asparagus. "White cooks fast, but green has more
of a spring-like flavor." The challenger is working
dough with puree and ricotta. The IC is smoking
asparagus with one apple chip. Meanwhile, the
challenger is cooking asparagus in a simple syrup.
And... a bottle of Ouzo and grape leaves? "Gracious!
He's been out with Cat Cora!" Sure he has, Alton.
He moves his asparagus and OJ mix onto the stove, while
Morimoto is blending tomatoes. Twenty minutes into the
battle, and it's time to meet...
Foodie/author Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight
Author/critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("It Must Have Been
Something I Ate")
Culinary consultant Karine Bakhoum (KB Network News)
Back to Battle: Omae
is de-veining prawns without removing the shells.
Morimoto has some Kobe beef. Jeffrey wonders if it came
from Texas. Probably. Rice with asparagus juice, crab
meat, and lemon are in the mix for Symon. It's a sticky
rice and... "How'd he make 25 minutes for sticky rice?"
I don't know, Morimoto. He's got pureed asparagus with
sushi rice, while sous-chef Makoto has an asparagus
custard. The IC has star anise with sudachi zest for
pressurizing. Frank has shortening, flour, and egg yolk
for... well, something.
And Makoto is turning on
the ice cream maker! The candied asparagus on the
challenger's side is checked... The smoked tips on
Morimoto's side are out, while Morimoto, in a deviation
from his cola antics, has poured a soda, lemon-lime
based, brand name rhymes with "bright" into a rice
cooker. Checking Morimoto's timer... 30 minutes.
Symon has his slicer out,
while Frank adds pine nuts & orange zest with the dough
for what he calls "an asparagus donut".
Challenger has a rack of
lamb with rosemary, while the candied asparagus is out.
"Twenty minutes to go." Morimoto is chopping the Kobe
beef, while Makoto is working on tuna. Symon has
kalamata olives. The asparagus ice cream is out... "Just
think mint!" That's why Kevin gets paid the big bucks
for doing what he does...
The pancetta is out on the
challenger's side, while Omae has a white asparagus
mousse. Symon is making sushi maki with his rice and
grape leaves. The Iron Chef is working on flan with egg
yolks, adding chopped greens & Kobe beef, while Symon is
making asparagus tempura and asparagus churros. Morimoto
is cooking meat bricks on low heat. The IC side is
getting its act together as we have 15 on the clock.
They have chocolate melting.
Symon is plating his
Greek-inspired sushi. "Ten minutes to go." Morimoto is
rolling maki with prosciutto. The asparagus flans are
chilling. This one is going to be close. We have cooking
and plating at the same time. Sushi, panko, eggs, fryer,
tempura! The challenger is working on churros. The Iron
Chef still needs to plate. The ricotta dumplings are
down into a salad on the challenger's side.
Iron Chef Morimoto is
blast-chilling asparagus that was cooked with plum wine
in the pressure cooker, while Makoto is spooning white
asparagus mousse onto caviar, while Omae is plating the
flan with the Kobe beef & asparagus. Remember the plum
wine asparagus? Morimoto is coating it in chocolate.
Meanwhile, Morimoto is plating his fried roll onto
foamed dashi broth. The pancetta dish and the lamb are
down on Symon's side, and Morimoto's working on the
skewer and the ice cream.
And we have the blowtorch
out! "Three minutes to go." And Morimoto is panicking.
The mousse, the salad, the tongue, the flan, and... the
dessert is done. The Ouzo is flamed out and we're at
less than a minute. The five plates are almost done
here, but... Morimoto has six dishes out! And all this
time we thought he was behind. Symon is spooning out the
contents of a blender at the last second. "Five
seconds... Three... Two.. One..." Put it down, walk
away, Battle Asparagus is done!
Judgment (Symon): "Clean, simple, flavors that
go really nice with asparagus."
Dishes: Lemon and Egg Soup with White Asparagus Puree,
Greek Asparagus Sushi, Asparagus Dumplings with
Pistachio Sauce, Lavender Lamb with Phyllo and
Asparagus, Asparagus Churros with Chocolate Sauce
Judgment (Morimoto): "Both the green and white
asparagus were very nice. In some of my dishes, you'll
taste asparagus. Others, just a hint." Dishes:
Asparagus Mousse with Caviar, Fresh Asparagus Pasta;
Smoked Asparagus, Flan & Kobe Beef Tartar; Soup with
Beef Tongue & Asparagus, Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
Sushi, Asparagus Ice Cream with Chocolate Asparagus.
You can't taste asparagus
in any of the creative dishes, as the judges give high
marks to both chefs. But who'll get speared with the
sour taste of defeat? Whose cuisine reigns supreme? The
... 53.5-44 in favor of
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. With superior flavors and
plating and a near perfect originality factor, Morimoto,
to quote my brother, kicked his ass, and then raped it!
Until next time, I big you good eating.