vs. Nicotra: Battle Kampachi
The Challenger: Fortunato Nicotra grew up
in Turin, Italy, and naturally grew fond of Italian cuisine. He moved to
New York, where he heads the kitchen as executive chef of Felidia, a
three-star eatery and a nominee for the James Beard Award for
Outstanding Restaurant in the US. Today, he challenges the white
Tetsujin, Masaharu Morimoto.
Gentlemen, prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Rodrigo Dumancela & Lara Brumgnach, sous-chefs
The theme ingredient:
Kampachi yellowtail, raised in a ranch off of the coast
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 that best articulates the theme ingredient
through his dishes wins.
The battle clock is set at 60 minutes, which will start
when the Chairman, with full heart and empty stomach,
utters the words of his dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
And Battle Kampachi is on! Kampachi is a favorite of
sushi fans the world over, as demonstrated by Morimoto's
plowing through his fish. It looks like Makoto's
starting on a batter of sorts while Nicotra already has
his plates down.
Morimoto may use the bones of the rib for a broth. We
shall soon see. Makoto is going to broil those in olive
oil. Lara is prepping to roast the tails.
Meanwhile, it's calm in the Stadium. Lara's working
cheese, while Morimoto is carving out the skins. Rodrigo
is still deboning fish, while the IC side is making a
homemade five-spice and wasabi, honest-to-god wasabi,
down on the floor.
Nicotra may have a sashimi in the works, and as Makoto
finishes his quick roast, we go to the pot for a broth,
while Morimoto goes to the pantry for some lemons.
Rodrigo is grating tomatoes... "Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." The challengers have brought some herbs,
adding that, the fish, and some butter to the food
The Iron chef is blending avocado, red onion, and
cilantro while breaking down his kampachi. Plus he's
dunked a whole fish into lemon and vinegar to blanch it
for another application. Nicotra has matched his fish
with tomato and has diced potatoes on the stove. His
puree of kampachi and mascarpone is done and waiting for
the next step.
Culinary author Ted Allen ("Top Chef")
TV host Kelly Choi ("Eat Out New York")
Culinary Institute of America professor John Nihof
Ever see someone open a bottle of sake with their teeth?
Looks cool. "Thirty minutes have elapsed." Morimoto has
dunked his kampachi in lemon juice, candied it with
syrup, rubbed it with five-spice, and hung it on a rack.
Meanwhile, Makoto is mixing guacamole. Nicotra is making
a kampachi sandwich, slicing potatoes, and plating a
Morimoto's kampachi broth is chilling in an ice bath
while simmering kampachi and ginger in sake. Nicotra is
grilling his fish while wrapping tomato and mozzarella
in plastic and steaming. Plating continues with raw
kampachi and sturgeon caviar with some burrata.
"Fifteen minutes to go."
Morimoto is deep-frying his kampachi tempura. His
spice-covered whole fish is hanging in the convection
oven. The fish broth is being made into consomme.
Nicotra has put his potato kampachi rolls under the
salamander, and plating continues with his kampachi &
avocado sandwich down and roasted tail on Himalayan rock
Morimoto is braising his fish in miso and sake, while he
is toasting sesame seeds. Nicotra is wrapping some speck
and grilling it. The raw kampachi he made earlier is on
a spoon with tomato and lime juice. And we have bacon in
And while Makoto is straining his guacamole, Morimoto is
plating his tempura in a glass block next to wasabi-infused
ketchup. Makoto is finishing up a kampachi tartare with
mori, sour cream, wasabi, and the guacamole. And the
rice crackers, not sesame seeds.
Nicotra is mixing up various ingredients for...
something. We have martini glasses out. Hmm... The
creamy concoction is down on a plate with razor-clam
shells. The potato rolls are down with speck rolls. We
also have the grilled number, razor-clam chowder,
martini, kampachi tail, a trio, and a dual number.
Morimoto just plated the miso/sake fish, consomme,
tempura with cocktail sauce, the hanging spice fish,
steamed rice with raw fish, sashimi, and tartare.
And now it's all over but the shaving of the white
truffle on both sides.
"Five seconds... three... two... one..." Put it down,
walk away. Battle Kampachi is over, and what a quiet
battle it was.
Judgment (Morimoto): "The kampachi was very fresh
today, so I wanted to enhance the natural flavor as much
as I could. So I created a six course meal that starts
with an amuse and goes all the way through to the
- Kampachi Tempura
- Kampachi Tartare
- Kampachi Sashimi
- Five Spice Rubbed Whole Kampachi with Kampachi
- Miso Braised Kampachi & Daikon
- Kampachi and Rice Bowl
The flavor combinations are classic and traditional, yet
bold. Kelly, though, thought it was more subtle. And in
a first, an Iron Chef feeds the Chairman. Ted likes the
presentation more than anything.
Judgment (Nicotra): "I tried to use the technique
we use in Italian cuisine. I tried to keep it as simple
- Kampachi Crudo Tasting
- Kampachi Tagliata
- Kampachi & Two Potato Cannelloni
- Kampachi Tail
- Steamed Kampachi with Razor Clam Chowder
The professor is a fan of the texture and the challenge
of the palate. Kelly says that Nicotra was true to the
But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...
... one point shy of the
sweep, 59-50 in favor of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Their approaches to the ingredient at hand were
different, but in the end, the overall theme favored the
Tetsujin, who gets to add another notch to his belt.
Until next time, we bid you good eating.