DISH BY SEAMUS MULLEN
PHOTO BY LESLEY UNRUH
Inspired by Nobu Milan
Hamachi crude with charred blood orange and toasted hazelnuts
I suppose "fusion" is a bit of a four-letter word these days, at least in the culinary world – it's not to be mentioned in the front or back of the house of any self-respecting restaurant. We're quick to mock it as a terribly dated food fad, and just as quickly as a quick to forget that fusion cuisine is often the result of innovation and creativity. It's about exploring different different exciting ways to combine ingredients, flavors, and techniques to create something entirely new – and really, what could be wrong with that, if it's done well?
The godfather of fusion is arguable Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, more famously known as just Nobu. As a young Japanese chef he was transplanted to Peru, where he was tasked with opening a restaurant in Lima without access to traditional Japanese ingredients – so he had to get creative. He experimented with incorporating Peruvian ingredients into his food, the result of which has had a lasting influence on contemporary cuisine. Nobu was a true trailblazer, responsible for introducing the U.S. to numerous dishes we take for granted today. That yellowtail jalapeño roll on every sushi menu? The ubiquitous black cod with miso? You can thank Nobu for both of those.
The newly renovated Armani Nobu itself is an excellent example of well-executed fusion, integrating sensual Italian sophistication with a coal, bold, Japanese aesthetic. Two cultures known for their exquisite sense of luxury are represented here in a space that is rich yet understated, a quiet decadence that comes through not in ornamentation but through rich textures and materials.
For this dish, I knew immediately that I wanted to do a crudo, since I can't think of a better way to pay homage to Nobu. Nowadays, it's hard to find a restaurant that doesn't serve crudo of some sort (yet another thing we can thank Nobu for). A good crude is not unlike this space – it looks deceptively simple, but is built upon layers of of flavor and texture and is actually quite complex. For this dish, I chose hamachi, or yellowtail, a fish that Nobu helped popularize in the States. The silky texture of the cured fish pairs beautifully with the toasty crunch or hazelnuts and the smoky brightness of blood orange. To add to my own twist, I've given it a slight Spanish accent with the use of pimentón in the curing mixture and sherry vinegar for the vinaigrette. There you have it: fusion! I guess it's not such a bad word after all.
Serves one as an appetizer
2 ounces yellowtail filet
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pimentón
4 ounces butter
1/2 tablespoon hazelnuts
1 tablespoon fine sherry vinegar
salt to taste
For the garnish:
1 blood brand, skin removed, cut into 1-ince wedges
1 ounce crème fraîche
2 chopped dill sprigs, with 3 leaves set aside for garnish
1 clove garlic, great with microplane salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the yellowtail for curing, mix the salt, sugar, and pimentón in a small mixing bowl. On a small tray or plate, sprinkle the filet liberally with the curing mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cure in the refrigerator for one hour. Remove and rinse the fish carefully, then pat dry with a clean towel. Slice sashimi-style into 1/8 inch slices.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, toast hazelnuts in butter until golden brown. Remove from butter, crush with the flat end of a knife, and set aside. Make a brown butter vinaigrette by continuing to cook the butter until brown, then remove from heat and add the sherry vinaigrette and salt to taste; set aside.
Heat a dry cast-iron skillet on high; once the skillet is hot, place the blood orange slices face down and char on one side. Cut into halves and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, mix the crème fraîche, dill, and garlic; season with salt and pepper to taste.
To plate the dish, smear the crème fraîche on a clean plate. Arrange alternating slices of the charred blood orange and cured fish. Dress with the brown butter vinaigrette and finish with crushed hazelnuts and dill leaves. Enjoy.