Watch Master Chef Masaharu Morimoto introduce his nominee, Yoshinori Ishii of Umu in London, then scroll down to see Ishii prepare a sashimi plate with locally caught fish.
Masaharu Morimoto—known to millions as a star of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America—has garnered critical and popular acclaim for his seamless integration of Western and Japanese ingredients. He is the executive chef at Morimoto Philadelphia, Morimoto New York, Morimoto Sushi Bar (in Boca Raton, Fla.), and Wasabi by Morimoto in Mumbai and New Delhi. In July 2010, he opened his first U.S. West Coast restaurant, Morimoto Napa, in downtown Napa's Riverfront development, followed by the debut of Morimoto Waikiki in the Modern Honolulu hotel. Over the years, he has expanded his culinary empire to Mexico City in the Camino Real Polcano, and he will soon open Morimoto Maui in the Andaz Maui at Wailea resort, and in Las Vegas in the Mirage hotel. Most recently, Morimoto opened Tribeca Canvas, his second New York City restaurant, which features a bistro-style menu and showcases his personal interpretation of Western comfort food with a global twist.
Before becoming a chef, Morimoto was on track to be drafted as a baseball catcher in Japan's major leagues, but a shoulder injury ended his career. Soon thereafter, he began studying sushi and traditional kaiseki, honing his craft for seven years at an acclaimed restaurant in his native Hiroshima. He learned the art of these traditional practices by training under several of Japan's esteemed master chefs. At age 24, he opened his own restaurant nearby, and after a successful five-year tenure, the young chef sold it and traveled to the United States to further explore Western cooking techniques and expand his repertoire. In 1993, Morimoto was tapped to head the sushi bar and Japanese kitchen at the Sony Club before being recruited the next year by chef Nobu Matsuhisa to open Nobu restaurant as its executive chef.
In 2001, Morimoto opened his first eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia. In 2004, Wasabi by Morimoto opened to acclaim at the Taj Mahal in Mumbai, followed by the Michelin-starred Morimoto XEX in Tokyo. In January 2006, Morimoto brought his eponymous restaurant to New York City. Along with the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design, Morimoto New York has garnered numerous awards, including being named a 2006 Hot List restaurant by Condé Nast Traveler one of New York's Top 50 restaurants by Travel + Leisure, Top Newcomer by the Zagat Survey, and one of New York magazine's Best New Restaurants.
In 1998, Morimoto joined the Japanese television show Iron Chef; now he is a regular on the Food Network's Iron Chef America. In 2007 his first cookbook, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking, was published, winning the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award in the Chefs and Restaurants category as well as the Julia Child Award for a first book. It was also nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award.
2 ounces white sesame seeds
1 ounce black sesame seeds
Pinch sansho pepper
Pinch freshly ground white pepper
2 pinches powdered aonori seaweed
1 ounce konbu powder
2 28-ounce live wild Scottish lobsters or live Maine lobsters
2 teaspoons corn oil
1 teaspoon butter
Shichimi pepper (recipe above)
2 cups sake
7 ounces konbu seaweed
1 package firm tofu
1½ ounces white miso
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yuzu juice
Yoshinori Ishii brings more than 20 years of cooking experience to the elegant dishes at his London restaurant, Umu. As well as being a highly accomplished chef, he is also a skilled fisherman, potter, and calligrapher. Ishii has a rare eye for artful display as well as flavor, incorporating his expertise as a chef and artist into each dish.
Ishii trained for nine years at the Michelin three-star restaurant Kyoto Kitcho in Japan. Although he was the souschef, he also took responsibility for cultivating traditional Japanese vegetables and preserving and arranging all the cultural assets owned by the restaurant— from flower arrangements to tableware. Following his time at Kyoto Kitcho, Ishii became the head chef at the Japanese Embassy for the United Nations in Geneva and New York. He then worked as the omakase chef at Morimoto restaurant, also in New York. During his time there he received the prestigious Rising Star Chef award and was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for culinary arts.
Ishii has designed the menus at Umu with both traditional Japanese restaurant goers and contemporary Japanese food lovers in mind. The emphasis is on the provenance of the ingredients, for true Kyoto food is based around the core elements of water, vegetables, and fish. He uses both traditional Japanese produce and locally sourced ingredients to create inventive Kyoto-influenced cuisine, including kaiseki, a Japanese banquet that traditionally accompanied the tea ceremony.
For the Shichimi Pepper: Combine all the ingredients. Set aside until ready to use.
For the Bisque: In a large pot of boiling water, cook the lobster for 20 seconds and shock in ice water. Break the lobster in half, lengthwise, using scissors, and remove meat from the tail, claws, and knuckle. Set the shells aside. Take the red coral out of the head and set aside.
Make a lobster stock by putting the head, shells, sake, konbu, and 3½ cups water in a saucepan, and simmer over medium heat until you get a rich stock, about 1 hour.
To make the bisque, put the tofu in a blender to make a paste. Add 1¼ cups of the rich lobster stock and blend until creamy. Add the coral, white miso, and salt, and blend until it is combined.
For the Lobster: Heat the corn oil over high heat in a frying pan until just before it smokes. Sear the lobster meat until it is crisp on the outside and rare on the inside. Remove the lobster meat from the pan and let it cool slightly. Then combine it with butter and shichimi pepper.
To Finish: Warm the tofu bisque in a saucepan over medium heat. Arrange four bite-size pieces of lobster in each of four bowls. Ladle in the bisque, and finish with a squeeze of yuzu juice on the top. Serve immediately.
Watch Yoshinori Ishii prepare a sashimi plate of locally caught fish at his restaurant Umu in London. Below, a recipe from his competition menu.