A Tale of Two Iron Chefs and A Tuna

Posted on October 25, 2010


by AnneLise Sorensen

The New York Wine & Food Festival swept through New York City on Columbus Day weekend. If you’ve watched my Backyard Travel segments on NBC Nonstop, you’ll know that I’m on an ongoing quest for unique travel experiences in and around New York, and this is where the festival delivered: Highlights included a behind-the-scenes slaughterhouse tour in the Meatpacking District (stay tuned for a post on that); prohibition cocktails at the three-tiered bar 5 Ninth; and, one of my favorites, a night of two Iron Chefs and a tuna nearly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle – at the Harvard Club. Perhaps the most startling moment of the night was to walk in and see the massive tuna, with its glistening black scales and feathery fan of a tail, lying on a mahogany table in the middle of the Harvard Club.

Tuna à la Ferran Adrià

Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Ming Tsai stood over the tuna with cleavers, surrounded by a classic (verging on cliché) Ivy League scene: Oil paintings of stern, white-haired founders; columns rising to cathedral-high ceilings; and thick oriental carpets. The chefs cut into the tuna, a clean swipe down the naked belly, which fell open to reveal bright red meat. We craned our necks to watch – the crowd had grown quickly – as the chefs carefully arranged jello-like hunks on small plates. The tuna was topped with an ethereal teardrop of white foam – à la Ferran Adrià – which tasted of the sea, and delicately dissolved on the tongue. Superb.

Sweet Caroline. Oh, oh, oh.

The night was young: Later, the crowd gathered around a stage, where the Iron Chefs sang karaoke, starting quietly, awkwardly, and then louder and more confident. The songs were all the hokey classics: Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh. Imagine it: Dignified elder chef Masaharu Morimoto – salt-and-pepper hair combed back onto an elegant ponytail – belting out karaoke as lyrics scrolled up on a flickering, bright-blue screen, complete with one of those bouncing balls leaping over the letters, from word to word. Swee-eee-t Caroline, ohh, ohh, ohh.

Travel Transforms (or, Aha!) moment: Sometimes, it’s as simple as an incongruous, absurd moment: A giant tuna surrounded by the gilt, velvet, and pomp of an Ivy League Club.