Top shelf chef: Bobby Flay gets an assist from sushi master Asano

Shark at The Palms represents a series of firsts for proprietor Bobby Flay. It’s his first new restaurant in five years, his first fine dining establishment in 15, and his first seafood foray. It also marks the first time the celebrity chef has brought in a chef/partner to handle a portion of the menu. That chef is Kiyo Asano, and the expertise he brings to Shark is sushi.

“It’s based on how I want to eat now, (and) how my tastes have changed,” Flay says of the restaurant’s seafood and sushi format. But, he’s quick to add, he recognizes that he needs a little help in pulling it off.

“I’ll never forget, Morimoto said to me, ‘It took me five years to learn how to cook rice,’ ” he recalls his fellow Iron Chef once explaining the dedication required to create truly elevated sushi.

“That’s just the rice. So when you think about that, it’s not something that you can have a quick tutorial on, and then all of a sudden start making it at a world-class level. That’s why I have Kiyo.”

Asano, who studied his craft in Osaka, is no stranger to high-profile sushi bars. His resume includes stints at Nobu and Bar Masa. Yet he calls working with Flay, to whom he was introduced by a friend, his dream.

When asked about the style he brings to The Palms, Asano says “We’re doing authentic sushi, and we serve American-style sushi rolls.”

The latter includes a shrimp tempura roll, a softshell crab tempura roll and a spicy bluefin tuna roll. It does not involve Americanized amalgamations of fish slathered in multiple sauces and cream cheese. That means no screaming orgasm roll, or many of the other favorites from the corner, all-you-can-eat joint.

“We don’t serve it,” Asano says, when asked about such things.

That’s not to say he doesn’t stray from tradition to blend his style with Flay’s. That shrimp tempura roll is accented with a touch of Amarillo chili sauce, and the softshell crab features hints of smoky chipotles.

“Mexican flavors and South American flavors,” the sushi master says of his partner’s influence on his creations.

Flay promises the two styles will blend seamlessly on your plate. “It’s pairing dishes and ingredients that work perfectly well with this sort of Japanese and Latin fusion that’s happening here. It all works really well together.”

 
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