The former Nobu chef, now at Mirai Bahrain, shows us how to cook a quail
Time Out Bahrain staff
Where are you from? Western Australia, smack in the middle of Perth and the Margaret River. What got you into the kitchen? I started washing dishes just before my fifteenth birthday.
What bought you to Bahrain? Scott Hallsworth [now executive chef at Mirai Dubai] and I trained together, and he told me about a vacancy in Bahrain.
After three months here you changed the menu. Why? This place was selling itself as a Japanese restaurant but with very little Japanese food. What we are doing now is making it typically Japanese using the concept of Izakaya, which is basically Japanese tapas. We are trying to promote the sharing concept as well, and that works hand in hand with people who want to get away from the three course meal structure.
How would you describe the new menu? A fresh approach – it’s more Japanese. What’s the greatest challenge of being a chef in Bahrain? When I first got here it was finding ingredients, and that’s not a quality issue. Bahrain is a totally different culture; deliveries don’t necessarily turn up on time or even turn up, and sourcing produce specific to the food that we wanted to serve was pretty tough.
What is your most difficult ingredient to get hold of? Up until now, it has been yuzu juice. It is a Japanese citrus fruit. You buy the juice bottled, and it should be fairly simple to get hold of. We could get all other yuzu products but not the juice. Since I have been here, I have been thinking of every way to replicate the flavour of the juice because I just couldn’t get it. And that was a good learning process as well, an exercise in adaptation. What’s your favourite dish on the menu and why? Something that typifies Mirai, and I really like that style, is the Roasted Scallop with foie gras miso zuke and jalapeno dressing. We have fresh scallops flown in from England and some beautiful foie gras, and the two marinated in Japanese miso and cooked together with a little bit of Jalapeno salsa is so rich that you don’t want more than one; it’s the perfect mouthful.
What’s your top cooking tip? Don’t sacrifice quality on your base ingredients. If you start with rubbish, you’ll end up with rubbish.
Who would you most like to cook for? Someone who actually really appreciates it.
Who’s the most famous person you have cooked for? The prime minister of Singapore at a private function with Nobu. Nobu is full of movie stars, but I’m not into the fame game. Angelina Jolie used to come through quite a few times.
And Brand Pitt? No, that was pre-Brangelina.
What do you miss most about Australia? My kids and my partner.
What recipe have you decided to share with us and why? Crispy quail kara-age. It is simple enough to do at home, and it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. And I know from going to the local supermarkets here, you can buy everything easily. Although I mentioned Yuzu being difficult to get hold of, the Yuzu sauce you can buy from either of the two Asian stores in the Central Market. And you don’t need a big tempura fryer, you can cook it in a pot at home.
Crispy quail kara-age with yuzu kosho mayonnaise and lime
Serves between 2 and 4 Recipe 1 quail deboned oil for deep frying 1/2 a lime
For the flour mix 1/2 cup tempura flour 1 tablespoon dried oregano ground 1 tbsp dried thyme ground 1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper 1/4 tbsp schichimi togarashi 1tbsp freshly ground black pepper 3/4 tbsp sea salt This is more than you need but it keeps well in an air tight container. For the egg mix 1 egg 175 mls cream 175 mls milk Mix together and set aside.
For the mayonnaise 250g mayonnaise 2tbsp yuzu kosho juice of 1 lime Combine ingredients together. Again this is more than needed, but it keeps well.
Method 1. Heat the oil to 180°C. 2. Place the quail into the egg mix before thoroughly coating it with flour. 3. Pop the quail into the oil and fry for approximately 4 minutes. 4. Remove from the oil and drain well. Separate the quail into legs and breast and serve with lime and the mayonnaise dipping sauce.