Wholly mackerel, it was close!

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 27, 2010 - 7:00 PM

For one Minnesota cook, the Sunday night competition didn't take place only on a New Orleans football field.

At the Kitchen Stadium on the Food Network in New York City, the battle that mattered was "Iron Chef America," between Sameh Wadi, chef/owner of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, and Masaharu Morimoto, chef/owner of three Morimoto restaurants in the United States and restaurants in India and Japan.

Wadi -- the first Minnesota chef to compete and, at 25, the youngest competitor to appear on the show -- lost by a narrow margin.

The secret ingredient in the competition: mackerel. Each chef had to incorporate the fish into five courses.

Wadi created a Spanish escabèche of mackerel (fish covered with a spicy marinade), and an Indian watermelon curry with mackerel done two ways. Other courses included a mackerel spanakopita, North African tagine and a whole fried fish marinated in chermoula.

Family, friends and loyal customers gathered at Restaurant Max in Hotel Minneapolis to watch the broadcast. "My first thought when I heard it was mackerel was 'not fair,' " he said with a laugh, referring to the use of the fish in Japanese cuisine.

Saed Wadi, his brother, countered, "Let's bring back Morimoto for lamb. Sameh is the lamb king!"

For more on the broadcast, see startribune.com/tabletalk.

Saffron is at 123 N. 3rd St.

LEE SVITAK DEAN

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