Splitsville Sushi Showdown (cont’d)

Here’s our recap of last week’s Sushi Showdown at Splitsville in Miami. It featured five sushi chefs competing for a top prize of $500, and other prizes including cash and an awesome sushi knife.

The winner of the speed rolling portion of the event was Cesar Rogue, who assembled five cucumber and asparagus rolls in just over two and a half minutes. He looked calm and unhurried, like a jazz drummer who minimizes motions to achieve blazing speed.

Cesar also impressed us mightily with his featured dish. He prepared a spider roll on steroids that was incredible. He started by deep frying his soft shell crabs, then began preparing his roll. First he cut very thin slices of hotate, gave them a quick dusting of parmesan, then seared them lightly with the blow torch. He placed these scallop slivers on top of each piece of his classic spider roll before serving.

Now make no mistake, pairing cheese with seafood is a huge no-no in the world of sushi, as it is notoriously hard to pull off. But it wasn’t cheesy or gooey; that may work for pizza but it’s the kiss of death for sushi. The toasted parmesan asserted itself nicely but did not interfere with the textural interplay of the soft scallop and the crunchy fried crab.

This dish was magnificent, and I could have walked away with a plate of this and been perfectly satisfied. This roll earned Cesar the third place finish overall. He also made another roll which I fail to mention because it languished in the shadows of the super spider roll‘s glory – a cucumber wrapped collection of kani stick and avocado, served up in a boat made from ice.

Closeup of Laz's Scallop / Avocado / Orange Roll

Next up in the competition was Laz Padron, who made a mouth-watering citrus roll. This baby featured hotate roll topping and pieces of what looked like tangerine slices?

It was balanced out with avocado and served in a tangy orange sauce that worked very well for yours truly. The scallop was sliced thinly, the avocado used sparingly and the orange sauce was terrific. I’d like to try this one again sometime.

Kevin Le, from Bonzai Sushi, came with orange color instead of orange sauce. He prepared the better part of a whole salmon filet for his dual salmon rolls. He started by preparing spicy krab salad as a filling for a spicy krab and salmon roll, and then cut some sashimi pieces that were floured and deep fried – also destined to become filling.

Both of his rolls were topped with salmon and the salmon tempura roll was then covered in tempura flake. What it lacked in visual variety it made up for in taste. Unless you don’t like the taste of salmon, it’s hard to imagine not enjoying Kevin’s rolls.

Greg Lie presents his masterpiece like a veteran Las Vegas showman!

Greg Lie came with a plan to make a show stopper. He managed to get a goldfish in between two martini glasses of water, mounted on a blue dry ice engine with a flamethrower on top. Major theatrics from the would-be Hollywood special effects artist!

This preso was so far over the top that some of us thought he might be trying out a routine for Vegas. The only way he could have made a more dramatic statement would have been by setting off the fire alarm with a larger flame.

Greg made some kind of shrimp tempura roll topped with spicy mayo that, frankly, nobody remembered, since we were all applauding the blue smoke factory slash goldfish prison tower with flames shooting out of the top. It was enough to earn him the second place finish overall, and a gorgeous sushi knife from South East Cutlery of Fort Lauderdale.

Then came Ivan Jaramillo. His dead serious look said it all. He was in a shootout at high noon and he intended to win. The scoring was close but he did walk away with first place overall and the $500 prize, and looked like he was happy with his performance.

Ivan made a teardrop shaped roll and a tuna salad served in a martini glass. The presentation was downright lame compared to Greg’s – a boat with glow sticks attached using wasabi. But Ivan didn’t win this contest on the strength of his presentation, he won it on taste!

Ivan’s tuna salad cocktail was extraordinary. It was a balance of flavors and texture, it was an adventure in every bite, it was just delicious. Ivan won the grand prize fair and square by making some damn good food!

Finally the heros of the competition – the General Manager, Events Manager, adn wait staff of Splitsville Miami! They did such a great job with all the un-sexy tasks that went into this production. They took care of all the little details that made this event go so smoothly.

Stacy Maderal takes top prize in the events planning category for making this a first class afair, an event people are eagerly looking forward to for next year! Hope the Splitsville folks realize what a coup Stacy pulled off here. A first rate sushi competition created from cleverness and hard work. Kudos Stacy!

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