Best of the best

I was honoured to be asked to write the reviews again this year for the Ora King Salmon Awards. The Ora’s were established in 2013 to recognise outstanding contributions from chefs working with Ora King.

This year the awards are celebrating their five year anniversary by doing something extra special, taking the Ora King Awards to Japan.

Unesco recently added Japanese cuisine – known in Japan as washoku – to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. This puts it equal to French cuisine, the only other national culinary tradition to be so honoured.

To win a place in the Japanese finals of the 2017 Ora King Awards, chefs are required to create an innovative Ora King dish with a Japanese twist, a chance for chefs to showcase their creativity, craftsmanship and expertise.

There are three local restaurants in the awards this year. Rye Kitchen, Trinity Wharf and the Rabbit Hole. This week we take a look at the entries from Trinity Wharf and Rye. Next week I am looking forward to bringing you the review on the Rabbit Hole dish, I have had a sneak preview and it looks pretty impressive.

What makes Ora King different?

New Zealand’s own Ora King Salmon is revered around the world by discerning chefs. The product has gained wide acclaim.

Ora King Salmon are grown sustainably in the deep, cool waters of the Marlborough Sounds.

With worldwide demand for seafood increasing, aquaculture is a highly efficient use of the marine environment. It takes the pressure away from ocean fishing and is a means of providing the world with valuable and nutritious protein.

Ora King is to salmon as wagyu is to beef. The highly prized Ora King salmon is itself a rare luxury, which makes up less than one per cent of the world’s salmon species, giving it a luscious, elegant texture and rich taste – you can definitely tell the difference.

Each salmon is reviewed by master graders and if it doesn’t meet the highest level then it doesn’t go on to become Ora King salmon.

Ora King has the highest natural oil content of all salmon – a naturally rich source of omega 3s. A 150g portion of this fish provides the complete daily requirement of omega 3 (I cannot think of a nicer way to get your daily intake).

Added to the health benefits, Ora King salmon looks stunningly distinctive. Its fantastic texture is buttery and soft, without excessive fat. It cuts easily due to its unique muscular structure, is light in the mouth and coats the palate delicately making it a real pleasure to eat. It is easy to pair with other ingredients.

Trinity Wharf

This is how Trinity Wharf Executive Chef Stuart Perry describes his entry:

“A dish which showcases balance and harmony with an essence of ‘complex simplicity’ with a Japanese blush is the inspiration for my 2017 entry in the Ora King competition. I envisage the diner experiencing a sense of calm on receiving my dish,with the visual elements drawing them in, as the textures and flavours escalate the experience to one of enrichment.

“An affinity with umami and a keen interest in the flavours, techniques and style of both Japanese and South East Asian cuisine have influenced me both in my formative years as a chef in Australia and now in New Zealand.

“Within this dish, I have combined a Japanese feel, with products associated with The Bay of Plenty such as Grove avocado oil and Zespri kiwifruit, both of which Japanese visitors appreciate and utilize in Japan.

“A variety of techniques have been employed in developing this dish. Some are of Japanese origin, others incorporating the Japanese method – “Power of 5” - Five Senses – Five Colours – Five Tastes.

“Similar to gravlax, the Japanese dish ‘Shimi Saba’ is based on the utilization of salt and rice vinegar in the curing of Mackerel. Within this dish, I have incorporated miso and kiwifruit with mirin and salt. I found that the kiwifruit reacted as a tenderiser and added to the feel of the salmon on the palate.

“The dashi (shiitake and crayfish), was created by cooking shiitake mushrooms and reserving the liquid and then simmering it over the cray bodies and other aromats. This created a liquid, which is used to glaze the clams and mushrooms.

“The clams were cooked off in shallots, butter and mirin

“A light emulsion of wasabi and avocado oil, was made to complement both portions of the dish.

“I kept the soft-shell crab clean and simple, whilst adding to the experience with a crisp coating of nori.

“With the garnishes I added lightly pickled spring onion and the crisp skin to add a texture and flavour dimension to the salmon portion of the dish.

“An added garnish to the crab component of the dish I infused duck fat with wasabi and dehydrated it with malto to create a rich and punchy surprise.”

A big thanks to Stuart and the team at Trinity Wharf for a great experience, the dish was superb! I particularly liked the way Stuart brought in the Bay to his dish by using kiwifruit.


On to Rye, to experience the take executive Chef Ian Harrison has put on his entry:

Ian cured the Ora King Salmon overnight in kombu. The salmon was then carefully sous-vide for 4 minutes at 64 degrees. The dish was beautifully balanced with a number of diverse elements. The elements consisting of white rice crema, pickled ginger puree, fermented battered smoked eel, lemon pith and dashi, were all carefully constructed and plated together, resulting in not only a visually appealing dish, but a clever use of textures and flavours that all worked so well together!

The fermented battered smoked eel worked so well in this dish, really added that point of difference.

These dishes are currently on the menu at Trinity Wharf and Rye, so be sure to try them.

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