Chef Series with Thiago: Foie Gras Unagi
Thiago Guerra is head chef at Izakaya Sake Bar, one of Yamamori’s south city locations on George’s Street. We sat down with Thiago to discuss the Foie Gras Unagi plate, a unique fusion of the European and Japanese cuisine palettes that reflects both the adventurous culinary interests of Dublin itself, and Thiago’s own creative skillset.
Foie Gras Unagi was introduced to the Yamamori menu in June 2018 as a special, an experimental fusion of European and Japanese palettes. When the response from customers was overwhelmingly positive, it became a permanent menu item in August. So how did these two iconic ingredients come together? The origins of this beautifully simple dish reflect both a passion for and knowledge of overlapping culinary worlds.
Thiago has wanted to be a chef since childhood and food-making is in his lineage; from family-owned restaurants, to his mother and grandmother teaching him techniques. “My whole family are cooks.” When he went to culinary college in Brazil, he spent six years studying French cuisine and aspired to be a French-specialized chef. Then there came an opportunity to enter a food competition, and his school supported him to directly work under a Japanese chef and prepare for it. Now in Ireland, Thiago has now been at Yamamori for over 6 years - but has a mastery of the French traditions at his disposal.
“Yamamori itself has had a huge influence on the popularity of Japanese food in Dublin, and Ireland, as a whole.” In the past 6 years, Thiago feels it has changed the way the Irish public sees and approaches Japanese food. “We want our regulars to know a lot about sushi.” Popularity for sushi has exploded in Europe and Ireland specifically, and he feels that the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted in Japan will only further the interest in the food.
Thiago preparing the Fois Gras for presentation
But what’s so exciting about Japanese cuisine specifically? “The way they work with food,” he says. “These days, people try to change it a lot, try to add so much to it, and they lose the soul of the food, the real thing.” Thiago insists on honouring the purity of the tradition. “If you have something so good, why does it need to change? Let the food be what it needs to be.”
He believes the details that go into the dish are important: the Japanese food aesthetic reflects the minimalist visual culture, but supports a complex and nuanced flavor palette. “The dream,” he says, “should be a simple style and most similar to street food in Japan - that’s the goal.”
Thiago’s goal with Yamamori is also to introduce new and intriguing dishes to their customers, expanding preferences and bringing together complementary elements. “[At Izakaya], every new dish is aimed towards getting people more comfortable with trying new things; a lot of our ideas come from that,” he says. “We try to adapt ourselves to the customer base, while introducing new things.” So adding in a familiar element is an opportunity for something entirely new.
Adding last touches on the plate
The Fois Gras Unagi is the quintessential fusion between the European and Japanese palettes. “We want to take the most complementary techniques of French and European cuisine and apply it to Japanese food.” The result is a bridge between traditions, a way to reach both sides through firmly established classics of each cuisine.