Maybe they ought to rename this series Shokugeki no Sanma…
I’ll forgive you for thinking there was something fishy about this episode, given that it was built around the dodgy premise of a three-way between Souma, Hayama and Kurokiba. But that conceit is a part of the plot now so all we can do is live with it. It’s certainly no surprise that the impending match dominates the episode completely, given that it’s the centerpiece for the entire season. In fact I thought it might get more than one episode of buildup, though the contest itself has already begun by the time end ending credits roll.
The vibe in the hall when the sanma, or Pacific saury, was announced as the theme for the final was that as a humble everyday ingredient it was a benefit to Souma, the kid with the shokudokoro background. But it’s actually a pretty good field-leveler. Kurokiba has been around the sea all his life, and has a master’s eye and touch when it comes to picking the best fish. As for Akira all he has to do (natch) is take a whiff and he can tell which are the freshest saury with the best umami. Souma-kun, it seems, can’t match that – which seems to present him with a considerable problem in preparing for the match. And that problem drives most of the episode.
Souma is right, of course, that a few 4:00 AM trips to Tsukiji Market can’t make up that gap. So hos notion to try and take freshness out of the equation is a good one, though easier said than done. He has a team of experts at his disposal – aging meat, smoking, curing, you name it and someone in his stable of friends is the go-to source. But ultimately it’s the well-aged herself Fumio-san who provides the inspiration when those methods don’t cut it – though just exactly what inspiration is yet to be determined. I’m not sure what Souma did to his saury just from looking at it – cured it in sake lees maybe, (Fumio was drinking sake at the Eureka moment, after all) or some kind of miso-soy milk paste.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out in the final, though I have to wonder if there are hard and fast rules about how much you can prep an ingredient before a competition – at what point does stuff like curing or aging cross over into actual cooking? A wild-card thrown into the mix is that one of the judges is Alice’s mother Nakiri Leonora, the head of Nakiri International’s research division. She’s mainly interesting so far for the pleasure in hearing Ohara Sayaka pretend to be a Danish woman who speaks broken Japanese, but given her last name I assume she’ll bring some sort of God-tier tasting powers to the table.