It looked like Souma-kun was in quite the pickle there for a while. But he seems to have found a cure for it with his nukazuke style Pacific Saury, though as usual Shokugeki no Souma leaves us with quite the cliffhanger. This is really the first three-way battle the series has served up in two seasons, so all bets are pretty much off as far as rules and format are concerned, but it remains to be seen if next week’s main course will live up to the buildup provided by the appetizer.
One thing Souma can never be accused of is underselling its drama. Every battle is treated with absurdly grandiose gravity, in very self-aware fashion (the full moon as the timekeeper? Sheeh!). That undeniably does a great job of both whetting the appetite and setting the table, but there’s a downside to it too – it puts a lot of pressure on the climactic events themselves to deliver in a big way. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, and in fact I was prepared to say this one had come up a little short even before the Chairman failed to go bare-chested. But there was one more card remaining to be played, so the real test won’t come till next week.
Before that, though, we had the saury dishes of Kurokiba and Hayama to taste, and for plot fodder they both did a nice job delivering the goods. Ryou, as you’d expect, left the driveway in sixth gear and never even bothered to put in a brake pedal. He’s concocted a Cartoccio, a Sicilian seafood stew similar to but more intense than the famous Aqua Pazza. Using heat-resistant wrap and herb butter, he unleashed a flavor and aroma bomb with the subtlety of a Trump tweet, and managed to get the Charmian to take his top off. Leonara-san “bared” herself too, but in her case it just meant “stripping” her broken (but hilarious) Japanese (how does that work, exactly?).
Hayama was all elegance to Kurokiba’s brute force, showing that a restrained hand with spices can work miracles every bit as much as Byzantine combinations of them. He served a simple fish Carpaccio, certainly a fine dish to highlight the freshness of the saury but superficially a bit too simple for the occasion. His trump card was simple too – kaeshi, the ubiquitous soy sauce and sugar-based sauce base in every Japanese kitchen. He brushed it on his saury just before searing it at table, setting off an aroma explosion and proving he could highlight the complexities of the fish’s flavor both raw and brought out by heat. And by using only one spice (despite its name, Allspice is just one) achieved a synergy with the fish’s natural flavors and aromas.
So what of Souma-kun? Well, his trick was Nuka – fermented rice bran, the chaff left over from washing white rice mixed with sake (or possibly beer) as well as water and salt, a popular pickling medium in Japan. In theory it draws out all the unpleasant flavors from the fish and leaves only goodness behind, and it seems to have done its job making up for the difference in the boys’ ability to pick the best fresh fish. Souma then uses rice as the medium for the cured fish, using it to soak up all its flavors and serving his Hokkaido-style Nukazuke piping hot. It’s not enough for the old man to strip, but it’s in the seconds that Souma’s real secret seems to lie – and it’s going to need to be good if he’s to beat Akira-kun (who seems to have bested Ryou in the end). We’ll find out (presumably) next week if it is.