Cafe Society

Shaun Motoda, chef of TAG|RAW BAR, on the perfect bite and his obsession with Taco Bell

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What's never in your kitchen? I don't use a fryer in my kitchen. There are chefs who can retain the flavor in food when they use a fryer, but I'm not really one of them. I think anything you put in a fryer probably tastes better before it goes in.

What's always in your kitchen? Super-fresh ingredients like tuna and salmon, avocados, butter lettuce and jalapeños. I'm also getting into the whole juicing thing -- both for drinking and for incorporating into my dishes, so I've been stocking up on lots of leafy greens, cucumbers, celery and apples.

Favorite dish on your menu: The moto-roll is the first sushi roll I ever created, and I purchased all the ingredients myself and then made it for the chef at Roy's because I really wanted to bring fusion sushi to the menu. It's tuna, roasted unagi and avocado slicked with a spicy pineapple glaze, and I think it's the best sushi on the TAG|RAW menu. It's got everything I love all rolled up, literally, into a perfect bite.

Biggest menu bomb: I was taking an Asian cooking class in culinary school and we were making tamago -- an egg omelet -- and it's really hard to make; it takes a ton of technique. You have to use chopsticks to fold the egg and make layers of omelet, and it's supposed to be a perfect square, have no color at all and be nice and fluffy. The first hundred times I tried to make it, the results were overcooked or undercooked, lopsided, lumpy, all punctured and cut up. It was seriously impossible to get right. I still haven't mastered it -- in fact, I don't think I've made it since.

Favorite childhood food memory: Starting when I was about six years old, my grandfather would take us up to the North Shore of Oahu to fish in the ocean during the summer. We'd pack a lunch and head out mid-morning and fish off the shore. We never really caught anything big -- just little fish. We'd bait the hooks ourselves and take the fish off when we caught them, and we did that every summer until I was about twelve, when he got too old to take us. It's still one of my favorite things to do when I go back to Oahu.

Favorite junk food: I love fast food from Taco Bell, especially after a night out. My standard order includes the Nachos Bell Grande, at least two chicken burritos and three taco supremes. For real.

Biggest mistake a chef can make on the line: If a chef doesn't taste everything, early and often, then forget it. It's nearly impossible to control quality and consistency if you're not tasting the same food that your guests are tasting. I never serve anything to a guest that I haven't tried first.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson