Hire a chef
Take the work out of the dinner by booking a Japanese chef to prepare the feast for you and your guests. Set up a workstation on the kitchen bench or bar, so guests can see the chef in action. At Your Table (atyourtable.com.au) provides personal chefs across Australia for private dining experiences. It can be dinner for two or a party for 500 and prices start at
$120 per person, with food. If you would like to wow your guests with your own exemplary culinary skills, attend a class at Chefs’ Armoury in Melbourne or Sydney, where you will learn how to slice and dice with Japanese knives (chefsarmoury.com).
Do come the raw prawn
Seafood expert John Susman suggests serving a selection of raw seafood as canapes while guests mingle.
‘‘Clams served on the half shell, West Australian raw scallops and a selection of oysters, perhaps Pacifics from Tasmania and South Australia, and some Sydney rock oysters, to explore the differences – and seeing it is Japanese themed, I’d include ebi [raw fresh water prawns] and uni [sea urchin] from the Bay of Fires in Tasmania; available from good fishmongers.’’
When guests sit down, an entree of sliced, air-dried mojama tuna from the Mooloolaba Tuna Company, dressed with olive oil, or a kingfish carpaccio served with finger lime pearls and fresh chili, make for deliciously light starters.
A waiter qualifies as an essential ingredient for the ultimate dinner party, creating the time for you to focus on the guests. He, or she, will look after everyone’s drinks, serve the meal and do the washing up.
The main game
A fish served whole adds a sense of occasion. Steam it in a baking tray, on a rack, under foil, or cook in a steam oven. Salmon steams well, as does snapper, red emperor and coral trout.
To prepare, peel a small knob of ginger and cut into slices, slice a lemon into thin rounds and stuff fish cavity with both. In a bowl, mix 1/3 cup of white miso paste, two cloves of crushed garlic and 1/3 cup cooking sake.
Pour mixture over fish and sprinkle a handful of finely sliced spring onions over it before steaming for about 20 minutes. Serve with a bowl of steamed samphire in a Meyer lemon vinaigrette.
Look the part
Decorate the table with a pile of fresh fruit (grapes, figs or pears which can form part of dessert), or stay on a seafood theme by getting creative with a still life of large sea shells interspersed with coral-like flowers (perhaps vibrant red celosia) to form a dramatic centrepiece.
The juice on aperitifs
‘‘The big trend right now is serving fresh apple juice with rye whisky,’’ says Oliver Stuart, a national drinks brand ambassador. He suggests a classic cocktail like Tom Collins (gin, soda water, lemon juice and perhaps agave syrup in place of sugar), or for guests who enjoy bitter notes, a Campari and orange.
‘‘Noma in Copenhagen and Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney offer matched juices with their degustation menus,’’ he says. ‘‘Using fresh juice, which is aerated, rather than straight out of a bottle, makes a huge difference to a cocktail,’’ he says.
Eat your greens
Serve with steamed green vegetables – broccolini, green beans, sugar snaps and asparagus. The Miele DG 6800 Steam oven will do the job (miele.com.au).
A delicate finish
Cheese specialist Will Studd suggests ending the meal with a cheese plate of Le Marquis goat cheese, which is high in calcium, and slices of Pastilla Nash walnut log for sweetness.
‘‘You don’t want to offer something overpowering after several courses of fresh seafood, so I’d serve Le Marquis chevre. It is lactose free because of the way that it is made, all of the milk solids have been removed, and therefore it is easy to digest.
It is also mild in flavour and has a lovely, lingering lemony tang which is a nice end to a meal.’’