Fisun Ercan, the owner of Verdun Turkish restaurant Su, appeared on Iron Chef Canada this week. The result? Ercan tied with Iron Chef Rob Feenie, in an ultra-competitive episode.
Ercan and Feenie were given beef as their core ingredient — a very open-ended challenge by the standards of the show.
Ercan came on the show to “show the real essence of Turkish cuisine”, and tapped into her expertise — she exudes a quiet confidence as she puts together her first dish, a Turkish-style beef tartare with pepper paste and bulgur. Meanwhile, Feenie sticks with his fast-casual expertise (while he has no shortage of fine dining experience, in recent years, he has focused on building up his small chain, the Cactus Club Cafe) — he serves a chuck-brisket burger, and a small tartare alongside.
The burger “nails it” with a little spice and ample richness; Ercan’s beef gets praise for mixing textures (it was served no lettuce), with fresh, bright flavours. Ercan came out on top for the first round, with 13 points to Feenie’s 12.
As the episode went on, the chefs are thrown a curveball, being required to integrate smoky Chinese tea lapsang souchong into one of their dishes — a visible challenge for Ercan, who tells the camera she’s never worked with the tea before. (She ultimately brews it into a sauce to put on a steak.)
When the cooking is done, Ercan puts forward a herby doner on some charred pita, followed by manti stuffed with beef, onion and pepper, and then braised beef cheek to double down on the meaty taste. It’s praised for delicate flavours, although is criticized for being a little heavy on the yogurt sauce. Next comes a bone in ribeye with pistachio-mint paste, a tomato salad, and smoky pomegranate sauce — with that paste crusted on top, it’s judged as “pure bliss”.
For Feenie’s mains, he offers up beef tataki with sauteed mushrooms, with the brewed tea used in cooking the mushrooms. The next two dishes skew classic Italian and French: braised beef cheek with polenta, and ribeye with Bordelaise sauce — earning props for masterful technique.
Both chefs ended up on the same page for dessert (to be fair, incorporating beef into dessert is a tall order, with limited options) — Ercan does bone marrow ice cream with baklava and an apple sauce, while Feenie also serves marrow ice cream, but adds extra beef with a jerky crumble.
When the scores drop, both of them win (or, nobody wins, if you’re a class-half-empty type). The chefs earned the same scores for taste, with Feenie edging out Ercan on presentation. Ercan scored a solid three points more than Feenie for originality, while she lost by three points for the use of the surprise ingredient, the tea.
Ercan wasn’t the only Montreal representative on the episode — one of three judges scoring the chefs was former Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman. It wasn’t Chesterman’s first time assessing Ercan: Back in 2013, she gave Su a very good three stars out of four in a review.
The second season of Iron Chef Canada wraps up next week — Ercan was the second Montreal chef to appear this season, after Icehouse owner Nick Hodge defeated Iron Chef Hugh Acheson last month.
- Iron Chef Canada [Food Network]
- Plateau Chef Wins ‘Iron Chef Canada’ With Tex-Mex Goat Dishes [EMTL]
- Fine Dining: Verdun’s Su [Montreal Gazette]