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WOKKIN' IN THE U.S.A.

An Iron Chef Contender Challenges Memphis

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With the opening of The Iron Chef restaurant at 5529 Summer, you now have the chance to see exactly what TV’s culinary masters are up against. The restaurant features the Pan-Asian cuisine of Myung Sook Lee, one of only three chefs in the U.S. ever invited to compete on the Iron Chef competition, which is syndicated from Japanese television and has developed quite a cult following here in America. Lee and her staff offer a tempting array of dishes that highlight her unique combination of Japanese, Korean, and American influences. When asked to challenge Chef Chin (the Iron Chef‘s original -- and still -- cooking master) in 1995, Lee was well-prepared. The chef studied in her native Korea, as well as Japan and the United States. Lee opened her first restaurant, Hanilkoan (meaning “fusion cuisine inn”), in Osaka, Japan, in 1986. The setting of The Iron Chef restaurant is relatively void of the theatrics associated with the popular Japanese game show, allowing its patrons to enjoy their meals without the element of a running clock. It’s set up in a buffet-style, rather far off from Kaga Takeshi‘s castle on TV, but the kitchen is strategically placed in full view of the hungry clients. One can watch and salivate as dish after dish is prepared seemingly without pause. What’s missing are flying dishes and pans and color commentary that add drama to the Iron Chef TV show. The focus of Lee’s establishment is clearly the food. Her Korean barbecued short ribs, Lee’s signature dish, should serve as an interesting addition to the mythos of Memphis barbecue. The menu also offers sushi, Saigon rolls, homemade tofu, Korean salad, and beef, fish, and vegetables dishes.

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