The Art of Eating & Drinking: Chef Mitsunobu Nagae

The Art of Eating & Drinking: Chef Mitsunobu Nagae

Chef Mitsunobu Nagae runs one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, l’abeille. He grew up in Japan and then attended the prestigious Tsuji Culinary Institute in Lyon, France. He later worked for a series of three-Michelin starred restaurants, including Régis et Jacques Marcon, Le Doyen and Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon.

The Flaviar Times editor-in-chief Noah Rothbaum interviewed Chef Nagae about pairing drinks with food.

Should food be paired with mixed drinks or spirits?

Mitsunobu: I think that you must analyze each pairing separately. Depending on the dish, your pairing will always change. You can build depth of flavor with a well-prepared cocktail to accompany the right dish. A well-paired spirit can do the same.

The kitchen at l'abeille

What’s your personal pairing philosophy?

Mitsunobu: Whatever it is that you are pairing, you must make sure there is balance. When I pair dishes with beverages, they must complement each other and bring out the best in both flavors. The same philosophy applies to my ingredients in each dish at l’abeille.

One of the star dishes on the menu at your restaurant is pâté. What cocktail do you suggest pairing with it?

Mitsunobu: A classic Martini. We use duck liver and foie gras inside the pâté, which is marinated in gin as well. The flavor is quite powerful, so a classic Martini pairs very well.

What’s your all-time favorite drink & food pairing?

Mitsunobu: My favorite thing to pair with food will always be wine. There are so many varieties with such depth of flavor to pair with depending on your mood, situation and what you are eating.

Is there a food and drink pairing that shouldn’t work but does?

Mitsunobu: I believe that pairing options are unlimited. If the dish is well rounded with the best ingredients possible and paired with a beverage that brings even more height of flavor to the dish– you can use anything. An example of an interesting pairing is a clean Paloma to match a leafy green salad with petite vegetables fresh from the market.

at l'abeille

We’re eating classic French dish escargot, what are we drinking?

Mitsunobu: I would drink a Burgundy white wine. It is said that the local cuisine is best matched with wine from the same production area. A full body white wine is especially great if you eat it with parsley and garlic butter.

If you had to, what food would you pair with a French 75 cocktail?

Mitsunobu: A fried chicken that has been cured and marinated in citrus. The French 75's acidity from the citrus will cut the oil of the fried chicken. The gin's juniper berries and herbs also match very well.

The Art of Eating & Drinking features chefs from around the world sharing their personal philosophies on pairing cocktails and Spirits with food.

*This interview has been edited & condensed

*Cover image credit: Melanie Dunea

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