Chef Katsuji Tanabe Interview

Chef Katsuji Tanabe Interview 150 150

Hussong’s Cantina, ‘Top Chef’ Katsuji Tanabe collaborate on Japanese-Mexican menu items

Hussong’s Cantina and popular Chef Katsuji Tanabe from Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 12 have collaborated on a new, exclusive and inventive Japanese-Mexican menu. The items became available at Hussong’s Cantina at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place starting May 11 and will be among the permanent offerings at the restaurant.

A Delicious Clash of Styles

“Las Vegas has become such a culinary mecca over the last decade that visitors and locals are always looking for something a little more than the usual,” said Tanabe in the news release. “These plates I created with Hussong’s Cantina aim to do just that.”

Sampling the eight Japanese-Mexican menu items during a preview dinner May 10, with Tanabe leading the kitchen on this particular evening, was one of the best — and most filling! — meals in quite some time in Las Vegas.

The lump crab is a healthy serving with the guac; the chile and maple syrup sauce accompanying the chicharrones is uh-MAH-zing; braised octopus is never the wrong choice; all three delicious tacos were devoured; the yellow mole sauce really makes the filet fajitas pop; the tempura red snapper is a light fish; and no meal is complete at Hussong’s Cantina without margaritas. Tanabe prepared the octopus on Facebook Live at Lake Industries’ test kitchen on May 11.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with such an incredibly talented chef,” Hussong’s Cantina Executive Chef Noe Alcala said in a news release. “With Chef Tanabe’s unique twist on Mexican cuisine, we know that our guests are going to love this new menu.”

Posted by Hussong's Cantina Las Vegas on Friday, May 11, 2018

What's On The Menu?

The Japanese-Mexican menu includes the following, with items starting at $10:

Lump crab guacamole

with orange supreme, serrano and radish


served with fermented chile maple syrup

Braised octopus

served with Peruvian beans, chorizo & garlic crema

Rock shrimp & suadero tacos

made with serrano aioli and charred onion relish

The Instagrammable half pig head carnitas tacos

served with pickled vegetables and salsa quemada

Pork belly tacos

with miso glaze, slaw and chile cucumbers

Filet fajitas

with yellow mole, shishito peppers & braised onions

Tempura red snapper

served with bitter greens salad, heirloom tomato & avocado

Tanabe chatted with after his Facebook Live:

Where did you get the inspiration for your Japanese-Mexican menu items at Hussong’s Cantina?

My inspiration was to make something Japanese and Mexican but not too upscale. The amazing success of Hussong’s Cantina here in Las Vegas is such a great showcase for my menu items. The inspiration is bringing my simple food to the masses — it’s food that I make at home.

How do you feel about the preview dinner last night (May 10)?

It was great! It was a great exercise for the chefs and myself and a great way to showcase the menu items.

You hit it out of the ballpark with all three tacos — I would have a difficult time choosing just one. When customers walk into Hussong’s, what must they have on your Japanese-Mexican menu?

Definitely the showstopper is the pig head tacos. It is tasty and Instagram-worthy — it looks amazing in photos. It’s a great dish to share and brings back memories of my parents and sharing all these dishes during meals and making your own tacos.

I also love the chile and maple syrup sauce with the chicharrones. How did you come up with that because I want to put it on everything?!

I was in Portland and someone was using fresh honey and chile. I’m a maple syrup guy. In Mexico, there’s not a lot of access to maple syrup because it’s expensive. But here it’s everywhere. Pork and maple go well together, and I love my Japanese spices. I took a risk, and I think that it paid off.

Are there any ingredients that you haven’t fused yet that are on your To Do List?

That’s a great question! Something that’s very interesting to me, something that you wouldn’t find when you come to my restaurants is black pepper because we have all these fresh chiles in Mexican cuisine, black pepper contradicts the flavor.

I don’t consider my cuisine fusion because I was raised Japanese and Mexican. The American lifestyle is so many races now — it’s how dinner is now for so many people in this country.

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Chef Katsuji Tanabe | Portrait