When we first met Chef Roy Villacrusis, “the Asiatic Chef,” he was cooking in Palm Beach County, Florida, and we loved his style — both cooking and personal! Though known for his sushi, Chef Roy is quite adept with our Aussie lamb and grassfed beef too. These days he’s in Las Vegas, working the pop-up restaurant scene and looking to open a new restaurant of his own. We caught up with him recently to talk about the new spot, and some of his favorite Aussie lamb and beef recipes.
What can you tell us about Gaijin, your new restaurant work-in-progress?
Gaijin means “outsider,” which refers to what I’ve been most of my career. I never went to culinary school, so I tend to do things my own way, with no rules. It will be a 20-seat spot, which will feature no menu, just what the chef wants to cook that day, with sushi of course, but lots of other things too.
What’s the hardest part about waiting for it all to come together?
I keep myself busy with pop-ups, and have been working with Elizabeth Blau on the sushi at Andiron Steak here in Vegas. In addition to finding the right space, getting the right investors on board is tough. It’s like trying to catch (the rare pokemon) picachu!
When you’re not working in a kitchen every night, do you cook more at home?
Absolutely. Some nights we just keep it easy with a one-pot meal, like a take on the Filipino stew called Caldareta, but many times we cook just like we’re at a restaurant, with three courses and beverage pairings. And we love to entertain.
What do you like about using Aussie lamb and grassfed beef?
As a chef I love the consistency. When I cook with Aussie lamb, I know the flavor and quality will always be right on point; never too fatty or gamey. With the grassfed beef it’s just so simple — you’re getting a clean, lean product that you don’t need to do a lot to, just let it shine.
What advice do you have for home cooks who may not be as familiar with cooking lamb?
Just try it! It’s a guarantee that you’ll love Aussie lamb. I love using the shank; it’s economical, and very forgiving. You braise it, season it and forget it — you can’t really overcook it.
Speaking of lamb, tell us about your roasted leg of lamb with sriracha kimchee-mint sour cream.
I love this dish because it’s very flavorful, and deceptively simple. It looks really fancy on the table, but at the same time, it’s a kind of comfort food with the roasted potatoes and lamb. The condiment really shows how versatile sour cream can be as a flavor carrier — add a little sriracha and the liquid from your favorite kimchee, and you have a delicious flavor enhancer to add a little zing to everything on the plate.
Follow these links to try Chef Roy’s recipes, and if you are headed to Vegas, you can catch his sushi and sashimi at Andiron in downtown Summerlin. As soon as we hear about Gaijin’s opening, you’ll see it here!