Chopped champion and Top Chef Season 12 contestant Katsuji Tanabe is no stranger to fighting for his spot in the Food Network hall of fame. The chef behind LA’s Mexikosher—a rare kosher Mexican restaurant—and Barrio in Chicago takes food seriously, even if his dishes seem playful and effortless.
Such is the territory with fusion, Tanabe’s culinary preference. Born and raised in Mexico, Tanabe is the son of a Mexican mother and a Japanese father. Blending cultures and cuisines has always been at the heart of what he does.
Beginning last month, Tanabe has paired up with Hussong’s Cantina inside Mandalay Bay, where he has tempered his fusion style for a more traditional perspective. He still takes some liberties with his Mexican fare, but the menu is a welcome addition to the more Americanized dishes on Hussong’s menu.
Chicharrones ($9)—topped with bits of fried kale and served with a fermented chile and maple syrup dipping sauce—are a must if you like salty, crispy finger-foods. Tacos include rock shrimp and suadero ($21), pig-head carnitas ($21)—more commonly known as tacos de cabeza—and juicy, six-hour-braised, miso-glazed pork belly ($18) with chile cucumbers. When in doubt, always order the pork belly.
Entrees include filet mignon fajitas with yellow mole, shishito peppers and braised onions ($28) and a crispy, tempura-fried red snapper ($24). Pair the latter with chicharrones for a version of Mexican fish and chips—because fusion is extra fun when you’ve got a Chopped champion in the kitchen.
HUSSONG’S CANTINA Mandalay Bay, 702-632-6450; daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.