To read Chef Tachibe's tuna tartare recipe, click here.
Tuna tartare is one of those dishes that acts as a canvas for a chef's culinary sensibilities. Add a little soy and ginger and an Asian-infused flavor emerges. Mango or pineapple yields a gustatory trip to the tropics. At its most basic it is a cooling, relatively light repast, playing off of the smooth, firm texture of the fish, but in smaller, more toothsome bites than other members of the raw-fish pantheon like sushi or carpaccio.
Given these attributes, it is no wonder that tuna tartare is a staple on menus across the country, but it wasn't always so. According to culinary lore, this newer (carnivore-lite) version of the terrifying if sexy beef tartare owes its popularity, if not its precise origins, to one man: Shigefumi Tachibe, a Japanese-born, French-trained chef, who created the dish in a moment of necessity-fueled ingenuity.
The year was 1984, and Tachibe was executive chef at the then-brand-new Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills, an American cousin of the almost 400-year-old family of Chaya teahouses and restaurants in Japan, where the young chef had honed his skills.
The brasserie's menu, heavily French with Japanese accents, featured a multi-course prix-fixe menu, of which steak tartare was a key component. When soon after the restaurant's launch a table of six turned up their noses at the raw meat, Tachibe was forced to improvise. "They didn't want meat," he says. "They wanted something different."