For nearly three years, Minh Nguyen delighted guests at Kyodai Restaurant in Stockton with his Japanese and fusion cuisine.
Chef Nguyen uses top-quality seafood and local produce and creates dishes that are well-composed, beautiful to the eye and tantalize the palate.
Nguyen has long had a passion to strike out on his own. The time finally has come, and the 37-year-old Hong Kong native is building his first restaurant, M Sushi Bistro on School Street in downtown Lodi. Nguyen hopes his guests will feel like they have been transported to a different place as soon as they set foot into his restaurant, which he hopes will open in June.
“All the guests, once they walk through that front door, I want to build this experience for them,” Nguyen said. “They’ll see this and go, ‘Wow, this is so different.’ A unique concept, a new style, new flavorings, the best quality I can bring to the table.”
Nguyen will offer a taste of his vision for M Sushi Bistro at the Lodi ZinFest Wine Festival, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Lodi Lake Park. The main event is the grand wine tasting, where about 40 of Lodi’s best wineries will pour more than 150 selections, representing the wide variety of wine grapes being grown in the Lodi American Viticultural Area.
Nguyen and two other chefs will demonstrate their culinary flair at the Zinfest Cooking School, pairing their dishes with a different Lodi wine.
Nguyen will prepare a sushi roll he plans to feature at his restaurant that includes spicy tuna, salmon and panko-fried shrimp. His roll will be paired with PRIE Winery’s 2017 Grenache Clair, a dry white wine made from the red-skinned Grenache grape. Time permitting, Nguyen will break down a salmon, shuck oysters and harvest uni (sea urchin).
Also demonstrating her amazing talents will be St. Mary’s High graduate and private chef, sommelier, cheese monger and seasonal omnivore, Lauren Rose O’Leary. She will make chicken zucchini bites with yogurt tahini sauce paired with the 2016 Uvaggio Vermentino.
“I’m really looking forward to talking a little bit about the Vermentino grape and its origin and why it’s such a great white wine for our area, just to get people excited about it,” O’Leary said. “It’s one of my favorite grapes and I’m excited to see so many Lodi producers experiment and work with it.”
All the way from the Philadelphia area, Tony “Winechef” Lawrence will make chilled, spiced, watermelon, berry margarita soup topped with a mascarpone key lime crème fraiche paired with the 2017 Jeremy Wine Co. Grenache Rosè and the 2017 LangeTwins Sangiovese Rosè. In his second demonstration, Lawrence will prepare pan-seared filet mignon over aged cheddar scrambled eggs and cracked black pepper Yukon gold, butter potato hash with raspberry arugula catsup paired with the 2015 m2 Petite Sirah and the 2015 D’art Petite Sirah.
Chef O’Leary’s demo will be at 1 p.m., Chef Lawrence’s at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Chef Nguyen’s at 3 p.m. Seating is limited for each session, but those who find a spot will be able to sample the food and wine and go home with recipe cards.
ZinFest also includes the Barbecue Experience manned by another Philadelphia-area-based chef, Chad Rosenthal, who has appeared on the Food Network. Rosenthal will conduct three demonstrations, starting at 12:45 p.m. with charcoal-cooked ribeye steaks, chorizo butter and herb salad paired with the 2016 Macchia Zinfandel “Generous.” At 2:15 p.m., the 2014 Heritage Oak Zinhead Zinfandel will be paired with Rosenthal’s smoked whole wings with Vietnamese “funk” sauce finished in charcoal and tossed with fried garlic and mint. And at 3:45 p.m., Rosenthal will make 15-spice dry-rub pork ribs with Memphis mustard slaw to go with the 2015 Harney Lane Winery Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard.
ZinFest also offers wine education: ZinFest Wine School has three sessions scheduled to start at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. In the first session, noted wine writer Randy Caparoso will offer tips on how to blind-taste like a pro. The second session, “Kosher and Contemporary Wines of Lodi,” will feature speaker Jeff Morgan and his wines from Covenant Winery, as well as a selection wines from Lodi’s Mettler Family Vineyards. The final session, “Artisanal ‘Natural’ Wines of Lodi,” will feature the wines and insights of Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars and Sandlands, Nathan Kandler of Precedent Wines and Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards, and Evan Frazier of Ferdinand Wines.
The Cooking School, Barbecue Experience and Wine School are included with admission to ZinFest, as well as the grand wine tasting and live entertainment. Merchandise from area artisans and food from seven local restaurants and caterers will be available for purchase.
For information and tickets, go to ZinFest.com or call (209) 365-0651.
Contact Bob Highfill, the marketing and communications manager with the Lodi Winegrape Commission at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobhighfill and @lodi_wine.