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Mar 19, 2008
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Wine With Seared Tuna and Soba Noodle Salad

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas    


We received an email a couple of months ago suggesting we find good wine matches for seared tuna, a dish that's all the rage in restaurants these days.  We prevailed upon Chef Ben Erjavic at The Oceanaire in Baltimore, to share the recipe for his immensely popular seared tuna with sesame seeds and a spicy soba noodle salad.  Our friend Lisa joined us to sample a dozen or so wines with the dish. 


As it turned out, this proved to be a less challenging exercise than we might have expected.  Seared medium-rare tuna is, on its own, a remarkably easygoing partner for wine.  Because it is, intriguingly, simultaneously delicate and robust--with the subtle flavors of fine seafood and the appearance and texture of very tender meat--it adapts well on its own to both reasonably hearty white wines, and light-to-medium reds.  When the overt earthiness of soba noodles, plus the distinct spiciness of sesame and chilis enter the picture, the wine possibilities expand to include both reds and whites that have more oomph: a slight jolt of oakiness, a trace of tannin, and the juicy sweetness of ripe fruit all seem congenial with this dish. 


Lisa-who recently christened her new 30 foot sloop 'Syrah'--was especially pleased that the Syrah in our lineup made the final cut.  This wine was among the biggest and boldest on the table, but with its fine balance between fruit, alcohol, acidity and soft tannins it was entirely compatible with the dish.  (Runner-up wines in our pairing included a smoky/ oaky California Chardonnay, and both a Viognier and a Riesling that might have been winners except for their exhibiting a tad too much sweetness.)  Our overall conclusion was that for some occasions and certain climates, the refreshing quality of white wine might best suit this delicious dish.  On this particular evening, however, we were generally more attracted to the mellow richness that red wine brought out in the tuna and spicy soba noodles.



4 8-ounce pieces yellowfin tuna

Salt and pepper

½ cup mixed black and white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound soba noodles, cooked according to package directions and chilled

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 small red onion, julienned

1 tablespoon wasabi paste

2 tablespoons sesame oil

¼ cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons Thai sweet chili paste


To sear the tuna: Season the tuna pieces with salt and pepper.  Dust with sesame seeds.  Heat oil in a sauté pan until just smoking.  Sear tuna for 1 minute on each side for rare to medium rare. 

To prepare salad: Toss cooked soba noodles, scallions, bell pepper and red onion in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Pour dressing over noodle mixture and gently toss.

To plate: Portion salad onto chilled plates.  Cut tuna into thin slices and arrange them on top of the salad.




Approx. Price



J-B Adam, Alsace (France) Pinot Blanc 'Reserve' 2006

(Imported by Chapin Cellars)





This refreshing white wine offers so much juicy fruit flavor that it tastes ever so slightly sweet.  That might be off-putting with some dishes, but the faint impression of sugar worked well with the spicy heat in this Asian-inspired dish.




Argyle, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 'Reserve' 2005





Rich and ripe, this Pinot offers bright cherry fruit flavors that married well with the seared tuna.  As with all the wines we're recommending, the dominant taste of sweet fruit is what made it complement this particular dish so well.




Domaine Carneros, Carneros (Napa, California) Brut Rosé




This bubbly provided our favorite match, due to both its berry flavors and its effervescence, something that subdued the heat in the dish, making us eager for another bite (and then another sip).  The experience reinforced our conviction that good sparkling wine almost always is a fine partner for spicy foods. 





Lynmar, Sonoma Coast (California) Syrah 2005





A surprising but successful match, this wine initially seemed too weighty to work well with this particular dish.  The tuna and noodles turned out, however, to be fairly rich and substantial themselves, so were not at all overwhelmed.  And this wine's sweet but smoky character introduced a new flavor element that added intrigue to the experience. 



Sartori di Verona, Valpolicella (Italy) 'Classico Superiore' 2004

(Imported by VB Imports)






Soft and supple, but marked with generous fruit and a touch of sweet spice in the finish, this red echoed the character of the dish, so made for a satisfyingly complementary partner.  It had the added advantage of being the least expensive wine we tried.