On the Town: “Deep South” Showdown at FIVE in Berkeley

FIVE’s dining room lined with communal tables for Deep South Showdown

FIVE’s striking black & white w/ touch of red design

With more than a little Iron Chef-themed influence, FIVE‘s elegant, spacious dining room was transformed into communal seating party for their second Seasonal Showdown Dinner on October 21 ($62 without beer pairings; $70 with beer pairings from Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro – appreciated the grapefruit brightness of the 1500 Pale Ale and malty bitter of their Amber Ale). Diners didn’t know which chef cooked each of the duo of five courses (making it a filling 10 dishes!). We voted for their favorite in each course in three categories: creativity, taste, and presentation.

The first showdown dinner back in July was barbecue-themed. FIVE‘s chef Banks White (from Texas) won over chef Scott Howard (FIVE/Brick & Bottle), and in January, there will be a seafood and champagne showdown. But I couldn’t have been at a better one: Deep South. I’m a Southern cooking fanatic who has traveled many states and cities of the South primarily to eat. Chefs Banks cooked-off against chef Dean Dupuis (from Atlanta) of Pican, an upscale Southern restaurant in Oakland, which I’ve been to a number of times (including their fun Kentucky Derby party). It was a close call that night (and in my book) as Dupuis won with highest votes in 3 out of 5 courses.

Here are a few dish highlights via photos of a decadent feast…

Bank’s Charleston She-Crab “Cappuccino” tasted of coffee & cream w/ crab, Oregon Bay “Shrimp Toast” & Tasso spice – I was thrilled to have She-Crab again, something I haven’t had since travels in Charleston, though this was a non-traditional version

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Dean’s delightful “Oyster Po Boy” was actually crispy fried chicken shaped like oysters, pickled cabbage, hot sauce, remoulade

Banks’ Crispy Pork Trotter melted w/ La Quercia lardo, black-eyed peas, bright creamed corn, pickled okra & tomato jam

Hard to tire of Pork Belly when it’s served like this: Dean’s Southern Choucroute is Tasso-spiced, fatty pork belly with a brussels sprout ‘kraut’ & chow chow

My least favorite dish (though by no means bad), was Banks’ Cornmeal-crusted Catfish w/ green tomato chow chow, Southern slaw, Texas Pete tartar sauce – nice but a little bland; I’m mystified as to why it won 3rd course over Dean’s Pork Belly

Decadently fabulous BBQ-braised Beef Short Ribs from chef Dean w/ “Big John Cajun” cheese grits, white corn gremolata, truffle creme fraiche

Banks’ fall-spiced Molasses “Sock it to Me” Cake shined with butternut squash custard & a tart sorbet that could have been rhubarb (not sure on that one)