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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seafood now more popular than chicken

Sauteed sablefish with ginger-soy glaze
  • Aliston Ashton of
  • Sauteed sablefish with ginger-soy glaze
Fish is usually not my first choice when dining out. I grew up when fresh fish was rarely available inland and I found the frozen stuff inedible, whether it was in the school cafeteria or a good restaurant. I liked shellfish better and still do.

Wayne, however, didn't have to endure frozen flounder drenched in butter, so he picks fish frequently when we dine out. I always have a few tastes and I'm always blown away by the good flavor. But my conditioning remains intact. I'm gonna break that.

It's a good time to do that because seafood is taking up much more space on menus these days. And we're seeing some new venues like Goin' Coastal open around town. Fifth Group plans to open a seafood spot in the old Vickery's location.

The June issue of Restaurant Management headlines seafood and includes a piece on particular trends. Here's a sample:

When consumers sit down for a restaurant meal, they are more likely to order a seafood dish over anything else,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of the NPD Group. Balzer says that 29 percent of patrons at a sit-down restaurant order seafood as opposed to the 20 percent who choose the second-most-popular protein, chicken.

“The fact that so many people are inclined to order seafood when they go out provides a huge opportunity for new versions of dishes as well as the opportunity to try new species,” Balzer adds.

Coast to coast, enterprising chefs already have gotten the message.

“I do a lot of research and I like to try new inventive seafood dishes, but I won’t do things unless they work,” says Anthony Lamas, owner of Louisville, Kentucky-based Seviche, a Latin restaurant.

“It is about the balance of flavors. In general I would say seafood is becoming more approachable because people are willing to try more things.” And Lamas gives his customers plenty of inspiring seafood dishes to choose from.

Some of his seafood specialties include Line Caught Bigeye Tuna Seviche with sesame, scallion, coconut and ginger, Wild Striped Bass with tomatillo, crispy leeks and chorizo-shrimp chaufa, and Hamachi Tiradito with rocoto chile, ginger and soy.

The lead story in the June issue is about sustainability and seafood, focusing on the increasing use of largely unknown species. The story begins this way:

Diners are used to seeing dishes like grilled tuna, poached salmon and pan—roasted Chilean sea bass on menus. But offerings like kaku ceviche, sautéed barramundi and sablefish confit usually send patrons scrambling to their smartphones to do a quick Google search. Restaurants are starting to offer these previously unknown fish because they come from sustainable populations that aren’t overfished and in danger of becoming extinct.

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