No, today’s installment doesn’t have anything to do with Hanukkah. Sorry to disappoint you. Maybe next week.
Anyway, now that Mom is back in town, she, Tracy and I will no doubt be heading to at least one of our favorite sushi restaurants for a feast of fish that will be even more decadent than what we’ll have on Christmas Eve. And while Anthony and Shanna are always welcome, there is always the possibility that my brother will be traveling and, since Shanna is pregnant AGAIN – and raw fish is currently off her menu, there will be more for us. Why do I say that? Well, as many of you know, when I go out for sushi, I GO OUT for sushi! It is unlikely that I ever eat any less than 14 orders (28 pieces) in one sitting. Sorry Mom, if we go to Hide, bring the ATM card. Remember, they don’t take plastic!
And while I have always loved sushi, I credit my dear departed friend Craig Rodgers, who I always think of when I eat the stuff, for turning me on to a few “delicacies” that I would have never tried if it wasn’t for his never-ending pestering that Craig was so well known for. The top three are Uni, Monkfish Liver and Butterfish.
Like so many firsts in my life, I can remember Nobi (Sasabune) serving me my first ice-cold Uni the way it is supposed to be; “Mel” at Hide (pronounced E Day) delivering me Monkfish Liver that I now alternate for “dessert” along with Unagi; and, again back to Nobi for a Butterfish that was to die for like no other. And, wouldn’t ya know, there is a very good, or maybe not so good, reason why that is.
I recently heard in an investigative report that many Los Angeles supermarkets and restaurants, sushi bars included of course, were serving a fish called Escolar and renaming it as other fish on the menu. In supermarkets or restaurants that served cooked fish, they commonly replace all types of Cod, Chilean Sea Bass and Orange Roughy with this oily white Snake Macerel. Sushi menus call it White Tuna, King Tuna, Super White Tuna, Albacore and, yes, Butterfish.
This is extremely problematic for several reasons. First, the establishments are selling a “cheaper” fish at prices sometimes more than three times higher just to pad their bottom line. Second, unlike real Butterfish, Escolar, which contain wax esters due to their diet, cannot digest them sometimes causing those who eat even just a six-ounce serving, especially if done so raw, to have very severe episodes of a gastrointestinal disorder. I know that is a pretty vague description, but I will leave it at that. If you so desire to find out the details, google ’em or order some yourself next time you dine out and experience it for yourself. Last, unlike authentic Cod, Chilean Sea Bass, Orange Roughy and Albacore, Escolar is not very healthy. A six-ounce serving contains more than 25 grams of fat – 10 of which are saturated; while the others contain only 1 – 2 grams of fat, no saturated.
So what is a diner or a Designer, for that matter, to do? First, ask your server or butcher questions. If you are not sure they don’t know or are being dishonest, make sure you know your fish. If you are at the grocery store and buying frozen fish, you’ll have to take your chances. However, if you are buying fresh fish from the butcher, Escolar is almost “too” white and very stringy. Examine your filet thoroughly. or you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. When are ordering Albacore at a sushi bar, inspect it as well! Albacore should be pink not bright white. Also know that there is no such thing as White Tuna, King Tuna or Super White Tuna. Tuna is not white! If any of those are listed on the menu, don’t order ’em. If you are at a more traditional, or should I say less traditional restaurant (get it?), and you are ordering something that can be replaced with Escolar, ask for your fish to be grilled. That has been known to aid in the elimination of the nasty side effects of the gempylotoxins found solely in Escolar that were mentioned earlier.
By the way, from personal experience, I have eaten “Butterfish” at Sasabune numerous times and have never gotten sick. In fact, it is truly awesome! As Nobi always says, “Trust Me”.
Oh, and for those of you who aren’t my brother, a Wookalar (mentioned in today’s Subject Line) is a fictional creature featured in the 1981 comedy “The Private Eyes” starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway. Dr. Tart, Conway’s character “professed” to Professor Winship (Knotts) that this strong and ugly “humanoid” possessed a nose like a pig and ate chickens whole and sucked a pig’s brain out through its nose.
Forgive me. I needed a rhyme. But see, I have been to a movie or two!