I like to believe the above guy is referred to as an “Angry Fish” for one reason — the drastic reduction of fish populations and the damage of marine eco-systems due to commerical fishing. Heck, a lot of Canadian sushi restaurants still offer species like bluefin tuna and farmed salmon that are harvested unsustainably. But there is a solution and Chef John Lee at Omi (243 Carleton St.) guided diners through six courses of 100% sustainable seafood options. He started with this incredibly light and flavourful whole Butterfish from Carolina, served on a bed of sweet potato shoestrings and fried to look like it’s swimming.
Chef Lee explained that sustainability is about proliferation — choosing species that breed quickly so they replenish themselves. This will help avoid the exploitation and over-fishing of seafood that we’ll no longer be able to enjoy in good conscience, like the already restricted Chilean Seabass (which Lee points out was considered so plentiful in the 1970s that it was used in cat food). It’s important to note that 90% of the fish on Omi’s regular menu is sustainable.
“When I started this business there were tons of fish that I no longer see anymore, so it’s already happened in my generation,” Lee says. He reminisced about days when Abalone was so available that his fellow chefs would use the shells as ashtrays.
Lee took special care developing the night’s menu, refusing to purchase a salmon when a supplier couldn’t confirm how it was harvested. The “#Goodsushi Tweetup” event was organized by Suresh Doss of Spotlight City, who gathered a lively group looking to learn more about eating sushi so it won’t damage our oceans. Here’s a photo essay of what we were served.
The first two courses included the Butterfish and an eight-piece Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Maki filled with pollock, crab, avocado and topped with bonito flakes.
Next came the Torched Hokkaido Scallop Pizza featuring fried panko-crusted rice topped with an East Coast Canadian scallop and roe from a capelin, a small fish which grows quickly to maturity and reproduces at a very high rate.
More Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, this time in nigiri form with a bold hit of wasabi.
A cooked dish of Basa fish from Vietnam, lightly battered and served with vegetables in tangy and sweet mango sauce.
The last plate included more nigiri: Albacore Tuna from Vancouver brushed with toasted garlic oil and Spanish Mackerel from Boston (sometimes referred to as Kingfish) seared and topped with ginger and scallions.
Chef John Lee has a special recipe for making Spanish Mackerel at home. He highly recommends seasoning & flouring the fillet, pan frying it until golden, then adding a small nub of butter, some soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon. He confidently proclaimed that this was the best dish he learnt as an apprentice in the ’80s.
For $40 I got a great meal, an easy-to-make recipe, a lesson in sustainable seafood and the hope that I didn’t anger too many fish.
Omi / 243 Carleton St., Toronto
416 920 8991