Michael Cimarusti, the owner of and chef at Los Angeles's Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Providence, wants us to buy better fish – and to feel better about it at a time when most seafood has never been more expensive and the terms "farmed," "wild," "organic," and "frozen/defrosted" confuse nearly everyone. "Everybody feels comfortable walking into a butcher shop, and people buy chicken easily now that everything is so pre-packaged," Cimarusti says. "But when it comes to fish, it's more difficult, especially because, unlike with meat or chicken, there are absolutely no federal regulations."
With fish, Cimarusti says, you have to both trust the seller and possess some level of seafood-quality awareness in order to make the right decisions. Cimarusti doesn't recommend buying fish in a supermarket, or even most high-quality, organic supermarkets – dishonesty with respect to mislabeling and freshness runs rampant. "You need to find a real fishmonger, get to know him or her, and then to know what's fresh, and what's not," he says. "You need to go shopping armed with a set of questions you wouldn't need to ask a butcher." Buying fish doesn't require a Ph.D. – it just requires a little research and curiosity. "You're the one buying it, and you're probably the one who's going to eat it," says Cimarusti. With that in mind, Cimarusti also offered a few tips on cooking fish, as well as how to evaluate whether a sushi restaurant is good or not.
Buy sustainable fish.
Most people don't realize that buying sustainable fish is not just good for the environment, the future of eating fish, the ocean, and the planet – it's good for your health as well as for the quality of your dinner. "What you want to know [about sustainable fish] is if it's coming from a resource or fishery where it was harvested responsibly without depleting the biomass," says Cimarusti. "We want to tread lightly. If you walk into a shop and buy bluefin tuna as opposed to big-eye tuna that's been harvested from the Pacific, then you're making the wrong choice when it comes to sustainability." The bluefin population is being depleted to a level nearing extinction, he says. But big-eye tuna are less threatened, and even some sushi places selling bluefin may be selling you fish that's less fresh but still pricey because of how hard it is to get. "You want to buy what's wholesome," says Cimarusti. Is the fish world shady? "Yes, it can be," he adds.
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