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.
How to know if sushi is good.
"I don't eat a lot of sushi anymore," says Cimarusti. "It's such an art form and craft, and it's difficult to find practitioners working at the required high level." He only eats at a few sushi restaurants he considers excellent, including Los Angeles's Urasawa and New York's Masa. "When I go to sushi places, I like to sit at the bar and look in the display case to see what they have," says Cimarusti. "If you have an eye for it, you can judge what you're getting: Is the fish cut nicely? You should look for chefs that keep a nice clean case with beautiful, bright, well-sculpted fish. You want to find chefs that keep a nice clean case."
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