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Sushi Fraud: Can it - does it - happen here? [moved from Manhattan board]

NYChristopher May 12, 2007 05:04 AM

Last week, I was in a bar with a friend. We ordered a whiskey and a draught beer. I can safely say, neither product served was the product ordered. Yes, yes, an old saw in the bar industry, I know.

But what about in the restaurant industry?

Fish fraud: The menus said snapper, but it wasn't!
May 10, 2007
By Janet Rausa Fuller
Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun-Times
http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/37...

It never occurred to me that someone might do this. Now I'm seriously worried that the neighborhood delivery place has been substituting Fish A for Fish B, especially in rolls.

Thoughts anyone?

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  1. erica RE: NYChristopher May 12, 2007 05:40 AM

    I would be very surprised if the "neighborhood places" did NOT make substitutions. And rolls are a classic method of using less-than-pristine fish.. My own preference is to enjoy sushi only at a top-rated place. I would rather have one meal at Yasuda than 10 at one of the local places that use all kind of inferior product.

    1 Reply
    1. re: erica
      l
      LabRat RE: erica May 16, 2007 12:44 PM

      Several of the restaurants tested ARE top rated places and were substituting tilapia or sea bream. The original version of this story listed all of the restaurants and what they were actually serving, but it looks like that information has been cut from the article currently available on-line.

    2. csw RE: NYChristopher May 12, 2007 06:28 AM

      Sometimes I wonder this myself when I'm noshing on crab cakes; is it crab or is it tuna fish?

      1 Reply
      1. re: csw
        monku RE: csw May 12, 2007 07:23 AM

        Some places consider "surimi," crab and not a crab substitute.

      2. monku RE: NYChristopher May 12, 2007 06:49 AM

        Similar thread and news from a few years ago.
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/29781...

        I wouldn't put it past a neighborhood delivery place (with its low margins) might be tempted to substitute Fish A for Fish B considering the amount of fish in a roll. Maybe order tilapia roll and you won't get ripped off and you definitely won't get a misbranded snapper roll.

        The red snapper issue has been around for years in the American restaurant business. Restaurants and grocery stores on the west coast sell something they call "Pacific Red Snapper" which isn't a snapper at all but a rock fish.

        Another confusing product is "Prime Rib" at restaurants. Is the meat "prime" USDA grade beef or is it a name we've come to associate with a rib roast. The USDA says its acceptable to call the dish prime rib regardless of the grade. When they sell it in the grocery store its called rib roast not prime rib.

        Are "baby carrots" served in a restaurant miniature carrots or carrots that have been "cut" to baby size?

        This week in California a lawsuit was filed questioning whether Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt is actually frozen yogurt or what is it. According to California Dept. of Food and Agriculture it doesn't fall within the guidlines of being frozen yogurt.

        An old friend told me his father had a restaurant back in the 50's and 60's and they served veal parmigiana. He said they didn't use veal--they used pork because it tasted better (probably cheaper too) and no one ever complained.

        2 Replies
        1. re: monku
          e
          edbk RE: monku May 12, 2007 06:56 AM

          Not to go off topic but I am constantly being served an inferior drink recently. I will pay 6 or 7 dollars for a beer no problem but when i am forced to pay this and what i get is clearly not what i ordered ( a cheap watery knockoff) what can i do legally. I don't like to make a fuss and just order bottled beer instead.

          1. re: edbk
            monku RE: edbk May 12, 2007 07:28 AM

            If you're absolutely sure...you watched them pour the drink. You should file a complaint with the alcoholic beverage control or licensing bureau and they will investigate. It is clearly a violation of their license and they could be fined or lose their license.

        2. monku RE: NYChristopher May 12, 2007 07:17 AM

          A side note to your post you being an old saw in the bar biz....
          Many years ago I managed a high end restaurant and every now and then customers would send back a drink saying it wasn't the premium brand they ordered. We never had a economic reason to pour the customer something else. We'd happily repour the customers drink and it was fine. My point is that they thought they knew it was something different and it wasn't. Maybe a momentary lapse in the taste buds or they were trying to test us. If there was a mistake it was because the server picked up the wrong order or called the wrong brand.

          3 Replies
          1. re: monku
            e
            edbk RE: monku May 12, 2007 07:47 AM

            Yeah I am sure. I have worked in bars where they pour cheap liquors in premium bottles. If you ever see full bottles with the caps off behind the bottles then this bar is doing this "trick". My issue is that if i pay 2 dollars more i expect a better quality drink.

            The situation i was refering to was beer. I tried several times but the beers were obviously generic versions of the original. I have drank too many siera nevadas not to know the difference. I also tried others and they were all the same. I have worked places where they do this with the beer. The generic summer ale being marketed as Sam Adams Summer Ale. I love the wing night at this bar but hate getting ripped off.

            1. re: edbk
              monku RE: edbk May 12, 2007 08:39 AM

              You're paying a premium, should get what you're paying for. You should file a complaint.

              In restaurants and bars where I worked the bartenders had to save the empty bottle until the end of the shift when I'd issue a replacement bottle for the empty one. We called it "breakage" because technically in the old days after the empty bottle was replenished it technically was supposed to be broken. No empty...no replacement.

              1. re: edbk
                w
                winedog RE: edbk May 13, 2007 06:42 PM

                An interesting note about Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (my favorite beer) is that outside of Chico, CA, the keg version is different than the bottle version. There is a separate "draft" version that is exported outside of Chico, so unless you're in the city of Chico that's what you're getting. You can also sample both versions at their brewery restaurant. The draft version (outside of Chico) generally has less bite to it.

                I know (or at least believe) this because a roommate of mine used to work at their restaurant and clued me into this "other recipe". But I know you hounds aren't just going to take my word for it so here's something you might believe (see the "Commercial Description"):

                http://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/...

            2. m
              markethej RE: NYChristopher May 12, 2007 08:00 PM

              In LA our local CBS station just did an expose on several well-known places including the chain TODAI and found many places that substitute tilapia for red-snapper!

              4 Replies
              1. re: markethej
                egit RE: markethej May 13, 2007 07:13 AM

                I have a similar beer-on-tap story. I ordered a Brooklyn Lager, and what I got was not what I ordered. When I nicely asked the bartender, she showed me very clearly she had pulled the Brooklyn Lager tap. Yeah, I saw her pull it, but what came out was not Brooklyn. Maybe it was a mixup with the lines and the kegs. But she did nothing to rectify.

                As far as sushi fish, you ought to be able to tell the difference between salmon, yellowtail and regular tuna. Fluke vs. Tilapia vs. Snapper? I don't know. If I'm getting rolls for delivery, do I really care all that much? No, not really. You get what you pay for.

                1. re: markethej
                  monku RE: markethej May 13, 2007 08:58 AM

                  I live in LA...Name those several well-known places.

                  Todai....no harm no foul. I figure with a buffet you could call anything whatever you want (caveat emptor) since the customer isn't necessarily buying a specific product and there are always a lot of mystery dishes made with mystery ingredients. Their sushi is atrocious and doesn't surprise me.

                  1. re: monku
                    b
                    Budser1228 RE: monku May 14, 2007 12:16 PM

                    I found the story at: http://cbs2.com/topstories/local_stor... They do name the restaurants they went to in the article.

                    1. re: Budser1228
                      monku RE: Budser1228 May 14, 2007 03:25 PM

                      Like I said...just order Tilapia roll and shouldn't be a problem and should be cheaper than red snapper.

                2. r
                  RicRios RE: NYChristopher May 13, 2007 10:14 AM

                  "Brasato al Barolo", a typical Piemontese dish, has never ever been made with real Barolo. Not even in Piemonte!

                  1. scubadoo97 RE: NYChristopher May 14, 2007 10:10 AM

                    There is fraud in the fish industry. Here in Florida there have been many newspaper articles about the substitution of other fish for grouper. In an investigative report they actually went to various restaurants and took samples of the fish sold as grouper back for DNA testing. The majority of fish was not grouper. The restaurants blamed suppliers or employees for the mistake. In some cases I'm sure it was fraud on the part of the restaurant but in their defense, many buy cheap grouper from Asian sources and they get big blocks of frozen fillets labeled as grouper. In many cases the suppliers have been the ones committing the fraud by mislabeling and substituting cheaper cat fish for grouper. Many local restaurants have quit offering grouper because they can't be sure of their suppliers and the risk of fines is too great. Others are buying whole fish so they can be sure of what they're getting. Customers are requesting a look at the fish before ordering and fresh grouper has gone up to $18/lb. As an avid spear fisherman I think I could tell grouper from tilapia or cat fish but in some cases you can let the menu be your guide. A big 8oz "grouper" sandwich that is retailing for $7.99 is most likely not grouper. Certainly not fresh grouper. I've seen little 6 inch fillets brought out as fresh grouper when our local restrictions limit the size to 24" or larger. Buyer beware

                    1. PeterL RE: NYChristopher May 14, 2007 03:36 PM

                      Several years ago there was a big bruhaha about using pork as veal.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PeterL
                        NewSushiFiend RE: PeterL May 16, 2007 07:51 AM

                        With so many people that can't eat certain things (such as pork) it should be completely illegal to make substituitions without telling the customers. Many people have very important religious reasons. Other people have medical reasons (if my dad has pork his psoriasis comes back with a vengeance!). Others have political reasons that are important to them and should not be tramped on by others (nor should they try to force their beliefs on others).

                        I find the whole thing appalling.

                      2. dewdropin RE: NYChristopher May 16, 2007 09:22 AM

                        Luckily, your situation is only price rip-off and not a food safety issue. So many have been harmed by unsafe food that was being misrepresented.

                        Merchants, restaurant owners, fishmongers, butchers are all known to misrepresent food quality.

                        Last year in NYC, many upscale food markets (Fairway was one of the stores) were caught selling farmed salmon for wild. The difference is about $10.00 pound retail. Unscrupulous dishonest people can commit fraud at any point. The thing that prevents it is ethical people who feel a responsibility to give the customer what they pay and knowing your food when you look at it raw.

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