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May 12, 2007 05:04 AM

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

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

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. 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

      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. 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

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

      2. Similar thread and news from a few years ago.

        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

          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

            If you're absolutely 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. 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

            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

              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 replacement.

              1. re: edbk

                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"):


            2. 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

                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

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

         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

                    I found the story at: They do name the restaurants they went to in the article.

                    1. re: Budser1228

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