HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Oct 23, 2011 11:55 AM

Boston Globe investigating study - mislabeling of fish at Mass. restaurants.



My favorite - O Ya - Served sablefish as "wild black cod" - their reported explanation: Ordered black cod from supplier, thought it was acceptable name. Can't be both explanations...

Blue Ginger got dinged on the sablefish too, but gave a more honest answer - did not like the name sablefish and called it butterfish, which was thought to be an acceptable name, which it is according to wiki.

H-Mart was the only supermarket I noticed that got dinged. A few Chinatown places seemed to engage in outright fraud - catfish labeled as flounder, etc.

The sampling seemed tilted toward the low and high ends - would be really curious how many mid-range places are saying "phew" today...

    1. I think if you're in a business when you spend a lot of time on-camera talking about quality ingredients, and then a pattern is revealed where you make a cheaper substitution using a "nickname" on a $41 signature entree, you deserve all the cynical scrutiny you get.


      1. Sablefish, Black Cod & Alaskan Butterfish are all market synonyms for Anoplopoma fimbria - the reporter could have spent 30 seconds on google and found that out. (so could the restauranteurs for that matter...)

        4 Replies
        1. re: loper

          Odd coincidence that the fish more commonly described as butterfish is much more expensive than sablefish, no? I'm sure that was just an innocent $41-a-signature-plate choice.

          I find Ming's move less disturbing that dishonestly substituting escolar for anything -- that stuff can ruin your day -- but still, it leaves a bad taste.


          1. re: loper

            Yeah, it really does raise a question of what role, if any, branding should play in this debate.

            Should a place be dinged for calling Patagonian toothfish "Chilean sea bass?"

            On the other hand, when the restaurant says, "black cod," am I as the diner expecting this --->


            which is unrelated to sablefish?

            For that matter, how many times does one *actually* get Kobe beef in their Kobe beef sliders?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              It is legal to call it Kobe beef if the source is the American or Australian hybrid, even though the beef from those cattle aren't remotely like the real thing. If you are so ignorant about actual Japanese Wagyu as to believe that your hot dog or hamburger or under-$200 steak might include it, I'm not blaming the restaurateur.

              It is illegal to sell escolar as white tuna.

              I think you're treading into ethically dubious behavior if you use a less-common trade name that suggests another fish that more commonly goes by that name and is more expensive. That is it effective marketing does not make it any less sleazy, in my book, especially if you are a celebrity chef who makes a lot of hay (and profit) hyping his use of quality ingredients.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                So Ming burns you a lot more than Cush? (Love me a good Jerry Maguire reference)

          2. Same story ran in 8/08 and again in 5/11 in the NYT. It's pretty common, unfortunately, to buy cheaper fish and sell it as if it was the pricier stuff. Ask a butcher about beef labeled "prime" in restaurants: Same thing applies.

            1. As there is another thread already underway about this article, we're going to lock this one; please continue the conversation here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/813669