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Dec 3, 2012 08:29 AM

2012 Boston Globe Update: More Fish Fakers

The Globe went around testing more fish samples at local restaurants this year, and they found no change in the overall rate of cheating (which the majority of the restaurants they sampled do). Plenty of big names on their list of fakers yet again.

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  1. Time to actively boycott the restaurants that were caught.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jjbourgeois

      A couple of Chowhound favorites on the list ...

    2. Sadly, only available to subscribers.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Boston_Otter

        I could read it and I'm not a subscriber?

        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          I can see the basic list, but it won't let me see the details of each of the "fish fakes", the story, or the map.

          1. re: Boston_Otter

            Agreed....the link takes me to the teaser, but I can't get to the actual article.

        2. This was my favorite quote from the article:
          '“We’re too busy to deal with such silliness,” Janet Cooper, of Ken’s Steak House, said after several phone interviews during which she could not explain why the restaurant was still selling far less expensive Pacific cod as locally caught fish.'

          1. I can't believe they are still going after Blue Ginger. Makes me question the rest of the results.

            From Blue Ginger Dinner Menu:

            Sake-Miso Marinated Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish) - 41
            Wasabi Oil, Soy-Lime Syrup and Vegetarian Soba Noodle Sushi

            16 Replies
            1. re: Bellachefa

              The report in the Boston Globe said that Blue Ginger put in the (aka Butterfish) after the last story but had since removed it. So it was not on the menu when they recently tested it again. That is--it said Sablefish only.

              1. re: cwinboston

                As I said last time, Ming Tsai is using industry accepted vernacular. He is not trying to pull a fast one on anyone. He is using $25/lb black cod. It's akin to saying a chef put Purina One on the menu and then served Snake River Farms wagyu tenderloin as a substitution.

                The rest of the article is spot-on. Unfortunately it gives the entire industry a bad name.
                I work 52 weeks a year with small honest distributors who compete with "the evil empire" in the article. This has been going on for years.

                Buyer beware, you have glorified McDonalds managers purchasing seafood at these corporate chains. They have very little fish knowledge and get graded on their peformance by how well they are able to keep plate costs down and their margins high.

                There is a very easy way to fix this problem. Put the scientific name on all invoices. Prosecute cases where people are cheating.

                1. re: typhoonfish

                  Would be interested in getting your insider perspective on the fact that a lot of the blame in Globe article lay with buyers at the restaurants just not paying enough attention to the paperwork they exchange with their provider. For example, not noting that it just said "cod" and not "Atlantic cod." True? You might argue that buyers should not have to be obsessively attentive. Maybe, but it can pay off in multiple theaters of life.

                  1. re: terrycatch

                    There was an industry editorial yesterday that was to the effect of that they felt there wasn't enough blame on the purchasing agents. They plead innocence when they absolutely knew what was going on.

                    I deal with this nonsense every day. I sell against the company in the Globe article. I would love to have a requirement where the scientific name is required on invoices. We sell 100% unadulterated line caught (a huge distinction) fresh cod and haddock. Day boat means absolutely nothing anymore. It's tough to be the honest people in the fish business.

                    As I've said the real issue is in these middle of the road corporately owned chain restaurants. They have a line cook or college dropout that through advancement by attrition finds themselves in the purchasing role. They have zero fish/culinary knowledge and get paid by how well they keep their plate costs down. I know from experience, that there's also a feeling of power being in the purchasing position.

                    The people in the top tier restaurants won't buy fillets. They usually require whole fish. There's no fudging a whole fish. There's also a growing trend in Boston that the top tier restaurants are going direct to people on the pier in a van to pick out their own fish.

              2. re: Bellachefa

                The article said Blue Ginger listed a cheaper species rather than the more expensive actual one because Ming prefers the name. They noted that was the only place to list a cheaper name. Not the same as fakery.

                1. re: lergnom

                  It's industry accepted vernacular. I've seen it many places as Alaskan butterfish. There was no need to even mention him in the article.

                  We sell Loup De Mer. It can be wolffish on a menu (east of mississippi river) or Branzino from Greece (west coast and french restaurants). Big difference in what you get if you order Loup de Mer.

                  Side note, old school name for Wolffish was ocean catfish. The domestic catfish producers lobbied the FDA and we can no longer use the term ocean catfish.

                  1. re: typhoonfish

                    "Industry-accepted vernacular" is open to wide interpretation, which is how consumers can easily be confused (deliberately or otherwise), and why FDA regulations explicitly prohibit the use of vernacular terms in retail settings. Here's what they do allow:

                    An official of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute was quoted in the Globe saying butterfish is an unusual name for sablefish. “It’s my understanding that nobody in Alaska calls it butterfish, They call it black cod and sablefish." They were scratching their heads over it at the Anchorage Daily News, too:

                    The FDA is quite clear: there are eight species you're allowed to call butterfish, and sablefish isn't one of them. (They don't like the use of "black cod" for sablefish, either: sablefish is the only acceptable term for retail use.) Ming himself admitted he "made a technical mistake". Blue Ginger's menu now reads: "Sake-Miso Marinated Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish)"

                    Still looks to me like he was trying to pull a fast one, and got caught. But he's a popular figure, and a nice guy, so folks are more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.


                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      if he was selling sable as alaskan butterfish, then I find it odd. I am not sure why he would use an unusual name especially for a dish that was famously created by Nobu.

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                        If his tastes like the dish at Nobu, I have no problem with him calling it butter fish. That fish at Nobu tastes like butter, awesome butter. The truth is an absolute defense!

                        1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                          Actually, I'd say that in a world where it's illegal to call fish by vernacular names, and many restaurants are swindling consumers with misleading labels, a celebrity chef with a national brand to protect should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I'm a bit baffled by the focus on Blue Ginger: does the new article indicate it is still misrepresenting or was that the discussion in 2011? It doesn't even seem to be a "repeat" offender and while I get the point that Ming Tsai's visibility makes it important for him to be, like Caesar's wife, above reproach, it appears that he is, in fact, above reproach on this.

                            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                              Yes, I've had both. And both are excellent! I've also had 'butterfish' in hawaii. At none of these places did I expect to be served throwaway bait fish for a high tarriff. The term may not be a seafood purveyor standard, but it was a restaurant understood term for the nobu, blue ginger, panasian styled dish.

                              Now the whole escolar/ white tuna thing is wrong, and pretending to serve local cod and really serving pacific cod is wrong. However the scrod/schrod/haddock/cod thing doesn't bother me. I prefer local haddock to cod.

                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                            If he was selling Black Cod on his menu and then substituting domestic cod maybe.

                            The fact of the matter is he was selling one of the most expensive fish a chef can carry. He can call it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he's not trying to stiff the consumer. He can confuse the hell out of them.

                            No one in the history of fish sales has tried to substitute a $25 /lb fillet for a $.50/lb whole bait fish.

                            To top it all off personally I think black cod tastes like a bad bluefish.

                            1. re: typhoonfish

                              Hmm...what happens when you marinate (good) bluefish in sweet miso...?

                              Sounds like an experiment for the summer!

                          3. re: typhoonfish

                            I wish there was a "Plus 1" here... Great info! THX!

                      2. The original comment has been removed