Bait and Switch Seafood


Widespread Mislabeling of Fish

By Winston Ross

In a diminutive shack in Eugene, Oregon, in a neighborhood that until recently was a better place to find meth than a decent meal, Taro Kobayashi is carving into the pinkest block of tuna I’ve ever seen.

Kobayashi is the owner and head chef of a restaurant called Mamé. He seats no more than 19 people at once, and if you didn’t make a reservation, you might not squeeze in until after 10 p.m. The cramp and the call ahead are worth it, though, because Kobayashi buys fish only if he knows precisely where it came from—the fisherman, the boat and the body of water. He doesn’t buy fish unless it’s in season, no matter how much his customers might ask for it. He can tell you all about why it’s better to wait five days to serve tuna (that gives the flesh time to recover from the stress of being caught) or how the yellow tint on the seared Nantucket scallops indicates they’re female. Knowing his fish is “really important,” Kobayashi says. When asked about the mystery meat served at most sushi bars across the world, he says, “You guys deserve better.”

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