Results tagged fish from David Lebovitz

Matsuri Sustainable Sushi

matsuri tuna sushi

When I was a teenager, we made a trip to Los Angeles and a family friend took us to a Japanese restaurant. I remember it well, because I was going through that phase where you’re willing to do things on a dare, not because you’re keenly interested in new experiences, but because you want to show off that you’re not afraid of taking on a few dares. And I remember some of my family flipping out a little when we were presented with a big, shiny wooden board covered with raw strips of fish, lined up in neat rows, ready to be eaten just as is.

Because part of my youthful folly of trying the be daring and ‘different’ was using chopsticks to eat everything (as if just being myself wasn’t enough…), I was also happy to be able to show off my mastery with les baguettes, as they’re called in French. And I was going to fearlessly eat raw fish with them.

scallops

I don’t remember what I ate exactly, but I do remember that trepidation of my first bite, and seeing a few people at the table squirm as I chewed and swallowed the first of those cold, slippery slices of fish. Of course, sushi is now considered normal fare in many countries and you can buy it in supermarkets, airports, and even in the frozen food section. And I’ve been in pretty remote towns in both the United States and in France, and have passed restaurants serving sushi, or les sushis.

During the few decades between that first bite of fish that I had, and now, our collective international hunger for seafood has grown, so much so that many popular varieties of fish used for sushi are on the brink of disappearing. French president Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to ban bluefin tuna but an organization of French fishermen and other groups successfully stopped the ban. So in spite of its tenuous position, if you go to a fish market this morning, you’ll see glistening on ice, big, meaty, shiny-red triangles of that unfortunately delicious bluefin tuna along with many other species that are not considered responsible.

A few top French chefs have taken bluefish tuna off their menus, in their upscale restaurants, but the ‘fast-food’ style sushi restaurants that have invaded Paris are invariably packed at lunchtime. Sometimes visitors are surprised to see so many sushi take-out places, which seems to be vying in Paris with the banks and boulangeries for storefront dominance. But like people in cities elsewhere, the locals are looking for something quick, inexpensive, and healthy for lunch. Parisians, mostly the younger crowd, have embraced these quick sushi joints, which normally have just three kinds of sushi: bluefin tuna (thon rouge), shrimp, and salmon, which are considered some of the least sustainable types of fish and seafood you can consume.

tuna rolls Japanese ginger

Like so many others, long after that first experience with poisson cru (raw fish) back in California, I’ve developed a deep fondness for sushi and sashimi. But as the news and scientists report about disappearing species, I can’t shake that deeply ingrained “Bay Area Guilt”, as I call it, about trying to be vert and have a difficult time sitting down to a meal and eating something that’s on the verge of extinction.

(Which is why I will also get up and walk to the other side of my apartment to recycle a postage stamp-size scrap of paper rather than toss it into the trash can under my desk or I’ll carry around a used métro ticket in my pocket for weeks until I get to a place to recycle it.)

Being a good foot soldier, still to this day, I’ve dialed down drinking bottled water as much as possible, and I’ve seriously curtailed my consumption of fish. But when I walked by Matsuri, a chain of sushi bars in France a few months back, and saw the sign outside that they were serving another kind of tuna, I decided to check it out with Meg of Paris by Mouth.

sushi rolls

The sushi at Matsuri arrive to diners via a motorized conveyor belt. So for hard-core sushi fans, this isn’t a place to go to discover the skills of a well-trained, inventive sushi chef. I normally wince when I see floating boats and other gimmicks in sushi bars, but so be it. And it was nice to see a laminated card on each table, talking about the sushi éthique, the sustainability of the scallops and albacore tuna that they serve in place of bluefin tuna (thon rouge).

tuna avocado roll pickled radish sushi

The sushi wasn’t knocking our chausettes off, but it was encouraging to see and to eat sushi that you didn’t have to worry too much about enjoying. (Most of the varieties are on the WWF’s—avec moderation seafood list.)

As mentioned, I’m suspicious of places were the sushi goes around and around and around (and around) on a conveyor belt. But the staff seemed to be putting just the right amount of things out and I didn’t see many of the small plates taking multiple tours around the dining room. Although Matsuri is a small chain of restaurants, the sushi is made there and most of the standard small rolls and sashimi rolled by were familiar favorites.

However we were seated about two-thirds of the way down the conveyor belt and the three fellows just to our left, and the woman with two small kids just before them, seemed to have an uncanny knack for reaching for what we were oogling just before we got our crack at it. So if you go, try to get a seat closer to the open kitchen, where the sushi comes out, for best selection.

Still, I like when restaurants run out of food, and it’s fine when it doesn’t necessarily come out super-fast, which often is a good indication that it’s prepared fresh and with care. Running low (or out) of things means they’re not stockpiling.

Matsuri plates matsuri plates

For all the fresh fish consumed in France, including salmon tartare, which has become a staple on each and every trendy bistro menu, it’s interesting that only a few decent sushi bars have opened in Paris. But as much as folks grouse about chain restaurants, it’s gratifying to see one leading the way in France, showing that you can serve sustainable food at approachable prices. It’s a trend that I hope to see more of.


Matsuri
36, rue de Richelieu (1st)
Tél: 01 42 61 05 73

(With each dish priced between €2 and €5, with two mugs of hot green tea, our lunch was €36. Matsuri has various restaurants and take-away shops in Paris and other French cities, as well as Geneva.)


Related Links

Les Pâtes Vivantes

The 64 cent Fish

The Sustainable Seafood Dilemna (Chocolate & Zucchini)

European Sustainable Seafood Guides (WWF)

Saying No To Disposable Chopsticks

Slow Fish

Pour Une Pêche Durable (French WWF seafood guide)

Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade (New York Times)

The Barbès Market

fish radishes

Every once in a while there are contests in Paris to decide who makes the best croissant, a hot new restaurant list get published somewhere, or a market way on the other side of Paris that supposedly has great onions grown in the same soil where Louis the XIV once took a squat, becomes a “must visit”. It’s pretty encouraging to see and hear about new places, especially when it’s a young baker or chef getting some recognition for maintaining the high-quality of one of France’s emblematic pastries or breads. And often I add the restaurant to my hand-scribbled list in hopes of one day being able to say “I’ve been there!” (The jury is still out on those onions, though.)

strawberries at market

When I moved here years ago, I’d gladly cross the city to find and taste all these things. I remember one day tracking down what was known as the best croissant in Paris, as mentioned in an issue of The Art of Eating. At the urging of a visiting friend, we trekked out to some distant bakery in the far-away fourteenth arrondissement, only to find the baker closing up shop for his mid-day break. There seems to be a corollary around here: The longer you have to travel to get somewhere, the more likely it is to be closed when you get there.

Continue Reading The Barbès Market…

Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles

l'escargot

You might not remember the days before the internet, but when we used to travel somewhere, we’d ask a friend to scribble down a list of suggestions. And we’d often be asked to do the same in return. Then when computers became widely used, other ‘favorites’ lists started circulating, including suggestions posted in online forums and in blogs.

So think of this list as my modern-day scribblings of places to go on the rue Montorgueil. Aside from it being perfectly located in the center of Paris, it’s a great place to take a stroll, and is pedestrian-friendly and wheelchair accessible, as it’s flat and closed off to cars. It’s a lovely walk, and everything is in a three block radius, making it easy to sample some of the best food shops, bakeries, chocolate shops, and kitchenware stores in Paris in one fell swoop.

roast chicken list meringues

The area was, for centuries, the home of the famous Les Halles covered market, which stood in the center of the city. As part of the modernization of Paris it was dismantled in the 1970s, replaced by an unattractive shopping mall (which is widely reviled), and the merchants were dispatched to Rungis, a large industrial complex on the outskirts of Paris. Still, reminders of Les Halles remain, including restaurant supply shops, late night dining spots, and the rue Montorgueil, which has become a vibrant street lined with restaurants, food stores, chocolate shops, and lively cafés.

The street is the perfect place go if have just a short time in Paris, as there’s a lot to see—and eat, in a very concentrated space. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can take the métro and get off at Etienne Marcel, Les Halles, or Sentier.

You’ll probably want to visit the restaurant supply shops, which you might want to schedule at the end of your stroll, so you don’t have to lug purchases around with you.

Continue Reading Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles…

Sauce Gribiche, Au Pif

sauce gribiche ingredients

France is supposedly all about liberté, but in fact, everyone is really judged, and categorized, by one thing: the number on their license plate.

Paris is number 75, and if you drive anywhere else in France, aside from your black clothing, the chain-smoking, and the mad tapping on your iPhone, you’re pegged as a Parisian if your license plate ends with the oft-feared soixante-quinze.

fish

Parisians have a bit of a reputation in les autres départements and as we drove home from dinner one night when I was in the Poitou-Charente on vacation, a typical French family attempting to cross the street retracted when they saw our car approaching; “Il n’a rien vu les autres, le Parisien!” (“He doesn’t see others, the Parisian!”) shouted the father, frantically pushing his beloved a safe distance from les soixante-quinzes.

Continue Reading Sauce Gribiche, Au Pif…

Sardine Pâté Recipe

sardine tail

If we Americans are good at anything, it’s shopping. It’s in our genes and we were simply born to shop. And we’re also good at getting deals. I don’t think many people pay full-price for anything anymore, and unless something is discounted, we won’t buy it.

When I moved to France, folks were amazed at my ability to search out le deal. I felt silly going into the local papeterie and buying 8 sheets of paper for €4, when I could get a whole ream at Office Depot for about the same price. Except no one told the French Office Depot team that Office Depot is supposed to be a discount store, and after I took Romain to one in New York, where everything was essentially free, he was shocked, and said, “Office Depot in Paris is the last place you go if you need something.”

pita chips

Nevertheless, I keep hearing about ‘recession-friendly’ prices and ‘budget-friendly’ budgets, and whatever. I’m a bit skeptical of the whole thing since someone in the states was telling me that they bought their new, jumbo flat-screen television online to save the tax, because they were trying to save some money. Um, and why are they buying a new jumbo flat-screen television then?

I guess I shouldn’t talk, though, because I’m a shopper, too.

Continue Reading Sardine Pâté Recipe…

The Ones That Didn’t Get Away…

fish
another fish

Noël

bûche de noël

I couldn’t let the year end without a little reportage about Christmas this year. You heard about my last-minute scramble to find the World’s Most Expensive Pastry Bag, which is now safely stored away in my Safe Deposit Box for next year.

cheese Christmas dinner

There’s a joke that the only bad thing about Paris is that it’s full of Parisians. I’m not going to comment on that, but Paris pretty much empties out, and is glorious time to stay in town. Also Christmas is taken pretty seriously around here. It’s considered a close, family holiday and even though the big department stores have spectacular window displays, Christmas hasn’t been overtly commercialized and kids are content when la grande-mère hands them a bag of fresh clementines, and don’t throw tantrums if they don’t get the latest version of the impossible-to-get video game. At least in my French famille.

The only tantrums being thrown were by me, making my Bûche de Noël, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Continue Reading Noël…

the 64 cent fish

sardines

Proving that eating fresh, flavorful, sustainable food doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or elitist, I walked to my local market this morning and bought these two sardines.

I decided a few months ago to try and limit my fish-eating to sustainable species, which meant bypassing my formerly-beloved tuna steaks and forgoing sushi, in favor of critters like these slender sardines.

This morning, passing by the poissonière, I picked up these lovely little fellas, shiny and bright-eyed, resting on a pile of ice. Unfortunately, the ice probably isn’t all that sustainable—but I’ll take a bit of global-warming in lieu of stinky fish.

Continue Reading the 64 cent fish…