What does a fish sommelier do, exactly?

What does a fish sommelier do, exactly?

When the Mina Group opened Greek restaurant Estiatorio Ornos in September in San Francisco’s former Michael Mina restaurant, a person of the far more intriguing bullet points in the information was the introduction of a “fish sommelier.” I have to admit, I met the phrase like a pet dog meets the phrase “treat,” even though with a lot less salivation on my part. What could it quite possibly mean?

My 1st theory: a previous fish whisperer from the Monterey Bay Aquarium who would regale diners with tales about the mating habits of sand dabs.

My next: an pro who would sample compact preferences of funky, radically elevated fish for folks who believe they hate all whitefish, but truly, they just hate oak-aged whitefish.

In actuality, it is in some way less complicated than that. The part originated inside the Mina Group at Mina’s Fish Residence, a resort restaurant in Kapolei, Hawaii. According to Michael Mina himself, the career arrived about when he realized that a single of the new staff members associates was a top-rated sporting activities fisherman who lived and breathed the art of fishing. The fisherman and, afterwards, some of his buddies, finished up getting tasked with bringing fresh new complete fish on ice all-around the restaurant’s tables to share what they realized about the animals and why they’d be geared up it in specified methods. In Hawaii, the purpose was intended to teach diners on all the intricacies of fishing in neighborhood waters.

At Estiatorio Ornos, the part is additional buttoned-up: Like a dim sum server, the fish sommelier pushes a heavy, custom made-manufactured cart with a fish display through the carpeted dining place. It has the bulk and majesty of a parade float. On major is an ice tray, tilted toward the diners, on which pristine full fish and shellfish lie, sleeping beauties waiting for their princes. While each fish on the menu can be served as a grilled entree, with a minimal little bit of oregano and lemon to make it pop, the sommelier is there to stroll you as a result of substitute preparations: why a fragile Petrale sole fillet ($62) would truly operate effectively fried in a phyllo crust, for occasion. Each item in the cart is readily available as an entree, with a couple, like total salt-crusted sea bream ($48), portioned for loved ones-design and style ingesting.

Right here, the fish sommelier operates closely with government chef Daniela Vergara. In the mornings, they chat with their fish and seafood purveyors, like Gulfish and 4 Star Seafood, about what’s in the net that working day: how it’s caught, what it tastes like and in which it is sourced from. All things that will have to be imparted to diners later on that day.

When I first encountered this on my stop by to Estiatorio Ornos, I was struck by the cart’s boldness: At the cost position of this restaurant, in which fish entrees start off at $39, are buyers genuinely heading to want to see some thing so gauche as dead fish in the dining place? “The folks that do not, they make it extremely crystal clear they have no fascination in looking at a whole fish,” claimed Adam Sobel, a chef and lover of the Mina Team. Yet the group was so major about this, so sure of its importance to the cafe, that they actually decreased the dining room’s ability by 22 seats just so the cart could extra quickly maneuver around. 

It’s not at the position in which you can gesture at a fish in the cart (or even in a tank) and say that you want that correct a single, like you may at a Chinatown fish marketplace. Like a tableside dessert tray, the fish are just for exhibit. But the Estiatorio Ornos team hopes that they’ll be capable to use it as an helpful ad for exceptionally confined catches, like blackfish and — fingers crossed — Dungeness crab.

Does this appear to be like a gimmick? A tiny little bit. But in a planet where by general public awareness of oceanic sustainability is getting to be additional and far more vital to the long run of fish, more chatter about sourcing can only be a fantastic point. 

Estiatorio Ornos. 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday 5-9 p.m. Sunday. Bar seating opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 252 California St., San Francisco. www.michaelmina.net