Located in San Diego’s upscale seaside La Jolla district, Herringbone is being promoted as serving fresh, sustainable seafood. From the wooden lobster traps and puffer-fish art to the 100-year-old olive trees growing out of the floor, the place is definitely inspired by nature.
But are celebrity Top Chef alumni Brian Malarkey and Amanda Baumgarten giving mixed messages about the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability?
According to their website “Line-caught seafood…are paired with alluring libations.” It sounds like a good opening of a sustainable seafood credo; however, no line-caught or local seafood was on the menu the day I was there.
They did have three red-listed seafood entrees – Monkfish, Skate and Tai Snapper – on the menu that are to be avoided due to the method by which these fish are harvested from the ocean.
Monkfish, also called anglerfish – for the three long filaments sprouting from the middle of the head – is on the Seafood Watch “avoid” list because of past overfishing practices that brought the population to critically low levels and for the damage trawlers, the main fishing gear used to catch the fish, do when raking them from the seafloor. The other fishing method used, is gillnets, which is set across the water to catch the fish — and all other marine life – that tries to swim through.
Skate, a cousin of the shark, was once considered a trash fish but has recently become a trendy seafood entrée. According to the Seafood Watch, “Skates have been severely overfished and most are caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch and substantial damage to the seafloor.”
Tai Snapper, which comes from New Zealand, should be avoided if it’s caught by Seine or trawl and is ranked as a “good alternative” if it’s caught by longline. The folks at Herringbone were not aware of how this fish was harvested.
I avoided the skate wings and went with the Maine diver scallops, which were delicious and cooked to perfection.
Perplexed by the mixed signals, I asked my waiter if the restaurant had a commitment to serving sustainable seafood, he replied, “We are sustainable, for the most part.”
That doesn’t sound like a strong commitment to me.
Bottonline: Top Chef Amanda Baumgarten kitchen definitely knows how to cook but they clearly doesn’t know much about sustainable seafood.
– Annie Reisewitz