Differentiating Your Seafood Menu

According to Datassential, 42% of consumers want to eat more seafood as a replacement for meat. While seafood is filling the gap for center-of-the-plate selections, consumers want captivating, unexpected options. To differentiate your seafood category, you must offer unique, high-quality, sustainable seafood dishes with creative tastes and textures and a compelling backstory. One way to strengthen your seafood menu is to present offerings with diverse formats. For example, menu a worldly offering like Korean shrimp and scallion pancakes served with gochujang soy-ginger sauce (image on left). This dish is visually appealing, packed with flavor, and can be merchandised as an appetizer, snack, small plate, or shareable option.

Another way to set your seafood menu apart from the competition is to source lesser-known, underutilized seafood varieties. Showcase cutting-edge innovation, guide guests to embrace culinary discovery, and hook customers with adventurous, environmentally friendly, flavor-driven catches.

Sustainable Seafood for Thought

Approximately 85% of fish species are fully overfished or fully exploited, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. With familiar species depleting at an alarming rate, sourcing underutilized varieties is the sustainable seafood solution we need. Utilizing lesser-known fish inspires culinary creativity, delivers more unique flavor experiences, and is more cost-effective than common cuts. The strategy comes in guiding consumers to be more adventurous and change their perception of alternative seafood options.

Make diverse seafood selections approachable to customers by training your front-of-house to promote the qualities that make exotic, eco-friendly varieties valuable. Provide information on the fishery and backstory of how it got from the dock to the plate, describe its flavor profile, and offer examples of well-known fish with a similar taste. Expanding customers’ palates, making an impact on sustainability, and being at the forefront of trends will help customers view your restaurant as a leader in the seafood sector that they want to invest in.

Underutilized, Sustainable Species

Sea Bass Cheeks (#005192)
Lean and tender with an exquisite taste, fish cheeks are considered an Asian
delicacy. Sea bass cheeks are prized for their firm, oily texture and deliciously moist bite that’s similar to scallops. Boneless cheeks are easy to prep and offer a labor-saving alternative cut that’s as tasty, if not tastier than the familiar fillet. Showcase sea bass cheeks lightly poached, grilled, or pan-fried. Menu an ethnic take with ghee-basted sea bass cheeks and curried leeks, or try pan-searing the cheeks with fresh citrus juices to allow its natural flavor to shine. Serving parts of the fish beyond the fillet promotes fin-to-tail preparations and produces sustainable, waste-reducing offerings that will go a long way in differentiating your seafood category.

Red Drum (#043237)
Also known as redfish or spottail sea bass, red drum is native to the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and is found in coastal waters from Massachusetts to Mexico. Copper Shoals, the largest producer of striped sea bass, raises all-natural, antibiotic-free red drum using sustainable aquaculture methods. They utilize techniques that preserve red drum’s freshness, maximize their shelf life, and offer operators a clean seafood option. Nourished by a specially formulated diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, red drum is an excellent variety to merchandise to health-conscious customers. Give red drum a signature spin by contrasting its mildly sweet flesh with high-impact spices or sauces. Red drum is incredibly versatile, providing opportunity to experiment with various cooking methods and formats. Consider blackened, pan-seared, or beer-basted red drum featured in platforms such as center-of-the-plate, tacos, sandwiches, and bowls. With large copper scales along their backs, red drum can also build buzz on menus when served with the skin and scales intact for an eye-catching presentation.

Barramundi (#038951, #095797, #043114)
Barramundi is one of the fastest-growing new types of fish on menus (Datassential). Native to Australia and the Indo-West Pacific region, most barramundi is farm-raised in clean, environmentally sound, recirculating tank systems. This versatile species requires less feed and has the ability to be farmed without antibiotics or hormones. With the highest omega-3 content of any white fish, barramundi is ideal for merchandising to health-conscious customers, and its fat content helps it hold up to various cooking techniques. Barramundi’s delicate, edible skin crisps up beautifully, which reduces waste and allows for more enticing textures. Menu Crispy Skin Barramundi with Red Chermoula Sauce (see recipe on page 13). Barramundi is not only a sustainable option, but it’s also easy to work with, price stable, and is becoming a new customer favorite.

Hake (#007247)
Also known as “the new cod,” hake is an affordable Northeastern fish species that’s certified sustainable, meaning it was caught using environmentally sound, and socially responsible management practices. Best sautéed, grilled, baked, or poached, hake’s soft flesh and subtle flavor makes it ideal for showcasing lively, intensely flavored ingredients like ‘nduja, chorizo, or harissa. Hake doesn’t often appear in U.S. restaurants outside of the northeast region; however, hake is the national fish of Spain. Showcase a trendy, Spanish-inspired dish with a traditional merluza (hake) en salsa verde preparation that elevates the sweet taste of hake with a rich, clam-flavored green sauce.

Standardizing sustainable, lesser-known seafood is crucial to making an impact on the diminishing supply of well-known varieties, and will also make a splash on your menu, improving brand perception and profits. Dive into this new seafood strategy to take your fish offerings to the next level, deliver a unique seafood experience, and support a process that benefits chefs, consumers, fishermen, and the environment.

These noteworthy, sustainable seafood varieties are all available through Maines Just In Time (JIT) program. To order, contact your Maines Territory Manager today!

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