Guest Editorial: Be careful of what you eat
I ordered Escolar at Sushi Blue a few months ago and was disappointed, naively, to hear they didn’t offer it. Several Chefs across the sushi bar, passionate food lovers, suddenly became animated and told me they refused to serve it, that it wasn’t meant to be eaten and was illegal in several countries. I couldn’t believe the news, thinking myself food savvy. I had been introduced to Escolar as soon as I moved to Utah from New York, and it seemed like the perfect fish pure white, buttery, like a White Tuna.
The Chefs sent me home with a reading assignment, the Wikipedia page on Escolar. Horrified as soon as I read it, I began forwarding the Wikipedia page to my friends. Escolar’s wax ester content can cause keriorrhea, "similar to diarrhea." The fish is being falsely labeled in the United States as "White Tuna" or "Butterfish" while Japan and Italy have banned its consumption. Another website says South Korea has banned it as well. Hong Kong, too, has recommended it not be used for catering. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escolar to read the entire article.
Fortified with this new information, I returned to my favorite sushi restaurants in Park City and even to my favorite fish purveyor in Salt Lake. Each one was still selling Escolar. I asked the wait staff at one restaurant why they served it, and they said because people were asking for it. The waitress acknowledged it wasn’t good to eat, but was told it was still on the menu because of customer demand. The sushi chef at the same restaurant then played dumb, and said their Escolar came from Hawaii or other waters, making it totally different from anything I may have read about.
While I too loved the buttery texture of Escolar, and used to seek out "White Tuna" at every sushi dinner, it upsets me that so many people responsible for the food we eat would be able to serve a product like this without any disclosure or concern. Some took me aside and said at the cheap price they could buy it at, Escolar was the only way to make money.
The Chefs at Sushi Blue, formerly Hapa Grill, took a stand and convinced Bill White not to put Escolar on the menu. I think we, the educated consumers of Park City need to take a similar stand, and demand that local restaurants and fish purveyors stop trying to disguise a fish that shouldn’t be eaten as a premium product. While some may argue that people still want to eat it, that’s fine. The purveyors need to label the fish as what it is, something that can cause volatile diarrhea, isn’t really digestible, and is banned in countries that respect food like Italy and Japan.
Any restaurant that still serves Escolar is either ignorant about the ingredients in its food, or lacks respect for its clientele. It’s about time we start letting them know we’re in the know about what they’re doing.