The Wednesday before last I had dinner at the Tackle Box with a visiting Uncle. Technically a first cousin once-removed by marriage, but let’s leave it at uncle. He emailed a few days in advance requesting good seafood, and I found out about them through WaPo’s restaurant guide- best-reviewed not-gaspingly-expensive seafood restaurant in DC.
Perspective: I don’t like fish. Well, live ones that I have to look at or let be anywhere near me. Fish are ugly and slimy and might bite me. In theory, I’m ok with living fish far away from me. I’m usually happy if they’re fried in chunks without visible fish-resembling portions. And I just finished reading Taras Grescoe’s Bottomfeeder before I left for NZ, which describes plenty of the incredibly destructive and disgusting ways most seafood is raised and harvested around the world. More on this later. In conclusion, eating seafood was daunting before, and now I find it possibly revolting.
Still, I happen to like this Uncle, so seafood it was. Luckily, the Tackle Box (a less ritzy version of it’s big-sister restaurant Hook) has a big old section of their website devoted to their sustainable fishing practices, with earnest promises that they source local and smaller fishing operations and change their menu based on availability, etc.
I don’t know of any way to make sure it’s true. That’s one intimidating thing about seafood- oversight from the fisherman to the table is more often than not lax, and fish are often labelled incorrectly. But their website does sound earnest, and a little googling doesn’t reveal any scandals. So, tentative trust, Tackle Box?
I had the bluefish with the sweet potato fries and asparagus. I enjoyed the asparagus- crisp enough, well flavored, and the sweet potato fries could have been less oily, but were pretty good anyway. Bluefish tasted fine, had some pleasing darker portions of meat. Again I have no real fish experience with anything but fried slabs of the stuff, so don’t rely on my palate. Uncle seemed to like it.
Afterwards (tonight), I looked up the species to see about overfishing issues. I started at Wikipedia, but that was silly of me: if you want to know more about fish that are safe and sustainable for your eating pleasure, go straight to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site. They keep close tabs on this stuff, and they say Bluefish are a “Good Alternative” in their rating system- though they are overfished in the Atlantic and they contain lots of toxins, beign at the higher end of the food chain. Whoops.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium rates fish choices as Best Choice, Good Alternative, or Avoid- and you can print out their pocket guides here or check out their website on your fancy internet phones. A better choice at the Tackle Box would have been the tilapia- if it was farmed in the US. Or the trout, if it were US-farmed Rainbow Trout and not so much the wild-caught lake trout. The staff seemed very nice and informed- go ahead and ask them.
The more you know, hunh? I’m printing out a guide for the next time Uncle comes into town.