There was a moment during Monday night’s Trash Fish dinner at Border Grill when I forgot all about the message behind the meal and just basked in the deliciousness of the plate in front of me. There were chunks of Pacific rockfish, monkfish and sablefish nestled in a rich seafood broth infused with the flavors of saffron and fennel. It didn’t matter that those species rarely show up on local menus or at Whole Foods' seafood counter. Every bite confirmed something crucial: They’re good.
Rick Moonen described his Bycatch Bouillabaise as a “methadone program” for addicts of more widely known fish, but it was better than that. In fact, all of the food at the one-night-only collaborative dinner from Moonen, Border Grill chefs Mike Minor, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Boston-area chef Michael Leviton and Wynn-alum Jet Tila was fantastic—so good you’d never suspect it was made from trash fish, species that fisherman usually throw back.
And that really was what the whole evening was about. From melt-in-your-mouth surf clam sashimi (Leviton) to grilled romaine with panko-crusted sardine croutons (Minor) to a pan-seared sturgeon topped with sturgeon caviar on a bed of mashed potatoes with sturgeon brandade (Border Grill), the meal was a lesson in oceanic treasures too long overlooked. We ate species we’d never heard of and snacked on an appetizer made with herring that Milliken’s Michigan-based cousin got for free because the farmer couldn’t sell it.
And while the meal was tasty enough to be served without its sustainable headline, it was also a reminder that varying our diet will take pressure off the fish we eat most, like tuna, salmon and cod, ensuring that they’re abundant for generations to come. So, the next time I browse a menu and see sturgeon, monkfish, sardines and herring, I’ll be happy to make them my dinner. You know what they say about one man’s trash.