First Taste: Kindai Tuna

By Kristin Donnelly Posted October 31, 2007

With environmental organizations threatening that fish will go the way of dinosaurs, and books that predict doom for the ocean (like Charles Clover’s End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat) I’ve more or less given up sushi. Maybe on rare occasions, I'll indulge in the exquisite sashimi at 15 East or the delicate sushi bar creations at Soto but I’ve completely given up on cheap weeknight spicy tuna rolls and even the occasional piece of toro.

Toro, so prized by sushi hounds for its luscious fat, comes from the belly of the highly endangered bluefin tuna. Unfortunately, though, because this fish fetches sky-high prices, international regulations designed to prevent overfishing are often ignored.

Last week, Megu Midtown introduced Kindai tuna, the first successfully farmed bluefin—a result of 30 years of research at the Japanese Kinki University (an appropriate name considering how much time they spend breeding the fish). My coworker Emily Kaiser and I tasted the new fish at Megu last week. They served us the akami, chu-toro and o-toro (the least fatty pieces to the most marbled; i.e., the least expensive to the priciest) in both sashimi and sushi style. The chu-toro and o-toro pieces were rich and beefy, like wild bluefin. All the fish had a remarkably oceany flavor and slight sweetness that was fantastic with the soy sauce and the creamy fresh wasabi grated at the table. In true Japanese style (or, much like a Cabbage Patch Doll), Kindai fish come with a certificate of authenticity, including the date the infant tuna was moved from an indoor tank to the ocean facility, a list of what it ate and a confirmation that no hormones and antibiotics were used in producing it.

If the Kindai tuna truly is as environmentally sound as Kinki claims, I hope other sushi restaurants will seek it out, to give the bluefin a chance to recover from our rabid love of toro.

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