By Morgan Goldberg
June 22, 2017
© Carlo A / Getty Images

Give a man a better damn well be the fish you say it is. That's what Santa Clara restaurant Odeum is finding out after serving their diners tilapia under the pretenses—and the prices—of petrale sole for nearly a year and a half from October 2014 to March 2016. And now they're facing a $120,000 fine.

After performing their fraudulent fish stunt for quite some time, Odeum was caught after the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office got an annonymous complaint in early 2016. A consumer investigation confirmed the use of tilapia, a cheap, readily-available fish, in place of petrale sole, which violates California health and safety codes that prohibit restaurants from misbranding or falsely advertising food. As we saw in a robust study earlier this year, this is certainly not the first time California has dealt with fish imposters. And as the authors of that study indicated last month, in a lot of these fish fraud cases diners just can't tell the difference, which makes them even trickier to pin down. 

In a settlement reached on Wednesday, the restaurant must pay $90,000 in civil penalties and $30,000 in restitution to cheated diners. But the restitution isn't what you might think. Anyone who ordered petrale sole during the dubious time period may collect a $30 gift certificate to Odeum. Not only do we doubt any fooled diner would return to Odeum, the gift certificate does not even cover the cost of the $32 "petrale sole" dish they originally purchased. But don't think just because Odeum is providing resitution that no one is likely to want that the restaurant will get away without paying that money. Any unclaimed restitution dollars will go to the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, Consumer Protection Division. 

If any diner does feel like making a return trip to the restaurant, they can claim their gift certificates with forms provided in the Mercury News, the Gilroy Dispatch, the Morgan Hill Times and at Odeum. If you go back, maybe order the steak instead.