Lionfish is the third restaurant in the city to be recognized as a "Smart Catch."

By Bridget Hallinan
February 14, 2019
Travis Payne/Getty Images

Lionfish, a modern seafood restaurant in San Diego’s Pendry Hotel, has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a 2019 Smart Catch Leader. The "Smart Catch" program was created for chefs, by chefs, according to the JBF site, and aims to “increase the sustainability of the seafood supply chain.” In other words? Responsibly sourcing seafood.

Jose “Jojo” Ruiz, executive chef/partner at Lionfish, definitely fits the bill, serving what the restaurant refers to as “sea-to-table” meals. Lionfish is one of three restaurants in San Diego to have received the "Smart Catch" recognition, according to a statement.

“I care deeply about our oceans, growing up in San Diego, as it’s been a huge part of my life and lifestyle. I’m flattered to be a part of something that’s truly changing the way chefs and diners feel about food and the importance of sustainability in seafood,” Ruiz said in the statement. 

On the menu, you’ll find fresh catches like “Whole 2 Pound San Diego Spiny Lobster” and “Coal Grilled Local Opah”—the sashimi and sushi section sources Albacore from Hawaii, Uni from San Diego and Santa Barbara, and Striped Bass from Baja. And the oyster section gives you a choice of East Coast, West Coast, or Baja varieties—so it’s pretty clear to diners exactly where their meal is coming from.   

But it's not just about transparent sourcing. In order to qualify as a Smart Catch Leader, restaurants have to fulfill the following criteria: complete at least three assessments in the calendar year, have no endangered items according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, have two or fewer “Red” items, and eight percent or less “Red Volume,” per the JBF site. Additionally, on back-to-back assessments, the restaurant needs to score 80 percent or higher. 

In other James Beard news, five restaurants were recently recognized for the annual “American Classics” award, which highlights places that are locally-owned, and serve "quality food that reflects the character of their communities." The winners include Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House in West Virginia, and Pho 79 in California; check out the full list here.

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