Mastering Japanese cuisine

The delicate way that Japanese restaurateurs and retailers handle their fish is something that renowned New York Chef David Bouley, owner of Bouley restaurant in TriBeCa, aims to communicate with attendees of the International Boston Seafood Show.

Bouley — whose newest venture, brushstroke, is a kaiseki restaurant (kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) — is the featured speaker at a presentation titled “Japanese Seafood for the Evolving American Palate” at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Room No. 104B on Sunday from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

Bouley consistently uses around 10 different Japanese fish — including red snapper, sardines, hamachi, eels and scallops — at brushstroke, a collaborative effort with the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, Japan.

“Japanese product is always more reliable,” said Bouley. “I am very surprised at the quality of fresh fish coming from Japan.”

Bouley’s restaurants source from several global distributors, including True World Foods, and places orders with Japanese distributors a week in advance, serving the fish within 36 hours of it being caught.

Bouley encourages seafood users to treat their fish with respect to maintain its quality and freshness. Instead of killing fish the way boats and processors do in the United States, Japanese fish processors typically tap the tail to relax the fish, then make a small incision on the back of the gill to sever the spinal cord. The fish is put back into water for at least two hours.

“The oxygen moves the muscles and detoxifies the fillet. The flavor is so much better, it has a longer shelf life, and is a healthier product,” explained Bouley.

A long-time proponent of sustainable seafood, Bouley is also working to form an alliance of restaurants and retailers to promote sustainable seafood and to stop the trade of threatened species.

Bouley also advises Wegmans Food Markets — a 79-store U.S. East Coast supermarket chain — on sustainability and preserving the quality of fish.

“I worked with them, teaching them how we can source fish on day boats and I got them to buy the whole fish and cut it inside the stores. They started cutting it in front of the customers and people went crazy for it,” said Bouley.

Ensuring that there will be a sustainable supply of seafood for future generations has been ingrained in Bouley over a lifetime of involvement in the seafood industry.

“I grew up in New England and, as a teenager, worked on the fishing boats off of Cape Cod,” said Bouley. “I remember when halibut was caught in the Cape Cod area, and now you don’t see it there anymore.”


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