Q&A: Alvin Binuya, Ponti Seafood Grill

Published on
October 18, 2009

Alvin Binuya, who was the chef of Ponti Seafood Grill in Seattle when it opened in 1990, is back at the eatery as a partner and executive chef. He was most recently the owner and executive chef of Madoka in Bainbridge Island, Wash. Binuya will oversee the sourcing of more sustainable seafood and a menu makeover at a restaurant known for an eclectic mix of pan-Asian, Pacific Northwest fusion, Mediterranean and classic European cuisine. SeafoodSource caught up with the chef this week.

Blank: What signature seafood dish did Ponti put on the map?
Binuya: The Thai Curry Penne, featuring grilled diver scallops and Dungeness crab, has been on the menu since the beginning. There are a few others that remain and are successful as well, but the Thai Curry Penne almost defined us.

What seafood sourcing philosophies are important to you?
Part of my strategy coming back is to lean even harder toward sustainability. We will never serve farmed salmon, but there might be some other types of [farmed] fish I would consider, depending on the methods employed. While we will almost always choose local product first, availability and sustainability will come into play in the decision-making process. In the Northwest, local seafood purveyors of all types take pride in their product, so quality is almost always high. Price will become a final factor.

Which seafood suppliers do you purchase from?
We use Penn Cove Shellfish in Whidbey Island, Wash., and Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Wash., for our shellfish. We use Ocean Beauty and sometimes Pacific Seafood for general purchasing, and Bruce Gore [of Triad Fisheries in Bainbridge, Wash., for) salmon for the off-season. There are no specific loyalties on my end. Final product, quality, cultivation and/or harvesting methods and price define the decision-making process.

Which seafood items are challenging to purchase currently? Which ones are in abundant supply?
Wild, white shrimp can be challenging. I am sourcing that product as the current one (tiger shrimp) is, in my opinion, unacceptable. I am sad to see that species such as yelloweye rockfish has been overfished: I rarely, if ever, see any over 8 to 10 pounds. Salmon has been relatively easy to obtain, and I am grateful for the conservation efforts to limit catches of the different types of salmon.

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