Tonight, you can taste this season’s catch on our primi menu — Jonah is preparing cavatelli pasta with herring, Santa Barbara sea urchin, tomato, and hot pepper. As the season progresses, expect to see the fish in salads and cured herring roe in other dishes on the menu.
This is a herring season that almost wasn’t. Up until the middle of last week, we weren’t sure if we see any herring come through the kitchen this year. It wasn’t that there was a lack of fish — the bay has been full of herring since the season started a few weeks ago. No, this year, the problem has been a matter of price.
When we met with Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish Company last week, he explained that the majority of our local herring are exported to Japan, and the high numbers of available fish had driven the price down to exceptionally low levels. We’re talking about a drop from around $3000 a ton to only $200 a ton. That’s a big jump. Because the negotiated price was so low, the local, small-scale herring fishermen simply couldn’t afford to go out and fish. (Herring fishing licenses are shockingly expensive.)
Luckily, the fishermen and the fish buyers were able to make an agreement late last Tuesday night, and we can all agree that the fish they’re catching are pretty wonderful. Chef Jonah tells us that this year’s herring are around 75% larger than last year’s, with beautiful ivory pink flesh. We hope to have herring on the menu throughout the week.
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