Menu innovations provide consumers the perfect excuse to experiment
Converging trends are making seafood an ideal protein for enterprising chefs. In casual and independent restaurants across the country, diners are looking for healthier options and assertive taste profiles, as well as consistency.
“I think one of the driving forces of seafood consumption is the fact that the dishes themselves are so attractive,” says menu trends analyst Nancy Kruse, president of the Kruse Co.
“The fact that these dishes are also healthy makes it easier for us to order them. It is an added bonus.”
Many industry experts believe that seafood provides one of the greatest opportunities for culinary innovation, for a host of reasons.
“When consumers sit down for a restaurant meal, they are more likely to order a seafood dish over anything else,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of the NPD Group. Balzer says that 29 percent of patrons at a sit-down restaurant order seafood as opposed to the 20 percent who choose the second-most-popular protein, chicken.
“The fact that so many people are inclined to order seafood when they go out provides a huge opportunity for new versions of dishes as well as the opportunity to try new species,” Balzer adds.
Coast to coast, enterprising chefs already have gotten the message.
“I do a lot of research and I like to try new inventive seafood dishes, but I won’t do things unless they work,” says Anthony Lamas, owner of Louisville, Kentucky-based Seviche, a Latin restaurant.
“It is about the balance of flavors. In general I would say seafood is becoming more approachable because people are willing to try more things.” And Lamas gives his customers plenty of inspiring seafood dishes to choose from.
Some of his seafood specialties include Line Caught Bigeye Tuna Seviche with sesame, scallion, coconut and ginger, Wild Striped Bass with tomatillo, crispy leeks and chorizo-shrimp chaufa, and Hamachi Tiradito with rocoto chile, ginger and soy.
Lamas likes to prepare his seafood dishes with the freshest products available.
“I think people are getting educated about good products. It makes a big difference about how the fish are raised and how fresh the product is. When you eat something in season it is fabulous,” Lamas says.