Leveraging a well-known menu platform for new uses of seafood is a smart menu-development strategy. For one, it allows for a “safe” introduction, appealing to those who may not otherwise order a seafood-centric dish, and lets chefs showcase less-common varieties of seafood. It also gives restaurants an opportunity to tout sustainability initiatives through responsible seafood sourcing. And it provides chefs a basic platform that allows for different varieties of seafood to be subbed in, whether by price, source or season. Lastly, seafood brings premium cachet to the menu item.
At the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa in Southern California, Executive Chef Andy Arndt uses the ultra-comforting platform of carbonara pasta to showcase seafood offerings in unique ways. His Dungeness Crab Carbonara with Cured Egg Yolk and Reggiano Parmesan quickly became one of his biggest sellers.
Arndt heats the crab in a beurre fondue while the pasta is cooked and shallots are sweated. He tosses the pasta with a small amount of pasta water, egg yolk, Parmesan and crab, and for service, spins it into a knot, exposing larger pieces of crab, and topping with shaved cured yolk and Parmesan, and a finish of togarashi.
“The build of the egg yolk, butter and cheese binding with the rich crabmeat and pasta gives a buttery, velvety profile,” he says. “The Japanese pepper finish lends a little heat to break up the richness.” Arndt has also subbed in U-10 scallops for the crab with great success, showcasing the flexible nature of beloved builds.
Other comfort carriers—from toasts to tacos to sliders—are proven platforms for seafood introduction.
Chef Clay Conley of Imoto in Palm Beach, Fla., upgrades the slider with a deluxe combination of tuna and foie gras, a nice touch for this Japanese-inspired small plates concept. The thick cut of tuna is seared and topped with a slice of seared foie gras, layered into a toasted brioche bun. A molasses glaze and mango salsa complete the build.
Spicy king crab is tucked into a crispy taro-root shell on Nahita’s global mash-up menu in Boston while Chef Derek Wagner at Nick’s on Broadway in Providence, R.I., uses toast as a platform to show off local seafood offerings. The Fish + Toast item on the brunch menu stars fish from nearby Point Judith, along with a caper salad on chargrilled French bread with a parsley-dill aïoli and radishes.
Here are 8 menu categories to lean on when considering usage platforms for seafood:
- Comforting pasta dishes
- Sandwiches: Grilled cheese, BLT
- Tacos & burritos
- Skillet dishes: Fried rice, hashes
- Eggs Benedict
- Toast builds
- Entrée salads