Dining Out

Artisan chef’s favorite is local sablefish

Sustainably caught sablefish offers a mild taste, buttery texture and is well suited to a range of cooking methods

Special to The TribuneFebruary 13, 2014 

Artisan, a Paso Robles restaurant owned and operated by the Kobayashi family, originally opened in 2006 and moved to a new location on the downtown park in 2013.

Chef Chris Kobayashi and his family are committed to “sourcing locally and serving organic, sustainable fare whenever possible.” In 2011, they began growing much of their own produce on a nearby organic farm, and also maintain long-term relationships with many local farmers and ranchers.

As an extension of the Kobayashis’ philosophy, Artisan offers its annual “Monday Night Supper” series from January through March. These family-style prix fixe menus pair the products from a local food producer with those of a local winery, brewery or craft distiller. (Scheduled pairings and menus are on the Artisan website.)

“We also invite the vendors themselves to participate in the evening,” said Kobayashi, who has twice been nominated for a coveted “Best Chef: Pacific” James Beard Foundation Award. “They can meet the guests and informally talk about their specialized approach to raising their natural food products and producing their wines, spirits and/or craft beers.”

Q: What is your favorite local/seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menu, and why is it your favorite?

A: Sablefish, aka black cod, though it’s not a true cod. Sablefish’s buttery texture and mild taste make it a good candidate for many different cooking preparations. Not only is this fish caught locally, it is rated as a good alternative by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. (Kobayashi was recently named to the Seafood Watch’s 2014 Blue Ribbon Task Force of respected and influential culinary leaders committed to promoting sustainable seafood.)

Q: How are you currently using sablefish?

A: Cedar-planked sablefish with romanesco (a type of cauliflower), crushed potatoes and chermoula (a traditional Moroccan spice mixture that includes lemon, cumin and coriander.)

Q: How does this particular dish represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?

A: At the restaurant, we go to great lengths to source responsibly. From oils to onions, carrots and celery, to meats and seafood, we always try to present our guests with what the Central Coast and California have to offer, and our menu is always changing to reflect the seasons.

Sablefish is a good representation of the restaurant’s ethics because it is local and sustainably caught. The lemons are from Dos Pasos (Cambria); the cayenne is dried from the summer’s harvest at Windrose Farm (Paso Robles), then ground for current use; the coriander is picked up locally at the farmers market.

Q: How would home cooks approach sablefish/black cod in their own kitchens?

A: Sablefish has a high fat content, which makes it a forgiving fish. This fish is ideal to be pan roasted, smoked or broiled. I would stay away from deep frying, because the fish already has a high fat content, which would result in it being greasy. A barbecue grill is not ideal either because the flesh is so delicate. However, I have cedar-planked this fish on the grill and had excellent results.

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook at home and why?

A: My favorite dish to eat and therefore to cook is a simple steak on the grill. Although I don’t eat that much red meat, you can’t beat a deliciously prepared piece of meat! Accoutrements? A fresh green salad and some crusty bread with butter!

Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing and why?

A: With the steak, I love the RN Estate “Harmonie des Cepages” (a red Bordeaux blend). The two pair beautifully, and when there is a good quality steak that has been properly prepared with a well-crafted wine, enjoying the two together is one of life’s guilty pleasures.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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