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February  28

Montclair's Catch Of The Day

Img_0011_2The call came at 8:30 a.m: “Mrs. Baristanet, it’s Ho Yung at Aozora. We just received a 350 pound bluefin tuna today from South Africa, and you might want to come down and take a picture.” Never one to miss a photo op, I agreed.

Nelson Yip, Executive Chef, asked where we’d like to do the photo shoot. “How about up here on the sushi bar? (What was I thinking?) He opened the walk-in fridge where I saw a giant silvery grey 6 foot something fish, nearly three times my size, in a coffin-like crate.

Ho Yung, Aozora’s owner, sat us down for Sushi 101. Bluefin is the aristocrat of tunas. This beauty was caught at 200 pounds and fattened up at a South African sea farm for market until it reached a massive 420 pounds. That's when Ho got the call. $8,000 dollars later, this bad boy was being airlifted to Montclair via Newark. It took 4 people to carry him into the kitchen.

He says the quality is guaranteed by analyzing a core sample of the fish. Ho usually buys 4 of these guys a year, and  a lot bigger – up to 600 pounds.  But because it’s the height of bluefin season - when the fat build-up makes for better tasting sushi and sashimi - he couldn’t let this "little" one get away.

We went back the next day to see what became of our fishy friend, and this is what we saw.



Baristaville customers like to order "Tuna Madness” –  a meal of all tuna sushi, sashimi, maki, and tartare artfully prepared by the skillful hands of Chef Nelson Yip. Restaurant diners, from as far away as Atlantic city, are chowing down about 70 pounds of the fish a night, says Nelson. ..407 Bloomfield Avenue, 973 233-9400.Img_0073_1

February 28, 2006 in Photo of the Week | Permalink


This (image) is giving me an idea of how to end The Sopranos (in a fantasy sequence)... anybody else see Tony in that photo -- joining Big Pussy et al.?!

Posted by: Raymmmondo | Feb 28, 2006 9:58:14 AM

I think the fish ate Tony.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 28, 2006 10:05:15 AM

A fish fattened up at a "farm" - on what, I wonder - is hardly line-caught. Or fresh-caught, for that matter. Which makes Top Tuna here not exactly what I think of when I think of sushi. And what does it cost per pound "dressed" to justify that $8000?

Then I think of all the guys on the party boats coming back to Atlantic Highlands who toss their blues and weakfish to the gulls......

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Feb 28, 2006 10:07:50 AM

There's the old adage in foodie circles that bigger usually means less taste. I wonder if this is true with bluefin tuna? Nice PR for Aozora, though...

Posted by: Jim | Feb 28, 2006 11:26:26 AM

That looks like McGuire, Sosa and Bonds in their steroid heyday.

Posted by: Johnny | Feb 28, 2006 12:01:43 PM

Jim, Bigger = more fat content which means superior toro. By farm raising them they get controlled hi-fat diets. I didn’t know South Africa was doing this, but there are several other countries that pen bluefin for market.

Posted by: sushilover | Feb 28, 2006 12:09:46 PM

Is it me, or does the big guy on the table look like a fish out of water?

Posted by: Subscribbler | Feb 28, 2006 1:10:41 PM

"airlifted to Montclair via Newark"

Helicopter delivery to the restaurant? or another landing site in Montclair?

Posted by: Jim | Feb 28, 2006 1:17:36 PM

Free Willy the Tuna. Now!

Posted by: Bill The Cat | Feb 28, 2006 1:42:12 PM

I wonder if this restaurant has the turnover to warrant such a big fish. How long does a fish of this size last? When you show up at the restaurant for the very last plate of this "fresh" toro, exactly how much time as elapsed since the poor bugger was caught?

Posted by: walleroo | Feb 28, 2006 1:43:52 PM

This Willy, as Bill The Cat so wittily called him, must have had some willie. A true "toro" of the seas, walleroo. At the least, of his fish pen.

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Feb 28, 2006 1:46:10 PM

Exactly what I was thinking walleroo - gives one pause. Fish, unlike beef, isn't known for getting better with age.

Posted by: Max | Feb 28, 2006 2:19:19 PM

Who was it (P.J. O'Rourke I think?) who once said that houseguests, like fish, start to smell bad after three days?

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 28, 2006 2:21:22 PM

I've seen it attributed to Mark Twain

Posted by: badd_patti | Feb 28, 2006 2:29:15 PM

Ben Franklin

Posted by: Greg Spinelli | Feb 28, 2006 2:46:04 PM

All fish that is going to be served raw must, by FDA regulation, be frozen. The chefs then portion out what they think they can sell daily (or more frequently) and let it thaw over ice or in the refrigerator.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Feb 28, 2006 5:35:55 PM

Conan, I believe it was thee who once recommended a story in NYM on fresh vs. frozen fish, which I read. Ever since, I have recoiled every time I see the words "fresh sushi" on a menu, but then to me it's like eating bait anyway. I just wonder how many days Willy is going to stay frozen while being heartlessly carved up. Where is PETA on this one?

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Feb 28, 2006 7:48:33 PM

Conan, this can't possibly be right. You mean that delicious, delectable sushi I eat in my favorite Japanese restaurants has been... frozen?!?!?!? Just like the awful fish my mother used to make? Oh woe! Tell me it's not true!

Posted by: walleroo | Feb 28, 2006 7:57:03 PM

poor mr limpet.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 28, 2006 8:36:57 PM

The tuna is flash frozen in a special "cryo-freezer" to -50 degree celsius in a specially ordered freezer from japan to preserve the quality up to 6 months. Good season for Bluefin tuna is usually from November to February so in order to provide a constant supply for the other months we order this custom freezer. The freezing process will preserve the quality of a top sashimi grade fish as well as destroy any unwanted organism that may exist in the meat.

Posted by: ho | Feb 28, 2006 9:11:54 PM

Looks a lot like Butch to me as it has the same smile and blank eyes.

Posted by: silly willie | Feb 28, 2006 9:43:13 PM

All raw fish MUST be deep frozen to destroy and parasites or other organisms before it is used as sushi or sashimi.

Posted by: Byron | Feb 28, 2006 10:52:07 PM


Where I lived in Arkansas is near one of the better fishing lakes/rivers in the Ozarks, if not the country. Every gas station and convenience store has a coin-op bait dispensing machine outside next to the Pepsi and Dr. Pepper machines. They are known locally as "sushi stands."

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Mar 1, 2006 6:46:59 AM

Well, I'm glad they use a special freezer imported from Japan. Wouldn't want them just sticking the fish in a Frigidaire. But does this mean that if you catch fresh fish from the lake and want to carve it up into sushi right then and there, you first have to deep freeze it in a special Japanese freezer? What would happen if you didn't freeze it first--would you die horribly?

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 1, 2006 10:28:18 AM

it's all a conspiracy. Trick photography. That's just a normal sized fish in the foreground.

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