Diners are diving into seafood with gusto at Napa Valley Grille in Paramus, N.J., an eastern outpost of the six-unit, chef-driven chain based in Emeryville, Calif.
This article first appeared in the 1 October 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
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"Fish has always been popular, but it's really taken off," says executive chef Kenneth Trickilo. "Seafood probably accounts for two-thirds of our sales."
Such avid interest gives Trickilo, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, ample opportunity to spotlight the many seafood varieties. Among recent dishes on his seasonally-inspired menu: fennel-dusted scallops, rare ahi tuna and seafood paella with sausage, saffron and arborio rice.
Diners' tastes are broadening to accept less-familiar varieties, says Trickilo, but by no means have favourites such as shrimp, tuna and salmon fallen off the radar. Wild Alaskan salmon stars in one of his seasonal preparations that pairs the fish with tart plum chutney and butter sauce.
Blanched red pearl onions and English peas are quick to prepare and lend colour and texture to the presentation. For fall, try roasted squash, leeks or Jerusalem artichokes.
Don't speed preparation of beurre blanc by boiling it on the initial reduction; simmer it slowly to let the flavours connect.
Trickilo recommends using a fish spatula during preparations; the slotted blade flexes and hugs the salmon for easier turning than with tongs.
Sea of flavour
Multiple flavour components allow wild Alaskan salmon to be seasoned simply with salt and pepper before pan-searing for a lightly caramelized crust and finishing in a 400F oven.
Succulent black-plum chutney, drawing heat from jalapenos, cuts the richness of fish and sauce. In season, swap apples, pears or cranberry-apricot mix for the plums.
Toast of the town
Oven-toasted to golden brown, grain like orzo pasta takes on a nuttiness that marries well with salmon and the butterscotch beurre blanc that rings the plate.