Photo by Angelina Aragon
Seafood charcuterie? With a little smoke and salt, this lovely paradox swims to life in top Valley restaurants.
Two Valley locations, chulaseafood.com
For survival, our ancestors preserved fish by curing and smoking it for times when food was scarce. Today, it’s a luxury item, one that Chula Seafood elevates to a charcuterie-like symphony of taste and presentation with its smoked fish platter ($14, Phoenix location; $25, Scottsdale location). Seasonal selections can include smoked salmon and yellowfin belly, pastrami salmon and smoked jerk sword belly. Each cut is cured in sugar, salt and spices for three days, air-dried and then smoked in-house, says chef Juan Zamora. To accompany the rich bits of smoke-infused fish, the chefs whip up divine horseradish-laced deviled egg mousse and a revolving selection of house-pickled fruits and vegetables, chipotle-onion jam, chow-chow (pickled relish) and Noble Bread toast. “It’s a perfect sharing plate,” Zamora says.
Five Valley locations, chompies.com
Most customers order the hand-sliced Nova lox plate ($16.99), according to Chompie’s spokesman Brian Becker. “Nova is the Cadillac,” he says. Chompie’s serves up a pile of coral-colored, velvety salmon, choice of a freshly baked bagel or bialy with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers and red onions along with olives and capers to build a multi-layered sandwich. If you order salt-cured belly lox rather than the cold-smoked Nova, be prepared for a richer, saltier experience. Not a lox fan? Chompie’s also carries a stellar selection of smoked and cured fish from New York’s Acme Smoked Fish: wood-fired baked salmon, which has more of a cooked salmon texture; whitefish; marinated herring; and smoked black cod.
742 E. Glendale Ave., Phoenix
At Scott’s Generations, a New York-style kosher deli, owner Scott Snyder offers a full complement of smoked protein-rich delicacies flown in weekly from Acme Smoked Fish in Brooklyn, including cold-smoked Nova Scotia lox, salt-cured belly lox, Great Lakes whitefish, hot-smoked baked salmon, sable (also known as black cod) and lake sturgeon. Order the smoked fish supreme platter ($20, serves one; $30, serves two) and choose three kinds of fish (portions are generous) to go with a bagel and cream cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and house-made coleslaw or potato salad. No matter which fish you order, allow yourself some time – and consider recruiting a teammate. “There’s a lot of food,” Snyder says. “It’s like an event.”