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√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢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 √¢‚Ǩ‚Äú up to 600 pounds.  But because it√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s the height of bluefin season – when the fat build-up makes for better tasting sushi and sashimi – he couldn√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢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√¢‚Ǩ¬ù √¢‚Ǩ‚Äú  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

68 replies on “Montclair’s Catch Of The Day”

  1. 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.?!

  2. 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……

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. “airlifted to Montclair via Newark”
    Helicopter delivery to the restaurant? or another landing site in Montclair?

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

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

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

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

  15. Cathar,
    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.”

  16. 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?

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

  18. Seesm to me that they freeze it keep it fresh longer. I mean, you saw the size of that fish. There’s no way they could serve all of that in one 24-hour period so they would have to flash freeze it keep it fresh. I, for one, would rather eat fish that had been flash-frozen than merely refrigerated.

  19. Walleroo, the Simpson’s episode ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish’ comes to mind.

  20. ROC, I did while in the Army. At a restaurant in Bangkok, 6 of us ordered it on a dare from some guys in the Air Force. White and rubbery, as I recall, like uncooked codfish. Expensive even then, too. Beautifully laid out on the plate but the effect was lost to drunken grunts. Clearly, no part of the poisonous liver had been nicked, either, since we all felt fine afterwards.
    That was the same weekend we also ate durian fruit and went through cases of Singha beer and a few bottles of Jim Beam Green by way of penance.

  21. The deep freezing applies to all fish intended to be served raw, big or small, whether they need to be kept for long periods of time or not. The fish need to be frozen at a temperature that will kill those little organisms that would otherwise kill you.
    If you want to make sushi or sashimi at home (or even seared fish that is still basically raw on the inside), buy fish that has been previously flash frozen (usually on the boat when it was caught) and advertised as sushi or sashimi grade. When in doubt, ask your fishmonger. Or Luca Brazzi, if you can find him…

  22. I think the skin is toxic too. Something like 200 die per year in Japan because they want a *little* of the toxin to “tingle and numb their tongue”. Most of the dead prepare it themselves and underestimate the amount of toxin to which they purposefully expose themselves.

  23. They die first and then prepare it? Boy, it sure isn’t easy to eat in Japan.
    Conan, the scales are falling from my eyes. So you mean when I’m grilling that big hunk of salmon and make the outside cripy but leave the inside all nice and gooey, I’m actually endangering the welfare of my family and guests? What bugs live in this fish that are so bleeding harmful?

  24. walleroo,
    It could be much smaller than it seems on this site. Without a frame of reference what appears enormous on a webpage might just be something smaller “placed” or “viewed” in the foreground, it’s really hard to tell, huh?. And, as is often, in cases of flawed or tricked perception, the estimation of “size” may be more owing to the biases of the viewer than reality. Or, it could, in fact, just be a big, dead, stinky “fish”.

  25. A friend of mine who works in a restaurant won’t eat swordfish because he has spent too much time picking and cutting worms and other parasites out of the meat.

  26. Never had fugu (not that brave) but I eat sushi all the time and have never gotten sick from it. In fact, the only time I ever DID get a food borne illness was when I ate something off one of those blasted NYC carts, the ones that serve halal meats. Don’t even remember what it was but I was sick for a week.

  27. It is not your ego you have to concern yourself with, walleroo, but more likely your liver and your gall bladder. And did you know, both are prized as nostrums for potency in Asia. Small wonder your breed continues to decline, even as sushi- grade tuna fattens in holding pens.

  28. oh, walleroo, also, I suppose if most of one’s piscatorial involves goldfish, nearly any other fish will seem giant in comparison.

  29. And durian fruit is a greater test of “courage” than fugu, Miss Martta. The fish didn’t smell and we were drunk already. The fruit smells beyond imaginable tolerance even if you are drunk. But somehow is reasonably sweet inside. It’s all just like truly brave Aussies described the eating of certain marsupials when I was there on r’n’r.

  30. I don’t know what you’re talking about, ROC. The web site fits on my screen, so the fish couldn’t be all that big.
    It’s not my ego I’m referring to, cathar. Even though my strengths are too many to enumerate, my most noble and endearing quality is my humility. Shall we discuss this at length?

  31. Walleroo — I don’t think that eating undercooked fish is always dangerous. I tend to just get it opaque myself, and I really don’t know the science of all the parasites. (But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once in 1997.)
    I am reading that lots of experts are looking askance at farm-raised fish, and I try to avoid them. Otherwise, what the hell — go for it as long as you don’t have a weak stomach.
    My personal philosophy goes back to my grandmother who said that everyone needs to eat a peck of dirt before they die. I think people are too careful about what they eat these days; combine that with overuse of antibiotics and you are just looking for trouble if you introduce some new biological critter into your system.
    Miss M: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Bring on the Dirty Water Hot Dogs!!!

  32. There’s concern about bugs in farm raised fish. Between that and the mercury it’s no wonder I’m becoming forgetful.

  33. Walleroo: Everything has something toxic in it: meat, chickens, fish, veggies, fruits, you name it. As Conan says, you can’t worry too much about it or you will starve to death.

  34. Miss M,
    Nothing like ‘steak on a stick’ or a dirt water dog from a NYC cart…especially when wandering out of Central Park after a Schaffer Music Festival Show….circa 1976.

  35. Dunno, but the Polo outbreak of the 1980’s can be attributed as a cause of the decline of personal attire.

  36. Quite a load of misinformation in this thread.
    Personal hygiene would tend to reduce the likelihood of the polio virus getting into your system.
    Fresh water fish are frequently infested with parasites, which can take up residence in your gut, so you eat it raw at your peril.
    Salt water fish are rarely infested, but all health authorities require that it be flash frozen to a very low temperature before being eaten raw so as to kill all such organisms,.

  37. All fish served raw or under cooked must be frozen??? Where are you guys getting your info? As a chef of a seafood restaurant in Tulsa, of all places, I have never served frozen fish EVER! We serve salmon medium rare, snapper medium and cook things like mahi mahi and sordfish through. Our tuna is served raw or as rare as possible, depending on the presentation and not only have I never had a guest complain of illness, I personally have eaten my weight in all manner of raw fish and also never had a problem. Now chicken, on the other hand……….

  38. Timoteo, just go to the link Conan posted above. He’s absolutely right about the Federal regulations and you may wish to acquaint yourself with them, even at this late point in your culinary career.
    That you serve mahi-mahi and swordfish and rare tuna and no one gets sick from these dishes does not necessarily mean you’re a great chef. It does pay tribute to the modern wonder of air freight,and to its importance to Tulsa.

  39. As for the fda site, maybe I was overwelmed buy the the bulk of info there, but even using the on site search I found nothing stating that all under-cooked or raw fish must be frozen. Having done a little networking with friends who are chefs in Denver, the bay area, Lake Tahoe and Dallas; I am not the only one who has never heard of this and also not the only one who thinks it’s total b.s.

  40. Timoteo, not all raw or fresh fish. Fish used for sushi or sashimi. So it turns out it’s never “fresh caught,” that’s all. Can’t be by law. That makes sense because fishing boats are sometimes out for weeks, tuna and swordfish are both usually caught in warmer waters than you’ll find off NJ. Possibly you never see anything freshly caught in Tulsa but (I’m guessing here) trout?

  41. The trout in Tulsa is so contaminated with fertilizer runoff it’s not even edible, according to my sources, who shall remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter. You could freeze it until hell freezes over, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I would know — I was born and raised on a farm in Oklahoma.

  42. You certainly are hard on the Sooners, walleroo. Is that because your species was cruelly farmed out there to provide leather for cowboy boots?

  43. I should add, walleroo, that I’m sure many posters here would love to tan your hide, as it were.

  44. I am well aware of proceedures for storing fish on boats once it has been caught, a good friend works for a fish mongering company in florida, however, there are not blast freezers on fishing boats, just lots and lots of ice. Not sure if I understand why you are so condensending. Is it the Tulsa thing? If so, have you ever been here and eaten? Having eaten not only in Jersey but all over the country I can tell you there’s little or no differance between what goes on at other locals and what goes on in my restaurant. I do find it puzzling that not only was no mention of this ever heard while I was in culinary school, but also that my local health department, which are total nazis about enforcing federal, state and local regulations, has never said anything to me despite the fact that I serve pounds of raw fish on a dayly basis here, as sushi and in other formats. Also the price of Blast freezers, 10 to $25,000, makes their use in every sushi bar in the land economicly impossible. I personaly have never seen one. Feel free to point out to me where on the fda web site these things are pointed out and I’ll have a nice glass of shut the hell up. In the mean time someone from Jersey being snobbish to someone from Oklahoma is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

  45. You’re a tad defensive, Timoteo, about the Jersey-Okie thing. Believe me, nobody is treating you differently because of where you happen to ply your craft. Cathar is condescending to everybody. He talks down his nose to his grandmother. Look at how he talks to me: tanning my hide indeed.
    As for the technicalities of flash-freezers and FDA regulations, I for one am willing to concede to your apparently greater knowledge, which unfortunately for me isn’t saying much. It does seem, though, that some posters above were speaking from a position of some knowledge. You say this, they say that. What’s a girl to do?
    The point is: untwist your knickers.

  46. The big fish in question was awesome.. We picked up a bunch of Tuna at Aouzora last night.. Get there before this rich colored and tasting (yes,frozen and thawed) fish is consumed.

  47. It is my belief, after having sorted through many FDA regulations related to both food service and pharmaceuticals (those are a few of my favorite things), that the chapters relating to fish are aimed more at those higher up on the food chain, so to speak, like the suppliers and wholesalers. But their guidance is fairly clear when it comes to seafood to be served raw, so I would ask your suppliers a few questions to make sure their fish is handled in accordance with the FDA’s HAACP regulations and guidance.
    The applicable chapters on the FDA site can be found at Click on “Chapter 5: Parasites” for the discussion.
    With the FDA, there are no rules — but they are strictly enforced.

  48. I was not the poster who was unnecessarily haughty to OK, I am much more a friend of the Sooner State than that tree-dweller and leaf-eater who said those nasty things. I just want that clearly stated.
    Nor am I am at all all condescedning. That I even “converse” with the scurvy, hapless likes of walleroo shows my basic open, kindly nature.
    I am curious, however, nativeclairman, how you know your tuna last night was from the “big guy.” Did they show you his remaining bulk before they carved out a piece? Tell you about your sushi’s provenance? What I’m getting at is that I never thought about this one before, like most people, but just the imagery of Willie being progressively chopped up and ingested, this is almost enough to send me to eating lentils and broccoli instead of fish. Somehow, such a big, noble, aquatic critter seemed to deserve better. Whereas a whole trout, striper or flounder doesn’t bother me a bit.

  49. Assuming, as I always do, that some person other than myself is at fault, perhaps I underestimated my own capacity for condescension. The Sooner with the Twisted Knickers will have to clarify, if he hasn’t gotten his thumb caught in the elastic. Regardless, believing my basic point to be sound, I remain your humble and obedient servant, continuing to keep my chair warm,
    Walleroo Esq.

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