Blue Ginger’s Ming Tsai followed up with another note to followers:
I just wanted to take a moment and to bring to your attention today’s article in The Boston Globe. This story, which is a follow up story to the original article I was included in last weekend, is very important information that I felt necessary to share to help clear any confusion on my dish.
For those of you whom have known me for years and have trusted and enjoyed my food, I am happy The Boston Globe acknowledged in today’s paper that I never intentionally misled anyone and that my fish referenced in the original article is of the highest quality and is sustainably sound.
I want to thank everyone for the continued support. For everyone who visits Blue Ginger and orders my signature Miso-Sake Marinated Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish), dessert will be on me through the weekend!
Ming Tsai of Wellesley’s Blue Ginger restaurant, one of the eateries singled out in a Boston Globe story over the weekend on fish mislabeling, has issued a statement to defend the restaurant’s use of the term Butterfish for what is also called Sablefish.
“Sablefish is commonly called butterfish and black cod in the industry. Many chefs across the country use these names. I serve it because it is delicious and very PC, line caught and still plentiful – by the way, it is expensive because it is so popular now. I used it as a substitute for Chilean sea bass when that fish was over-fished 10 years ago. At the end of the day, as chefs, we want to provide the best tasting fish possible, and be as responsible as possible to our seas. This fish meets these objectives.
We have always told customers from day one that butterfish is also known as sablefish and even say it was commonly smoked and made into a fish spread, as the Globe noted. As a side note, we use only big eye tuna from Hawaii which is also plentiful compared to the over-fished bluefin tuna. I do 100% agree with the article that people that substitute a lesser quality fish and sell it as something else is absolutely wrong. This is not the case with butterfish/sable.
I encourage you to go to the U.S. government’s National Marine Fisheries Service website which clarifies the fact that butterfish is an acceptable vernacular name for sablefish.”
Nice try ming. They’re completely different fish. Butterfish is neither a Cod or a Sablefish. Why all the deception? Shame on you ming.
Dan Clem says
You are exemplifying the problem inherent in the business and in the use of English language across such a vast area of the planet. You are thinking of the tiny, hand-sized butterfish native to the East Coast, but on the West Coast, and throughout the U.S. fine dining industry, “butterfish” also refers to sablefish, a.k.a black cod. Nobody has a trademark on the root terms of those common names. So, it gets confusing as soon as one leaves his hometown and discovers—gee whiz!—people elsewhere have been using terms like cod, trout, grouper, snapper, mackerel, and tuna in ways that don’t jibe with what’s familiar to them back home. It’s provincial and unreasonable to insist that what you think of as “cod” is the one and only fish on Earth that should be called “cod.” Go diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and you will see large groupers that the dive masters will refer to as “potato cod.” Are you going to yell at them for using the wrong names? I hope not. Meanwhile, Ming Tsai’s egregious sin was using a completely acceptable common name—a synonym that NMFS recognizes—for a species, and then selling that same species at his restaurant. There was no substitution going on, and he certainly wasn’t trying to pretend that his expensive, delicious, large-bodied sablefish was actually a tiny, cheap, bland fish known in southern New England as butterfish. The fact that the Globe attacked Tsai in this way—in the lede of their article—indicates that they either don’t have a clue what other names the sablefish goes by, or they were just looking for a big name to drag through the mud.
Thank you! someone who finally has some sense! I mean, sablefish is $20 per pound, and tastes much better! “Real” butterfish is much smaller and cheaper, so why would you even want that? I personally would be happier eating sablefish!
Dan, Butterfish and Sablefish are completely different fish… but i’m glad we agree on that one critical point.
Butterfish is a much more expensive, and more rare fish than Sablefish. Ming Tsai / Blue Ginger is just using a less expensive product and deceptively labeling it as something more expensive. Most would agree this is unethical conduct.
And further, Boston Globe reporter asked Ming Tsai / Blue Ginger why the mislabeling of products, Ming said that he used the name Butterfish “because it sounded better” (lol).
Finally, as a supposed ‘top chef’, ming just really ought to know better. He certainly charges more, so we ought to hold him to a higher standard. Other restaurants can get it right, ming should too. Shame on you, Ming Tsai / Blue Ginger, you got caught with your pants on fire!
Excuse me, but butterfish is less expensive than sablefish! look it up! On the west coast and in Hawaii (i”ve lived in both areas) sablefish / black cod is most commonly referred to as butterfish. also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agrees that butterfish is an acceptable vernacular name for sablefish.
He says butterfish sounded better OF THE THREE MOST COMMON NAMES for sablefish. Other restaurants call the fish sablefish because they come from different areas, and in those areas it is most commonly called sablefish. But where he grew up, sablefish is in fact called butterfish.