The customer is always right… unless they are wrong.
This week we had a guest return his steelhead trout to the kitchen swearing it was salmon. The server politely explained the fish that we use, but the customer refused to believe that the fish he was served was a trout. This is not the first time a customer has questioned the authenticity of steelhead trout, a mistake that is understandable given the thick dark-orange filets with abundant marbling that resemble king salmon. In the past it has never bothered me, but recently there have been accounts of markets and restaurants misrepresenting the fish they serve. Several sushi restaurants have been caught serving farm raised tilapia as wild sashimi grade snapper and serving farmed Atlantic salmon in place of wild king salmon. I take a great amount of pride in the quality of ingredients we serve and in the integrity of our menu- so the fact that someone would doubt its accuracy– and leave believing they were served the wrong fish- did not sit well with me.
After a few minutes of internal debate I went to our walkin and pulled a fresh steelhead trout from the ice. I wiped the fish off, grabbed it with a towel, and proceeded to the dining room. Apparently it is not common for chefs to walk through the dining room with a twenty pound fish- and several tables watched with great interest as I made my way through the dining room and directly in front of the gentleman who had returned his lunch.
“I understand you have a question about our steelhead trout, and I understand your confusion. Steelhead is actually an anadromous rainbow trout that is born in fresh water and later migrates to the ocean. Unlike a salmon steelhead are able to return to their spawning grounds without dying. The easiest way to tell this trout from a salmon is to look at its mouth.” Holding the trout with one hand I pry open its stiff mouth revealing a tiny row of sharp teen protruding from ivory gums. “The inside of the steelhead’s mouth is white as opposed to salmon that have black mouths.” I shifted the fish and pulled the fin below the trout taut. “Another way to tell is by looking at the anal fin – on a steelhead you will find 8-12 vertical rays and on a salmon you typically find 15-19. It’s one of my favorite fish.” “How was your pork?”
The man sat back in his chair silently listening to my dissertation. He thanked me for coming out and said his pork was delicious and that he was really enjoying his meal. I can't blame him for being skeptical, and I wish more people would question the ingredients they are served (preferably at another restaurant). At least this time, not only did the customer get the right fish- he also got a great story to tell about his lunch at Post Ranch.