Food Spotlight: Abalone

Plate with single piece of SUGARFISH abalone nigiri

At Nozawa Bar and the Sushi Nozawa Group, we painstakingly plan how we serve every dish in order to highlight the flavors and textures of each main ingredient. But we also take very seriously the question of what we choose to serve with respect to sustainability, opting to either stop serving certain species or sourcing the same species from a more sustainable source — but only if the fish meets our quality standards.

Abalone is a good example. Considered a rare delicacy, especially in Japan and China, abalone can be found around the world in the cold coastal waters of almost every continent. They are prized not just for their delicately flavored meat, but also for their colorful, pearlescent shells. Years ago, in Studio City, Chef Nozawa regularly served wild abalone from the cold, coastal waters of California. While he served a variety of species – black, white, pink, red, and green – green abalone was his first choice because of its sweet flavor and smooth texture.

However, in 1997, the state of California banned commercial abalone fishing because the abalone population had become depleted. In years following, recreational fishing of abalone was also banned due to continued declining numbers due, in large part, to warming waters. Today, all fishing for abalone has been banned through 2021, in an effort to allow the species to regenerate.

At Nozawa Bar, we only serve farmed red abalone. Grown on a farm committed to stewardship and sustainable farming practices in Santa Barbara, California, the abalone we serve are 2-1/2 to 3 years old and weigh about 1/4 pound each. The abalone is fed on sustainably harvested seaweed from the cold, clean waters of the Santa Barbara channel. To serve it, we slice it thinly against the grain and season it lightly with a touch of soy to accentuate its subtle flavor.

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