Neither bluefin tuna, a sushi staple, nor the popular hamachi, a Japanese variety of amberjack, is on the menu at Screaming Tuna Sushi & Asian Bistro, 106 W. Seeboth St., in Milwaukee. Their absence is part of the restaurant owners’ effort to keep the two species, which have been severely overfished, from extinction.
The Walker’s Point restaurant is a committed participant in the growing ocean conservation movement, according to Jeff Bronstad, the restaurant’s co-owner and general manager.
“It started over a year ago with a customer who asked a lot of questions about the origin and sustainability of our seafood,” Bronstad says. “We knew where our seafood came from, but we had not given a lot of thought to sustainability, and we began to wonder why.”
In March, after nearly two years in business, Screaming Tuna formalized its commitment to seafood sustainability by becoming a partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a conservation program designed to help consumers and businesses make seafood choices that will keep the oceans’ populations healthy and viable for future generations.
Screaming Tuna is Seafood Watch’s first Wisconsin partner and one of only about a half-dozen Midwest restaurants participating in the program. To become a partner, Screaming Tuna submitted its menu to Seafood Watch for review and evaluation. The California-based group graded the menu, citing those fish that fit in the “best choice” and “good alternative” categories and pointing out those that fell into the program’s “avoid” category.
In addition to removing hamachi and bluefin tuna from the menu, Bronstad also eliminated escolar and Scottish salmon — all of which are being fished at unsustainable levels. In their place, the menu offers Hawaiian kampachi and ahi (also known as yellowfin tuna), along with Atlantic albacore tuna and Verlasso salmon from Chile. The four fish provide comparable flavor substitutes, Bronstad says.
“As far as flavors go, customers don’t seem to notice the difference,” he says. “As far as their interest goes, not everyone cares about sustainability, but those who do are happy someone is addressing it.”
Customer acceptance also has a lot to do with the talents of Jason Morimoto, 28, Screaming Tuna’s Japanese-Puerto Rican head chef. He brings his entire ethnic heritage into play in creating the restaurant’s creative fusion menu.
In addition to 25 varieties of sushi and more than 40 rolls, Morimoto also prepares dishes as diverse as a tuna pizza, topped with pico de gallo and served on a grilled crust, and crab chipotle wontons. The menu also features filet mignon, stuffed pork tenderloin and Thai curry chicken.
In April, Morimoto served a four-course “smoked dinner” that included smoked oysters, shishitos (Japanese sweet peppers) and cheese, sushi rice with Spanish influence, and smoked chocolate ganache with dried berries.
Morimoto is also known for his Underground Omakase dinners that feature a surprise variety of sushi and other sample-size dishes. Omakase, which functionally translates to “chef’s choice,” is a popular alternative among New York sushi restaurants, but it’s rare in the Midwest.
Bronstad says that everyone can learn to make sustainable seafood choices.
“The best thing consumers can do is to educate themselves about what they’re eating,” he explains. “As purveyors, we should help educate our customers, who make the ultimate decision on what’s popular and what they’re going eat.”
Those decisions will help determine what seafood will be available for generations to come.
ON THE TABLE
Screaming Tuna Sushi & Asian Bistro
106 W. Seeboth St., Milwaukee
On the Web: Screamingtuna.com