Unlike Tuna or Salmon, Japanese Seabream does not carry much cache on your average restaurant menu. The fish, native to the Western Pacific Ocean, is often served in sushi restaurants as “Tai” or “Madai” nigiri, its translucent pink flesh draped over bite-sized beds of sushi rice. Occasionally, the elusive fish appears elsewhere—in carpaccio and ceviche dishes—where it is often called Red Seabream. And yet, all of these monikers are euphemisms for Japanese Madai, a striking red-skinned fish that is as versatile as its many names suggest.
Considered a luxury fish in Japan, Madai is traditionally served with its skin lightly boiled in matsugawa tsukuri, or cured with dried seaweed (kombu), in kobujime. It can also be poached in soy sauce, sake and mirin until its meat sings with a bright umami taste.
In the third installment of The Best of Japan: An Exclusive Culinary Workshop, a three-part series of cooking demonstrations co-hosted by Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants, legendary kaiseki chef Takashi Tamura used Japanese seabream to fill flower-shaped dumplings, which he served in a dashi broth topped with carrot ribbons and a refreshing pinch of yuzu.
The perfumed dashi, made with shavings of dried fish (katsuobushi) and kombu, infused the seabream with complex marine flavours, which revealed themselves the longer the dumplings steeped in the broth.
Inspired by chef Tamura’s artful dashi and sea bream dish, Dennis Tay, Chef de Cuisine of Toronto’s esteemed Asian brasserie DaiLo, prepared chef Nick Liu’s recipe for an amuse-bouche of caviar truffle custard with seabream and smoked dashi butter. The heavenly butter sauce—made by emulsifying smoked butter with Chef Tamura’s dashi—was reminiscent of a smoldering Japanese beurre blanc.
Caviar and truffles can make almost anything taste good, but as Chef Tay spooned hot dashi butter over the fish, it was the smoky and succulent Japanese seabream that took the dish over the top.