Are You Gonna Eat That? Zentan’s Kinki Fish
The Dish: Kinki Fish
Price: $6.50 per slice of sashimi. It’s also included in the $65 omakase tasting menu.
Where to Get It: Zentan, 1155 14th St. NW; (202) 379-4366; zentanrestaurant.com
What It Is: A rare, deep sea–dwelling fish in the snapper family that can live about a century. It calls the Pacific Ocean home, and boring people call it “thornyhead fish.”
What it Tastes Like: Kinki is like tai or madai snapper, except it has way more delicious fat—making it akin to the coveted toro or chu toro varieties of tuna. It tastes smooth and buttery and even a little sweet. (It better, at $65 a pound.)
The Story: It’s the season to get kinki, and not just because the tube tops and flip-flops are out. Kinki fish is only available for what feels like a mere hiccup in time, roughly May through July. That’s why Zentan Executive Chef Jennifer Nguyen has been fighting to get her hands on it. Her plans to debut kinki as part of her new Thursday night omakase menu were foiled when the fish got stuck in customs coming from Japan. She finally got to serve it for the first time on May 15 and plans to offer it the rest of the season, including on the à la carte menu. Bedroom jokes aside, she wants as many people as possible to try this tasty exotic fish because it’s carried in so few restaurants across the country; it’s even rare in Japan, due to its short season.
How to Eat It: Nguyen scales it, debones it, and probably thinks about how expensive it is before pouring hot water on the fish to shock it. It’s then sliced and served as sashimi. No bells and whistles or gussied up soy sauce here, just one sexy bite of fish.
UPDATE: Nguyen hopes to offer the kinki fish the rest of the season but due to its rarity, it's unpredictable when it will be available. Those participating in the Thursday night omakase experience get first dibs, but then it's offered a la carte. Call first to check on availability.
Photo by Laura Hayes