Halibut, The Sun God

If Seattle could guarantee a couple days of sunshine per week, none of us could afford to live here. These gray winters keep our rent down, so we ride them out and look forward to the good days. One way to do that is to celebrate every 3,600 extra seconds of light we get when we set our clocks ahead. Another way is to congratulate ourselves for filling out a bracket with Gonzaga Basketball exiting March Madness no later than the second round. And maybe the simplest of all, just wait for halibut season.

The halibut fishing season started about three week ago. According to Taichi Kitamura, co-owner/executive chef of Sushi Kappo Tamura, “Alaska’s halibut season coincided with Washington state’s this year. After three months of a less abundant fish supply, I have suddenly got tons of people trying to sell me fish.”

These meaty suckers range in weight from 20 pounds to well over 100 pounds. When I worked in Alaska, it was common to see tourists decked out in their khaki-waterproof-zipper-cutoff pants and vests, trudging to Seward or Homer to hunt halibut. Apparently, the success rate is quite high and the halibut have a reputation for being quite cooperative in getting caught.

“I buy my Washington halibut on the small side, about 20 pounds,” Kitamura states. “The smaller, younger fish are easier to work with and have a firmer texture that makes it great for sushi.”

Many halibut preparations await you at Sushi Kappo Tamura as the staff serves the flat fish straight-up sashimi style with green onion, grated daikon, chili, and ponzu, nigiri style that adds a pillow of rice underneath, and tempura style with a side of matcha (green tea) sea salt and lemon.

I hesitate to divulge my favorite bits of halibut, but withholding information seems a bit anti-internet, so fine. I adore the collar of any large fish: like salmon, halibut or yellowtail. Although you have to navigate through the chunks of skin, fin, and bone and they are not the most Heidi Klum aesthetic part of the fish, you will be rewarded with the super buttery-fatty meat in the collar. Plus, there are only two collars per fish so I feel like a VIP when I land one.

What’s Chef Kitamura’s favorite part of the fish? The skin. Some American restaurant goers get squeamish at the mere sight of skin, but Kitamura says when the skin of a fish is young and fresh, it is oozing with flavor. Skin-on prep includes steaming with ginger, tamari, scallion, sake, hot oil, Chinese-style.
My other go-to spots for halibut:

Matt’s in the Market: Situated in the heart of the Pike Place market, Matt’s is one of those unique spots that can draw a regular crowd of both locals and tourists. I dig the Halibut fishwich, a chunk of halibut so big it hangs over the brioche bun slathered with spicy tartar. The fishwich goes best (like everything on the menu) with bartender Robbie’s Bloody Mary and a Midwest style snit of High Life.

Fish Basket Food Truck: $11 gets you two humongo halibut fish tacos, filled with hearty chunks of fish with a smoky chipotle ranch sauce, apple salsa, tartar slaw and a side of lime.

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