BEIRUT: Of all the food trends Lebanon has seen over the last few years, imported fish surely tops the list. The country’s sushi craze has taken over international cuisine and even twisted the arms of restaurateurs normally better known for their burgers and pasta into serving sashimi and nigiri.It’s also inspired the opening of odd hybrid restaurants that, rather than fuse European and Japanese cuisine, simply serve them side by side.
And that’s to say nothing of smoked salmon, which has become such an expected luxury that local caterers and chefs are obliged to present it at every conceivable function. Smoked salmon has even found its way onto menus of high-end restaurants where chefs should have the better judgement not to pander to local cravings. Regardless of whether it fits at the table, however, it is chopped up, garnished or marinated to cover up the fact that it’s a glaring – though tasty – anomaly.
The trend has made the jump from fine dining to the kitchen counter with the help of Meat the Fish, a home delivery service which opened little over a year ago to provide fresh fish and meat sourced and imported from producers around the world. With people looking to cater for their own holiday festivities, business at this time of year has absolutely boomed – further proof that the craze for fresh imported fish has now also invaded home cooking too.
Communications Director Youmna Habbouche and Marketing Director Lara Kassem sat down with The Daily Star to talk about Meat the Fish and the new flavors it has made possible at home.
The company delivers portions of meat and fish – down to just a single serving of salmon filet – to private homes with no delivery charge. Premium cuts of beef are imported from Australia, veal from Holland, chicken from France, salmon and other fresh fish are sourced from around the English Channel, Norway and Japan – wherever the product is the best.
The service is made possible by Royal Gourmet, a Lebanese wholesale fish and meat distributor open since 1996 and through which Meat the Fish places smaller orders for its clientele.
Unsurprisingly, Meat the Fish’s most popular items include smoked salmon, salmon filet and – perhaps the newest addition to fishy food trends – oysters. Meat the fish has added sushi-grade sashimi, crab meat and other ready-to-eat smoked fish cuts, all smoked in a factory here in Lebanon, and also expanded to sell things such as beetroot-infused salmon and smoked tuna and halibut.
The company has gone to lengths to assuage the fears of home cooks wary of handling seafood for the first time. In-house chef Reem Azoury provides all sorts of help, from a little preparation advice to full menu consultations.
In addition to Azoury, Meat the Fish has teamed up with local restaurants and shops to showcase professional preparations of its products.
A week before Christmas, Meat the Fish opened its first pop-up shop in Downtown’s Saifi Village with the help of Azoury and fellow chef Roba Khalil. Those planning their holiday feasts, or just walking by, could sample baked potato with sour cream and caviar, sashimi, smoked fish and buy cuts of meat and fish to take home.
The pop-up shop offered a tester for Meat the Fish, which is considering a storefront of its own in addition to the delivery service.
For late gift-buyers, Meat the Fish is offering customized baskets that can be delivered to loved ones with gourmet tastes. And for New Year’s party hosts, there’s still time to order precooked items such as smoked fish and premium cuts of imported meat, Habbouche and Kassem said. Azoury can advise on knockout recipes for what’s available at the last minute.
For those of us who have little intention of entertaining this holiday season, Meat the Fish can serve as an inspiration to start plating those salmon canapes.
To learn more about Meat the Fish’s offerings, their menu can be downloaded from their website at www.meatthefish.com, or you can place an order at 05-531-904.