by Catherine Schmitt
Rockland, ME: After a round of mojitos and Pemaquid oysters on the deck of The Pearl, we headed for an early dinner at Suzuki’s Sushi Restaurant.
The owner, Keiko Suzuki, is a woman who knows where her fish comes from. The servers will tell you, for example, that the mackerel special is from fish caught by Suzuki’s husband off the Rockland breakwater that morning.
During a recent visit, the “Local Stars” nigiri special ($23) presented an unprecedented sampler of local seafood:
Maguro, bluefin tuna caught off Cape Cod.
Toro, fatty belly of a bluefin from Port Clyde.
Shime-saba, lightly pickled mackerel and shime-nishin, lightly pickled herring.
Lobster, raw tail
Uni, sea urchin roe (scooped fresh from the shell in-house and in minutes)
Ankimo, monkfish liver pate
Where else could you get all of these on a single plate?
Suzuki takes advantage of the resources in her backyard of Penobscot Bay, scooping up the young herring and mackerel that frequent Rockland harbor, where they are chased by cormorants in rippling, splashing diamond-studded waves. Uni is often soaked in chemicals to give it a longer shelf life. Needless to say this treatment affects the taste. At Suzuki’s, the sea urchin roe is scooped by hand to order, so that the creamy yellow roe is fresh. The ankimo, monkfish liver, is something I had written about but never had the opportunity to try, so I dipped the end of my chopstick in and had a taste. A bit like the uni, but different.
After eating such fresh, hyper-local seafood species, I have a hard time ordering fish at other sushi restaurants (except maybe Miyake in Portland), where I usually don’t stray from the vegetarian section of the menu.
Accompanied by Junmai Genshu Hyorei sake, brewed by Ozeki in Nishinomiya Hyogo, Japan, the meal was like a dip in the cold Maine ocean after a day in the sun.