Chef Giuseppe Scurato, a master of refreshingly inventive dishes and tasty wine pairings, invited the Skuna Bay folks to let him exercise his skills on their product at his far-north-Chicago restaurant known as Ceres’ Table, 4882 N. Clark. On an evening to remember, he showed his true Italian form as he showcased salmon from the almost-like-wild fish farms in Skuna Bay, Canada.
Branded with the name of their home, the featured Skuna Bay salmon grow in the same cold waters where the wild salmon live. But once they arrive at the Bay, these salmon live with experienced fish farmers watching closely over them and their environment for any signs of distress. What could be bad about this? The Fortune Fish people import SB for fine Chicago restaurants.
With typical farmed salmon you normally expect a lot of fat and a pale pink color, while wild salmon is usually deep orangey-red and can be a bit dry. Skuna Bay has the beautiful pale color, but its taste is very delicate and it’s totally missing the dry thing. Fish with this label have also passed a stringent set of quality inspection requirements. Flawless may be too strong a word, but only just, since any fish that doesn’t meet the standards is sold as “fine Atlantic salmon” and can’t be labeled Skuna Bay.
I always learn something when I read Ceres' menus because not only do they describe the various dishes in detail but they also suggest a wine pairing for every dish. This was true on this occasion, too. Chef Scurato gave guests a glass of delicate pink prosecco paired with crispy toast appetizers to keep them happily at bay until the first course arrived.
And how it was worth waiting for. The simple white plate was wreathed with nuggets of baby-pink, house-cured SB salmon in a delicate circular parade with slivers of radish, fennel, oranges, pickled spicy chilis and watercress. A beautiful sight and a lovely dance of flavors.
Next the Chef presented an exquisitely prepared risotto, anchored with tiny pieces of deeply smoky house-smoked salmon, elegantly dressed with crème fraiche and finished with tiny black caviar made crunchy with pink peppercorns. Though I have never been a huge risotto fan, this creation was the best risotto I’ve tasted.
The piece de resistance of the evening was a small chunk of the meltingly tender and buttery soft Skuna Bay salmon, pan seared ‘til just cooked and served on a juicy bed of heirloom tomatoes studded with bits of Italian sausage and mixed with a unique cantaloupe gazpacho. Nicely presented and tasty.
As the Chef joked, he couldn’t work salmon into the dessert, but it was fabulous nonetheless. A deeply rich flourless chocolate cake crowned with chocolate whipped cream and fresh mixed berries. Num. It was so rich I couldn’t finish it.
Chef Scurato changes his menus frequently but you’ll likely always see something with Skuna Bay salmon. Plan a visit to Ceres’ Table. Look for the small sidewalk tree covered in tiny white lights. A nice perk—plenty of street parking and the meters stop at 6 pm.