Grilled Sanma at Ken’s Japanese Restaurant in Ottawa
This little grilled fish appetizer appeared on the online menu for the now defunct Ken’s Japanese Restaurant, as ‘Grilled Sanma’. However, when I attended the restaurant, with the specific idea of trying it out, it appeared on the paper menu, under the exact same picture, as ‘Pin Mackerel’. Now, I don’t know if this was a ‘poetic’ name dreamed up by the Restaurant, as I have never seen the name anywhere else, and I ended up having to do a little research to sort things out. Suffice it to say for the moment, though, the actual dish was delicious.
Well, first of all, it turns out that the ‘Pin Mackerel’, and thus Sanma, are both alternative names for the Pacific Saury seen above. Apparently, it is also known as ‘Pike Mackerel’ in some parts, and it seems that the likeness to Mackerel arises from the fact that they also have quite oily flesh, making the especially suited for grilling.
The Grilled Sanma at Ken’s was served in a very light sauce that was chiefly soy with some faint citrus notes and, I believe, a little dash of mirin. I am not sure what the kitchen used for a grill but the job was nicely done and the finished product had something of the aroma and taste of a proper char-broiler.
Eating the fish using chopsticks actually proved very easy as the fillets lifted cleanly away from the bone and bite-size pieces of the flesh were simple to pick apart along the flakes. As I mentioned, sanma is very like mackerel as they both have dark, oily flesh that is very rich and meaty. I found the flesh in this particular serving to be just a little dry in a couple of places but, when dipped in the sauce, was still very pleasant. I liked the light caramelization of the skin from the grilling process although, except for at the edges, and near the fins, a little more crispiness would have improved things a little. Still, I thought the execution of this dish was generally excellent and I liked it very much.