THE OWNER AND EXECUTIVE CHEF AT CHAMUSCA, A SELF STYLED “FISH BUTCHERY,” SPENT YEARS AS A FISHMONGER AND CONSULTANT. HE SHARES ONE OF HIS FAVORITE SUMMER CATCHES
BY ERIK SCHONING PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
Gustavo Frías knows a thing or two about fish. The owner and executive chef at Chamusca in Manhattan, a self-styled “fish butchery,” spent years as a fishmonger and consultant, ensuring that high quality seafood made its way onto New York City menus. Now he’s the one serving it.
Rather than specializing in a particular cuisine, Frías and his team look for the right recipe to suit seafood types. This means one is likely to see deep fried soft shell crab, broiled oysters, and black mullet fish tacos all served on any given day. Plus there’s a raw bar, which, when you’ve got good supply, is simply a must.
About ten years ago, Frías became interested in sustainable seafood. With this characteristic of increasing concern for producers and consumers alike, restaurants like Chamusca provide an appealing template for what this presentation will look like in the future. And with his years of sourcing and selling, Frías is in a unique position to understand where his ingredients are coming from.
“From wild to farmed, everything has a story,” he said. “That process is very important to us.” Another of Chamusca’s calling cards has to do with species of fish selected.
For Frías, serving less well known types, like bluefish and fluke, is an important way to provide a less than typical dining experience.
“We don’t have highly branded proteins like salmon and bass,” he said. “We don’t do that. We’re trying to make underappreciated fish taste delicious.”
All those years Frías was sourcing and butchering, he was also cooking. He specializes in salsa, which you’ll see all over Chamusca’s menu. The best thing to try it on? The ceviche.
“It’s the culmination of my career on a plate,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming,” and is, he explained, Chamusca’s signature dish. “Spicy, sweet, smoky, crunchy, bitter all these qualities are in here. It’s vital to have high quality, fresh fish when making it, as the raw meat is going to cure in the citrus juices. You won’t have to touch your stove, except for charring coriander seeds at the very beginning.”
CHAMUSCA’S MARKET CEVICHE (serves 4 people)
1/2 lb. fluke fillets, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (combine with oily fish)
1/2 lb. Spanish mackerel, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1 lb. total fish)
2 cups lemon juice (ripe lemons are best), or enough to cover fish
1 cup red radish, thin sliced
1/2 cup scallions, thin sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarse chopped (with some stems is fine)
1/2 cup mango (small dice)
1 cup jicama (small dice)
2 cup coriander seeds
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup grapefruit, supremed (sweet flesh removed from the bitter surrounds)
1/4 cup mandarin orange, diced
1 Serrano pepper, minced with seeds (or two peppers if you like it spicy)
Char the coriander seeds in a cast iron skillet at the highest heat, until engulfed in flames. Once smoldered, add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Combine seeds with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, but be careful not to over mix. Salt to taste. Ready to eat right away!
Tour Campanets, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence
This organic rosé from the famed growing region just south of the Alps offers aromas of wild strawberries and a dry brightness that pairs beautifully with fish. The two are simply a perfect combination for a summer afternoon.