Chicago caviar connoisseurs have begun enjoying a new type of roe at restaurants like Nellcôte, Sixteen, and Next perhaps without even knowing it. The silky dark grey caviar served at these restaurants is Siberian sturgeon, although it's a bit of a misnomer. The fish are the Siberian species, but they are not from Siberia at all. Instead, they are sustainably raised in Sarasota, Florida at the Mote Marine Laboratory with innovative aquaculture methods to re-use water and minimize the environmental footprint of fish farming. Mote is the largest producer of Siberian sturgeon and caviar in the country.
Carl Galvan at Supreme Lobster, Chicago's self-proclaimed "Lord of Fish," supplies Siberian sturgeon "bullets" or the useable part of the fish (head, tail and spine are removed) and caviar to the top toques in town.
"I get excited about a new species coming in," Galvan says. "It has a lot of the same characteristics as paddlefish, but there are intricacies that the chefs are getting excited about. The texture of the fish is really firm, like veal or a tender land animal. They're really rare and harvest is pretty limited."
Siberian sturgeon has only been available in Chicago for six months. Check out the slideshow for a few ways chefs are incorporating it on their menus.