This evening KARE11 News had one of the best investigative reports I have seen in quite some time. What they did was go to several Twin Cities area restaurants to order the Walleye on the menu. Here in Minnesota, Walleye is the king of fish and those of us in the Gopher State consume more Walleye than anyone else. I guess you could say, besides our lutefisk, we sure do love our Walleye dinners when dining out.
But as the investigative team found out there are many restaurants that are not serving exactly what they promote. In fact, “Canadian Walleye” as promoted on the menu could actually be something much different…and certainly not Walleye at all. The substitute fish is known as European Zander or sometimes also referred to as Pike Perch. The bottom line is those of us who like to eat Walleye when dinning out might be a victim of fraud, or I dare say at least a form of bait and switch.
The investigators went to each of these restaurants and took samples of the fish for analysis at a DNA lab. In most other respects, the fish are quite similar except for the fact a Zander is not a Walleye. And when a person sits down to dine on a fine meal of Walleye they expect to get what they order…but that has not been happening at quite a few restaurants. See additional details of the news story by clicking here.
In Minnesota we take great pride in our fisheries and Walleye ranks number one among all anglers. So it only stands to reason that some unscrupulous restaurants would attempt to capitalize on the fact that Zander sells for several dollars a pound less than Walleye. It was reported that over the course of a year a busy restaurant could realize an extra $100,000 in profit by serving a fish that, up until today, many of us would not even question its legitimacy. But no more.
I think back to the several times I have ordered Walleye recently and now I wonder if it was legitimate. In one particular case I ordered Walleye and got such a big fillet that I could only eat about half of what was served. It was very delectable, as I recall…but now it haunts me a bit because I remember thinking at the time that for this to be a Walleye fillet it would have been taken from a very mature fish. Certainly not a fish that I would have kept had I been angling for it.
What’s going on here is a case of restaurants using fancy names to do nothing but fool their customers. In many cases the practice may be illegal by making false claims. In other cases the names are so ambiguous that the impression they give restaurant guests is something quite different from reality. Until I heard this report I would not have even questioned that the fish I was being served was Walleye.
Here’s a perfect example of restaurants playing games with names. How many times can you recall sitting down with a menu in hand and reading “Walleyed Pike” as a dinner entrée? It’s a popular way of describing the fish that most of us adore. But the truth is the Walleye is actually a member of the perch family and has nothing to do with being related to Pike (members of this family include Northerns, Musky, etc.). Now that I think of it, however, perhaps what these restaurants are sometimes trying to tell us is Walleyed Pike in nothing more than Zander (sometimes called Pike Perch). Confusing? You bet…but thanks to the KARE11 report they’ve exposed this hidden game of restaurants acting a little bit fishy when it comes to the truth.
Is serving Zander such a bad thing?…heck no. If it tastes quite similar to Walleye that is one thing. But lying and cheating your customers out of a dinning experience under false pretenses is wrong…and I am glad this news channel finally exposed this terrible practice. In the future, I’m guessing this shake-up of the restaurant industry is going to force them to be much more honest with their customers…and that is a practice that in my opinion is long overdue.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.