Restaurants favored uncomplicated methods for cooking seafood in 2011, according to data compiled by research firm Datassential on the fastest growing seafood-preparation terms.
The term tartare saw the most growth on menus in 2011, with usage increasing by 25.6 percent. Braised, pan-seared and pan-roasted followed closely behind.
At the same time, terms such as beer-battered, encrusted and smoked still made it into the top 10 fastest growing seafood-preparation terms, showing that stand-out flavors and indulgent foods are a growing presence  on menus.
Since Datassential simply tracks the occurrences of words on menus in a particular category without context, it's possible that even the most simple-seeming preparation method could be paired with complex flavors or sauces. A look at the firm's list of fastest growing menu terms for sauces and flavors  hints at restaurants allowing simply prepared seafood to be the canvas for more innovative flavors, since words such as truffle, aioli and jalapeno top the list.
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A popular example of that technique is the black cod with miso dish that Nobu Restaurants is known for. For that dish, black cod is simply roasted with a complex, miso-based sauce that creates a caramelized crust over the fish.
NRN’s senior food writer, Bret Thorn, wrote in the April 30 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News about the simplicity chefs are employing in their preparation of salmon due to an increased consumer interest in the origin of food. He also wrote that chefs are looking toward more straightforward preparations that highlight seasonality of the ingredients and flavors being used to prepare their salmon dishes.
The top placement of tartare for fastest-growing preparation term on menus in 2011 is interesting in light of this, considering that most seafood tartare dishes are made with fresh salmon or tuna that is diced and dressed minimally. It also shows an increased willingness of consumers to consume raw seafood.
At the NRA Show this past weekend, restaurant trend watcher Nancy Kruse also highlighted the importance of menu descriptors such as “real” and “authentic,” and mentioned McDonald’s efforts in Europe to highlight their sustainability efforts as a key example of appealing to consumers who are interested in the origins of their food.
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Contact Sonya Moore at [email protected] .