A pocket restaurant for local fish
France | Provence | Marseille
I started my search for taste as a kid in Paris in the 1960‘s and 70‘s. My father used to take our family out looking for the soup of his childhood, the famous Vietnamese soup, Pho but it was never ok so we used to try all the Asian restaurants of Paris at that time.
I later moved to London and Leeds in my 20’s and became assistant chef in a small kitchen while studying landscape architecture. That’s where I became more acquainted with design and art as our department was mixed with fine art, architecture and furniture design.I came back to France and worked as landscape architect working with inhabitants living in housing projects in Marseille.
At the same time, I developed as well contextual art projects, based on the encounter with the environment, trying to capture the Genius Loci, the protective spirit of a place.
In 2009 I went back to school at the Ecole Hotelliere de Marseille and then went to Los Angeles to learn and work with Japanese sushi chefs.I have now open a little restaurant in Marseille using only local fish from the small fishermen who come to the harbor in the morning.
My restaurant, SushiQui is a small 12-seater restaurant with and a bar for four, where guests see me working and a large table that eight people share. It’s in a quiet area away from the more commercial zone of the city. I have people from the neighborhood coming and now, as its getting more known, people coming from everywhere who are interested to taste good fish from Marseille.
I don’t serve rolls as a rule (which can be broken if I can source some quality sustainable eels) and I use only local fish. It is a constraint I impose on myself: as a designer you define boundaries and you work within them. I like to serve sashimi especially sugatamori style, where you present the whole fish to the customer, this way they can see the beauty of the fish, it becomes a sculpture, they can check the freshness, discover the anatomy of the fish and overall its a great way to pay respect to the animal that is being served.
It’s pure joy to work with fish: the human relationship with the fishermen, going to the market not knowing what you are going to get, discovering new species, working with the seasons… I do the same thing with vegetables when I go to the local farmers market, but with fish it makes even more sense to shorten the circuit, as you cannot buy a really fresh fish any other way than directly from the producer. A good case of morality meets good taste.
I work with local fishermen, they do a hard job but like in all the fields some are good some are not, some are honest some less so. You have to be choosy when you buy your fish at the fish market. Then I have some particular fishermen I work with for certain species. During the season, one is specialized in bluefin tuna, which I was against before I met the fisherman and his wife. They are great people who are very honest and very knowledgeable. He respects the quotas, fishes tuna with a hook and line on his small boat and the quality is amazing.Once a month, another fisherman comes to the restaurant and sells his fish to a group of customers. It’s a good way to exchange and create links as well and promote local fish while helping the small artisans to make a living.
There is no set menu at SushiQui. I only serve the fish of the day depending on the season and the skills and luck of the fisherman. The Japanese have name for it, its called Omakase, it’s the chef’s choice. Most of the customers are happy to play the game and discover new fish.
I try to explain the different names, how a fish not appreciated in France can be highly regarded in Japan for example. Trying to change their point of view on local fish.
I encourage my customers to go to the fish market but many are lost and don’t understand what to buy, how to buy according to the seasons, the species, the way of cooking…With a friend, we‘ll be setting up a guided visit to the port to explain some of the rules for those who want to purchase fresh fish from the local fishermen… So stay TUNAed for more.
The restaurant Sushi Qui was awarded the “Naked Lunch” Prize 2013 from Le Fooding in France.
Picture of the dish by Henry Kaplan.