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Dining out on pearl meat a hit at high-end restaurants


Shaun Presland with his pearl meat creation, ceviche served on a polished shell at Sake restaurant, The Rocks.  Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: News Limited

DINERS looking for new taste sensations are seeking out rare seafood sourced from some of the most remote fisheries in the world.

The Autore pearl company has just started to supply Sydney's Sake exclusively with the meat, each shell offering just 20g of the meat from the pinctada maxima, or pearl oyster, which has already given up its precious pearl.

Along with its blue cod caught in pots which is already sold in Melbourne and Sydney restaurants, Chatham Island Food Co, based on a remote island off New Zealand, is looking to export native black paua, a shellfish close to abalone, to Australia for about $110kg.

The pearl meat comes fresh off the boat from the Autore's farm in the Indian Ocean at Quandong Point, off Broome in Western Australia. The rarity of the meat, usually destined for Asia, means its sells for $130-$150/kg.

Sake chef Shaun Presland says pearl meat is a cross between abalone and scallop.


Pearl meat creation the Nigiri Sashim served at Sake retaurant, The Rocks. Picture Gregg Porteous

Pearl meat creation the Nigiri Sashim served at Sake retaurant, The Rocks. Picture Gregg Porteous Source: News Limited

"The closest thing I can compare it to is conch, which I worked with at Nobu in the Bahamas," he said.

Presland is using it in a simple ceviche dish, $30, served on a polished pearl shell or lightly searing it for nigiri sushi at $11 for two pieces.

"We don't make money on this but we want people to try something that have never had before," said Presland.

The chef was offered the meat through restaurant owner John Szangolies meeting the pearl farmers.

Presland personally picks up the weekly 36kg supply from the airport.

Chatham Island's Delwyn Tuanui decided it was time to diversify after his father was forced to destroy 600 sheep because it was too costly to export from the island, which is 800km from New Zealand and has a population of just 600 people.

"It needs to be treated correctly at harvest," Mr Tuanui said of the paua.

"I think once we can convince people that it's a beautiful product, harvested and prepared properly, it will do well."

The black paua sells for about $110kg wholesale off the shell with Mr Tuanui bringing the last lot over to Australia in a box on his lap via two flights.

At a recent taste test at Sydney's China Doll restaurant in Woolloomooloo Mr Tuanui seared the distinctive looking black abalone after specially preparing it to soften the flesh which can otherwise have the same texture as a car tyre if not done right.

Yet prepared and cooked properly it's a soft, fully-flavoured shellfish with an earthy, almost mushroom flavour, which still has some bite to it.

"It's a really hard flavour to describe and nothing like the Australia abalone," Mr Tuanui said.

Also looking for a point of difference is Sydney rock oyster farmer Shane Buckley who recently had his farm on the NSW south coast, north of Bega, certified organic.

Certification means water polluting products such as ant-fouling paint on boats, treated pine and tarred materials are removed from the water.


Source:  Herald Sun - 7 September 2013