The New York Department of Health and Mental hygiene just announced new regulations that will require restaurants to freeze many types of fish for a minimum of 15 hours before serving them raw, to kill off bacteria. The Board of Health approved these regulations in March, and they will go into effect next month. Presumably, these new rules were change how a lot of restaurants — especially sushi bars and any places serving crudo or ceviche — store and prepare their fish. It will no doubt also inspire some major menu changes throughout the city, especially at the pricey fish restaurants.
As the Times points out, many high-end restaurants freeze their best fish as a safety precaution. Sushi Zen vice president Yuta Suzuki tells the paper: "We purposely deep-freeze at negative 83 degrees, and we use one of those medical cryogenic freezers." The amount of time the fish should be frozen to meet the code depends on the temperature and the storage method. The NYT notes that shellfish, fresh-water fish, and "certain types of tuna" are exempt from the rule. And James Versocki, a rep for the National Restaurant Association, tells CBS: "Most grade sushi that restaurants serve are not impacted by this...You know your yellow and bluefin and tuna, they’re allowed to be served raw because they don’t generally have these parasites in them."
To get some perspective on how this will affect the city's high-end sushi restaurants, Eater reached out to David Bouhadana, the chef of East Village hot spot Sushi Dojo. David is adamant about the fact that although a lot of small businesses already freeze their product, serving raw fish that's never been frozen is a " simple, easy, basic sushi law." The chef also explains how this might put a crunch on small business owners that rely on serving fresh fish: "We already have freezers, but no one has that many freezers to all of a sudden start freezing their entire inventory. They expect me to go out and buy four to six more freezers and find space in my already packed 200 square foot basement?" Bouhadana also notes that this will be "another rule that will be hard to enforce," because it's almost impossible to tell if a raw piece of fish was served fresh or if it was thawed out.
The chefs of this city still have a few more weeks to figure out how to work with/around the new regulations. Stay tuned for more updates on how this rule will change operations at the city's great fish restaurants