Bognar announced this week that Indo has stopped serving the popular, but endangered fish, a staple of high-end sushi restaurants.
(Assessments vary, but according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is endangered, the southern bluefin tuna is critically endangered and the Pacific bluefin tuna is "vulnerable," the step before endangered.)
Indo served bluefin tuna as part of its nigiri-sushi selection, and my omakase meal there featured a flight of bluefin-tuna cuts, from the leaner akami to the fattier chutoro and otoro from the belly.
Bognar says he considered not serving bluefin tuna at Indo when it debuted this June, but worried this would be too risky for his first restaurant.
“I knew people loved toro,” he says.
What's more, he adds, “I was afraid doing all these other fish that we do now wouldn't hit as well if we didn't have (bluefin tuna) at the same time.”
Now, though, Bognar thinks he can sate diners' craving for bluefin tuna with the textures and flavors he has been coaxing from ocean trout, sardines and other fish.
A recent visit to New York City helped shape Bognar's decision. He saw how that city's density makes chefs acutely aware of issues of sustainability and food waste.
“They see it every night when they put (the trash) out for the collectors,” he says. “The less trash bags you have, the better.”
While Bognar allows that trends arrive in St. Louis later than they do on the coasts, he doesn't think we should assume St. Louis diners aren't interested in those trends.
“There's a ton of people in St. Louis now that are aware of sustainability, that are aware of more interesting things (you can do) with sushi,” he says.
Or, as he more bluntly puts it, “Let's not dumb things down.”
“The future of the dining scene here in St. Louis is more of us comparing ourselves to restaurants across the country,” Bognar says, “instead of sitting here and saying, 'Oh, we're great for St. Louis, we're great for the Midwest.'”
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify bluefin tuna's endangered status.