Experiment on vegetarian-fed fish

[USA] San Francisco seafood purveyor TwoXSea, which supplies sustainable seafood to restaurants and markets around the Bay Area, just settled on the location of its first new location, in NW Portland.

Last week owner Kenny Belov signed a lease on a warehouse space near the Pearl District. After a quick build-out, he hopes to be supplying Portland restaurants with seafood by early August, and then open a retail store in the same location.

“We’re going to work with a lot of Oregon fishermen from Southwest Oregon up the coast,” says Belov, who plans to process all the fish on site. “We will probably bring in some product out of California depending on what seasons are open in California and closed in Oregon and vice-versa.”

Belov, who also owns Fish restaurant in Sausalito, originally wanted to open a combination wholesale business/retail store and restaurant, but the 2,500 square-foot-space is owned by the owner of Industrial Cafe, a restaurant across the street, so he’s put that idea on hold. TwoXSea’s Lauren Vannatter, formerly a sous chef at Piccino and Range, will be relocating to Portland to oversee the new business.

To start, they plan to work with the Portland restaurant group that includes Ava Gene’s, Woodsman Tavern and Roman Candle Bakery.

Tilapia in a farm in Indiana. Photo: Chuck Robinson/AP
Tilapia in a farm in Indiana. Photo: Chuck Robinson/AP

In addition to Oregon fisherman, TwoXSea has established ties with a trout farm in southeast Oregon, named Desert Springs, which is using the same vegetarian feed Belov uses at his California sustainable trout farm, McFarland Springs. For the past year, Belov has been working with Desert Springs in order to offer that product in Portland.

Belov has also been working on another new experiment he’s going to try out on Bay Area chefs. In August, he’ll have 1,800 pounds of vegetarian-fed tilapia — given the same red algae-based feed that gives his trout its salmon-pink tint — to offer chefs as a sample.

“If you feed a tilapia a diet high in algae, you improve its nutritional value. Also, normally it has that kind of golden color because of all the corn it’s fed. If you use red algae like we do, you get a blush hue and get some of the benefits,” says Belov.


He’d love to prove, just like with the trout, that you can use vegetarian feed to make a high-quality farmed fish, rather than rely on feed that requires harvesting lots of small forage fish to grow more fish.

But he acknowledges it may be a tough sell for chefs and consumers used to cheap tilapia imported from Asia: “Are these chefs throughout the Bay Area going to be willing to put amazing tilapia on the menu, or is that just silly?”


Photo: McFarland Springs Trout from TwoXSea. Photo: Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle

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