THE APPETIZER – Small in volume, large in flavor

Splash Seafood Bar and Grill offers several varieties of caviar, served on ice and with all the trimmings.

Splash Seafood Bar and Grill offers several varieties of caviar, served on ice and with all the trimmings.

By Eleni Upah

In its early ears, caviar was so plentiful in America that it was given away in bars to make patrons thirsty — much like peanuts in today’s establishments. Due to overfishing, harvesting and selling black caviar was banned in Russia in 2007, and wild caviar production was suspended between 2008-2011 to allow for replenishment.

Caviar isn’t a typical option on menus in Iowa, but it is, in fact, available. One doesn’t need to travel halfway across the country to experience delicacies such as this — it’s only as far as Splash Seafood Bar and Grill.

Aside from the small portions of brightly colored fish eggs found atop many rolls at various sushi restaurants across the metro, Splash is one of the few places in Des Moines that serves caviar as an appetizer on its own.

The green or red “caviar” found on sushi rolls comes from flying fish roe and is much more abundant than the real stuff. Ben Nelson, the wine director for Splash, says, “There’s no depth of flavor” in flying fish roe, and it is more for garnish than taste.

At Splash, there are four types of caviar offered, each with different levels. The least expensive starts at $50 and the highest priced — the Golden Osetra, which isn’t actually listed on the menu — rings up at $376 per ounce.

“You could technically eat it all in one scoop and have a $300 bite of food,” Nelson said. But for those willing to pay the price, it’s about the full setting. The caviar is served on a bed of ice with a plate of accouterments that includes capers, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, egg whites and yolks, onions and blini, which are small Russian buckwheat pancakes that serve as the vessel for the caviar and other toppings.

Other varieties sold at Splash are the regular Russian Osetra ($276), Russian Sevruga ($178), California Sterling ($131-$200) and American Sturgeon ($50). The color, taste and texture ranges from dark gray and buttery to greenish-gray and nutty.

“Starting at the top of the line — true Russian Osetra caviar — the texture is extremely unique,” said Nelson. “It’s really, really fine, so there’s a real crunch to it, a real bite. That’s what you want.”

Splash orders its caviar from California, and the one-ounce glass containers remain in their vacuum-packed storage until they are ordered, which is about at least once a week, according to Nelson. RELISH

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Categories: The Appetizer

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