When Chef Jeremy Sewall and his wife, Lisa, opened the seafood-focused Lineage in Brookline 10 years ago — long before partnering in Island Creek Oyster Bar or the expanding Row 34 concept — serving fish was a different ballgame. “It was almost a secret where it was caught or how it was caught, what boat it was caught on. Certainly what day it was caught on,” says the chef. Though Sewall sourced his lobster and some fish from family members, he was calling up vendors and ordering the same products as everyone else. “Traditionally a lot of restaurants would serve cod, scallops, halibut . . . and the cost of those things has risen and it’s just really forced chefs to make different choices.”
For Sewall that has meant introducing customers to different species and preparations, from mackerel to monkfish cheeks. The chef says that being nimble with purchasing and letting what’s best at the market dictate the menu allow him to serve the customer fresher fish. “I always say with seafood, if you want to have halibut on the menu every day, you are not going to get the same quality of halibut every day. You are just not. It’s not realistic.”
Though the idea of sustainable seafood is now very much in the mainstream, Sewall believes chefs and restaurants need to do a better job promoting some of the lesser-known fish in our waters. “I hate the term ‘trash fish.’ People don’t want to eat trash. If people really want to get behind these species and promote them, then it’s got to get done in a better way.”
Sewall sees the emergence of fish vendors at farmers’ markets as a positive sign. “If you can sell local flounder or fresh squid or herring, that tells you that people are willing to try this stuff, that they thought about how it was caught, where it was caught. Local fish is staying local, and that’s a really important thing.”
In the decade of running the cozy neighborhood restaurant, Sewall says it has taken time to build customers’ trust and encourage them to think beyond the usual seafood choices. “I love when people try something for the first time and say, ‘I’ve never had wreckfish before, I’ve never had tilefish before, and it’s one of my favorites now.’ That is as great a compliment as you can get.”
242 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-0065, www.lineagerestaurant.comCatherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A previous version of this story misidentified Chef Jeremy Sewall’s wife. Her name is Lisa.