“Justo moves his hand up the filet in a literal flurry of movement; with each bone that comes out, he taps the pliers on the cutting board to release it, then, never stopping, in one continuous motion, repeats repeats repeats. It sounds like a quick, double-time snare drum beat, a staccato tap tap tap tap tap tap, and then . . . done. A pause of a few seconds as he begins another side of fish. I can barely see his hand move.”
Anthony Bourdain dedicated an entire chapter of “Medium Raw” to Le Bernardin’s Justo Thomas, the now-almost-legend-like fish butcher carrying out the masterful salmon fillet job described in the excerpt above.
Northern Virginia has no Le Bernardin. But the Super H-Mart in Fairfax, VA, has some of the freshest seafood you will find anywhere. Cod, salmon, flounder, catfish, carp, mackerel, hairtail, and more varieties of shellfish than I can recall. Oh, live blue crab and even live crayfish, occasionally. At the fish section’s epicenter is Heradio, master fish butcher. With skills that rival even the most seasoned sushi chefs, hand him a live flounder and he will have it gutted, cleaned, filleted, sliced, and in your mouth before you can say Eric Ripert.
Heradio, the fish butcher.