Restaurant Fined for Pretending Tilapia Was Much Fancier Fish

It has now been fined, must make restitution
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2017 3:20 PM CST
Updated Feb 22, 2017 3:24 PM CST
Restaurant Fined for Duping Customers With Cheap Fish
This February 23, 2015 photo shows tilapia with horseradish and beet green chimichurri in Concord, N.H.   (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

For a year and a half, customers at a high-end Bay Area restaurant were duped into thinking they were eating fancy fish when they were actually eating tilapia. A suspicious customer finally complained to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office in early 2016, accusing the restaurant of using the far-cheaper tilapia in its supposed petrale sole dish. The DA's office found that Morgan Hill's Odeum restaurant did, in fact, make the substitution from Oct. 2014 to March 2016, and last week it reached a settlement with the restaurant, CBS San Francisco reports. California restaurants are prohibited from falsely advertising the food they serve, per health and safety codes. Petrale sole is a type of flounder; the Mercury News says it sells for two to three times the price of tilapia, a "bargain-basement fish."

Odeum will pay $120,000 in civil penalties and restitution—all customers who ordered petrale sole during the time period in question will get $30 gift certificates, and any leftover restitution money will go to the county's Department of Environmental Health for training, education, and enforcement in its Consumer Protection Division. Munchies looked at Odeum's "fancy menu" and found the $32 dish described as "wild-caught petrale sole, lemon, capers, dill, saffron, parmesan risotto, and grilled asparagus." "Tilapia, on the other hand, is one of the cheapest and most widely farmed fish in the world," writes Nick Rose, noting that the year-plus it took for anyone to notice "suggests that diners ... couldn’t really tell the difference." The Mercury News describes Odeum as one of the county's top restaurants; it is owned by Salvatore Calisi. (This cheater was busted by an Internet sleuth.)

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