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Fresh Catch


When it comes to seafood, sourcing is everything. When it comes to seafood towers, where the offerings are unadulterated by heavy sauces or marinades, sourcing is everything and then some. At Pao, James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Qui is obsessed, in th

Scallops from Maine, sea urchins from Santa Barbara, Gulf Coast snapper—each one arrives via a vendor that Qui has personally vetted. He’s built his reputation on seafood. And the latest additions to the Pao menu take this passion to another level.

Three seafood towers join the carefully curated menu of dishes inspired by Filipino, Spanish, Japanese, and French culinary traditions. “They are the cherry on top of our seafood program at Pao,” explained Qui. The Ocean Tower, he noted, focuses on the best fin fish we can get in-house. It’s a revelation of freshness and flavor, a mélange of salmon, akami, otoro, and hamachi.

The Coral Tower, a masterful creation of Norwegian king crab, king crab salad, east and west coast oysters, and wild Australian prawns, “is the best shellfish, from large wild tiger prawns to responsibly sourced king crab and oysters.” A third tower, the Melody, combines Ocean and Coral into what Qui declares to be “the best of both worlds.”

The towers are a paradigm of carefully calibrated restraint following a simple playbook: source the very best seafood, and let the flavor do the rest. However, a quick dip into Qui’s fermented strawberry mignonette or spicy morita butter is never discouraged.

And with a dedicated shucker, it’s impossible to get closer to the source without a fishing rod in hand. We prefer a martini.