Decoding the 'As Per Catch' pricing of seafood at Mumbai's restaurants
Growing up in a Bengali household, seafood was an important part of our lives, and our meals. In the past few years, like almost everything else, the price of seafood has shot up.
A fisherman takes a quick nap on his fishing boat in the Arabian Sea near Bandra. Pic/Shadab Khan
On our visits to some of Mumbai’s most popular seafood eateries, we noticed that instead of the actual price, the term ‘As Per Catch’ or ‘As Per Size’ was used for seafood items on menus. On enquiry, we would discover exorbitant prices for these dishes. Curious, we decided to go fishing for answers.
Gaurish Rangnekar, partner, Ankur The Coastal Bistro prefers to show the customers the actual size of the prawns, crab and fish before they place an order
Decode the APC
Soon enough, it became clear that catch type listed in the APC tag varied from one restaurant to another. While some listed rare, exotic varieties, others included popular local catch, too, which was a surprise since Mumbai is a coastal city. “The most common APC tag is reserved for exotic seafood like jumbo prawns, rock crabs, lobster, mussels and fish species like the red snapper and baby shark.
Pomfret from Fresh Catch, Mahim
Their availability is tricky, as they are caught in certain areas along the Arabian Sea, and not easily available. The demand-supply ratio plays a major reason in such a pricing format. It’s not a recent trend, and has been a part of menus for a while, but as the demand-supply ratio gap widens, the APC pricing format comes into play due to this constant fluctuation,” reveals chef Rohan D’Souza, Lead chef, Silver Beach Cafe and Radio Bar.
Prawns and mussels at the seafood buffet at Lotus Cafe, JW Mariott, Juhu
Restaurateur and chef, Meldan D’Cunha of Bandra’s Soul Fry adds that they’ve been using the APC tag for local catch like Surmai, Ravas and Pomfret. “Earlier, rates were stable but we realised that it didn’t work because of fluctuating prices. We changed to APC prices a decade ago. Fish has become scarcer in the last few years.
Silver Beach Cafe believes that the demand-supply factor is the main reason for the APC tag. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Pomfret is Rs 400 per piece; we sell it at Rs 700 to Rs 800, depending on the price we buy it for, and the size. I visit the fish market myself, as opposed to going to a supplier, like most five-star hotels do. Suppliers offer a fixed amount; for example, 20 small prawns in a kilo.
Lobster Mornay at Mahesh Lunch Home
Having worked with the Oberoi chain for years, I am aware of this sourcing practice at big hotels and chains, which might not work for a standalone restaurant.” Echoing this is Francis Fernandes, who owns popular Mahim seafood restaurant Fresh Catch: “Five-star hotels have contracts with suppliers. This assures regular supply and steady pricing.
(From left) Harnai Bombil and Surmai fry at Soul Fry
For example, if the contract mentions that the supplier will charge R600 for a certain quantity of prawns, whether market prices fluctuate, rise to R800 or drop to R50, the hotel will pay the supplier R600. In case of major changes, the rates are renegotiated,” informs Fernandes, who’s spent years with the ITC Hotels.
Giving us the five-star hotel view, chef Himanshu Taneja, Eexecutive chef at JW Marriott Mumbai, Juhu, believes that seafood prices depend on aspects like size, freshness and quality. “We have designated suppliers whose quality has been approved.
They can be traced in case of issues with the product; sourcing can also be tracked. We serve a lot of imported fish from Scandinavia, Japan and a few others countries. We do not serve this with the APC tag.” “Catch reduces heavily in summer and monsoon, especially when it rains making it tough for boats to head out leading to a price rise,” says Manoj Janardhan Nirgun, manager, Mahesh Lunch Home.
Fernandes echoes his views: “Mumbai gets many trawlers from Gujarat. In April-May, there’s very little fish available, which affects prices. For example, today, there was no pomfret in the restaurant due to its unavailability.” While many Mumbai restaurants choose frozen seafood (a cheaper option), Gaurish Rangnekar, partner, Ankur Seafood Bistro, avoids the choice. “Pomfret is Rs 1,000 a kilo (approximately).
We make a dish called Fish Thekkady, which is a fillet. In one kg, we get three to four portions with two fillets per plate. We approach traditional seafood trawlers. We don’t use frozen sea food like basa that’s used in many restaurants these days, because it’s cheaper and de-boned,” he reasons.
Catch them if you can
Sharing a few tricks of the trade, Nico Goghavala, owner of Nico Bombay, says, “Seasonal availability, change in price due to the demand versus supply situation and different sizes of various fishes are the main reason for the ‘As Per Catch’ price in most restaurants.
At Nico, we have a separate section on our menu called ‘Catch of the day’, which allows us to serve fresh fish that we buy every day from our local fishmonger. This also takes the pressure off to find a particular fish for daily operations. Constant change in pricing also makes it tough to do menu engineering to calculate its exact selling price.”
Bringing a key point to our notice, he adds, “The concept of APC or Catch of the Day is not only used due to a price factor but also as a current trend. Since we started the concept of catch of the day, most fish lovers prefer to order from it rather than from our regular menu.”
Taneja adds another dimension to this dilemma, ‘The ‘As Per Size’ aspect can be funny at times, as people aren’t aware that for catch like red snapper and prawns, smaller varieties are more flavourful."
Restaurants are aware that many guests get annoyed on not seeing prices listed against their favourite dishes and at times, choose to skip that section entirely. “The customer should not feel cheated. My regular patrons know me, and don’t complain about the cost. For new guests, I show them the item and its size, without them having to ask for it,” D’Cunha reassures.
“Earlier, people would get irritated with the APC listing, but now they are aware that sea food is expensive. Some aren’t keen to see live sea food, so when they enquire about its size, I bring it out on request,” he adds. As the monsoon draws near, the APC tag will make an even more obvious appearance across coastal eatery menus. We suggest you ask for the size and the price before you place your order, so nothing seems fishy.
Catch some fish here
The Coastal Bistro, MP Shetty Marg, Fort.
Silver Beach Cafe,
16, Murzban Road, Fort.
At Gandhi gram road, Juhu.
Pali Mala Road, Bandra (W).
105, Apollo Street, Fort.
144/C Diman Cot, Mahim (W).
JW Marriot, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
F6, Shop No. 4, Sector 10, Vashi.
Mahesh Lunch Home,
Log on to: maheshlunchhome.com
No APC for us!
“The APC tag does not apply to fresh water fish, commonly used in Bengali cuisine. We usually have fixed prices listed on our menu for all our preparations except the big- sized prawns,” reveals Prishita Bose, owner of Iti, a Bengali restaurant, in Navi Mumbai.
Seafood that carried the APC tag commonly includes:
>> Tiger Prawn
>> Red Snapper
>> Imported fish
(Rest vary from restaurant to restaurant)