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Restaurant Fined $120K for Trying to Pass Off Tilapia as Fancy Fish

Restitution will be made in that lowliest of currencies: the gift certificate.
Photo via Flickr user Ralph Daily

"Out of the blue and into the black. They give you this, but you pay for that."

These famous words sung by Neil Young were originally about rock n' roll, but they can apply to a lot of situations. Like, say, paying for petrale sole and getting tilapia.

It's not exactly the most rock n' roll situation, but it's enough to put a restaurant out of the black and into the red. This is the stunt that Odeum in Santa Clara, California tried to pull on its customers between October 2014 and March 2016, which was a hell of a long time to be pretending that tilapia was the pricier fish, and also suggests that diners, when it came down to it, couldn't really tell the difference.


But that doesn't make it any less fucked up or illegal. Eventually, the Santa Clara County DA's office got an anonymous complaint, and an investigation confirmed the fish switch,which is now the center of a huge settlement between Odeum and the DA and diners, according to CBS SF Bay Area.

READ MORE: Almost Every Kind of Wild Fish Is Infected with Worms

Part of the settlement, which was mostly penalties for violating California health and safety codes, is restitution to those who were given the fraudulent fish. In cold hard cash? No. A big, healthy petrale sole? No. Restitution will be made in that lowliest of currencies: a $30 gift certificate. Restitution to clients makes up $30,000 of the total of $120,000 in civil penalties.

Odeum will give the gift certificates to any individual who ordered petrale sole during the period in question. According to CBS SF Bay Area, consumers can find the claim forms in the Mercury News, Gilroy Dispatch, or Morgan Hill Times, or at the restaurant itself. Any leftover restitution money will be provided to the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, Consumer Protection Division for "training, education and enforcement."

According to their fancy menu, the dish in question was "Wild-caught petrale sole, lemon, capers, dill, saffron, parmesan risotto, and grilled asparagus" and costs $32. Tilapia, on the other hand, is one of the cheapest and most widely farmed fish in the world.

You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might get a $30 gift certificate.