Layer of Doubt

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe’s salmon belly appetizer is garnished with strips of dried salmon skin.

It is a verifiable fact that, when presented with any part of a fish that still contains skin and is not cleverly concealed inside sushi, nine out of 10 individuals will be kind of grossed out.

I am among that overwhelming majority. And yet here I am, about to tell you what’s so great about eating fish skin.

I’m talking specifically about the salmon skin garnish on the salmon belly appetizer at Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe ($16; National Museum of the American Indian, 4th Street and Independence Avenue SW). Part of the restaurant’s new fall menu, the dish also includes a chunk of smoky, cedar paper-wrapped salmon belly (a tender, fatty fillet), salmon roe and squash bread pudding.

The garnish is simply thin slices of dried salmon skin (made by cooking the skin on an oven’s heated flat-top for a few minutes, according to chef Richard Hetzler).

Despite being kind of grossed out by the skin’s telltale silver sheen and fearing a chewy texture and overly salty flavor, I genuinely enjoyed the skin. It hardly tasted salty and was only subtly fishy. What’s more, its crispy texture reminded me of an old familiar friend: the potato chip.

It is not a verifiable fact, but I’d wager that, when presented with dried salmon skin, nine out of 10 individuals will be kind of grossed out — and then completely change their minds.

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