Sturgeon General

A local restaurateur reveals the secret to buying caviar: When Igor comes a-knocking, let him in

Yet as Susser describes his encounters with Igor, it's clear that he's attracted by something more than on-the-spot product inspection. When Igor and his ilk lug their chests of caviar to Susser's little corner of Aventura, they bring to Chef Allen's the whiff of Caspian intrigue and the medieval atmosphere of a Middle East marketplace.

"I wouldn't call them shady characters," Susser asserts, bridling at the suggestion that his suppliers might not have acquired the requisite import licenses. "They're well-meaning business people. They're individuals working in a business that they've grown up in." And most important, Susser points out, his men know their caviar. Just last week, as astonished restaurant workers peered into the kitchen, Igor taught the chef a new technique for evaluating osetra, a medium-grade nutty-tasting roe.

"Instead of tasting it off a silver spoon, you taste it the same way you'd lick the salt from your hand before drinking tequila," Susser explains. "You put a small amount of caviar on your fist and then smell the residual amount on your hand. It was very interesting, because it really did work.

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