Caviar “bumps” are all the rage

Jimmy Han, 41, a bar owner in Los Angeles, was at Coachella in April when he and four friends decided to do a “bump” in a pop up seafood...


Jimmy Han, 41, a bar owner in Los Angeles, was at Coachella in April when he and four friends decided to do a “bump” in a pop up seafood restaurant – but not the kind you might imagine.

After ordering a seafood platter, he opened a golden can of Regiis Ova caviar, poured a spoonful on his fist between his thumb and forefinger, then proceeded to lick it with his tongue, like salt after a shot of tequila.

“People used to get high from drugs,” Mr. Han said with a laugh, as he crushed the fish eggs against the top of his mouth. “Now we’re getting high on food.”

Caviar bumps – in which a spoonful of fish roe is eaten (not snorted) on the back of the hand – have become a decadent and naughty way to consume the expensive delicacy at some restaurants, trendy bars, festivals art and other flashy gatherings.

“A watch collector came to see me yesterday at Frieze and said she had seen a video of me by doing one on Instagram, and she wanted to try,” said Kristen Shirley, 37, founder of The Patialaa luxury lifestyle website, which referenced the New York art fair last month.

When Mrs. Shirley entertains friends at her SoHo apartment, they drink champagne and make bumps of caviar around the kitchen island. “I love caviar bumps because you don’t have to make a huge cheese board and get all the rawness,” she said. “You just need a box and a spoon.”

As a self-proclaimed caviar connoisseur, she also prefers the taste this way. “If you put caviar on blinis or fries or if you put chives or red onion on it, it masks the flavor,” Ms Shirley said. “Why do you eat something that costs $200 an ounce just so it tastes like red onion?”

Maybe she’s onto something. Caviar specialists say this is how they have traditionally sampled roe. “When you went to the fishermen and tried 100 different boxes of caviar to select the ones you wanted, you wanted a quick way to taste caviar without confusing your palate,” said Edward Panchernikov, director of operations for Russian caviara Michelin-starred restaurant on Madison Avenue specializing in caviar.

While Caviar Russe doesn’t offer bumps on the menu, other restaurants see it as a new way to sell the indulgent treat.

temple bar, a retro jewelry box salon in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, added caviar bumps to its menu ($20) when it reopened last October. “It’s decadence upon decadence but not unreachable,” said Sam Ross, bartender and bar owner, who is one of the partners. “It’s the high-low thing you see in restaurants right now.”

Samantha Casuga, the Temple’s head bartender, estimates he sells around 10 a night. “What’s going to happen is somebody’s going to say, ‘Do we have to do a caviar bump?’ and it’s kind of mean,” Ms. Casuga said. “Then other people see it and want to do one too.”

To Tokyo check-in bar, a 12-seat izakaya in Greenwich Village, diners can order a caviar bump with sake for $20, though it’s not advertised on the menu. “We always have a ton of caviar around too, so it seemed like a fun way to give people a good experience,” said Ariel Arcethe owner.

Ms Arce, who also sells a brand of caviar called CaviAIR, said the growing popularity of caviar bumps (and caviar in general) is the result of improved farming techniques, which have made the delicacy more affordable. In the past, caviar was considered too expensive to be served so casually.

“Wild caviar is completely unaffordable, but now China, the Netherlands, France, Uruguay and the United States have nailed farming practices,” Ms Arce said. “Caviar can now be accessible and affordable.”

However, farmed caviar is still very much perceived as a luxury that is savored for privileged moments. Josh Blum, a private chef in Miami who regularly hosts dinner parties for celebrities, said the caviar bumps provide a fun way to break the ice. “In Formula 1 this year I gave Diplo one,” he said. “It was quite funny. I think it was the first time he did it, and he loved it.

“It’s so social,” Mr. Blum added. “It’s what I do in the kitchen to bond with someone, instead of taking shots of booze. I can’t do that when I’m working.



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