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Skate Wing

Hey Chowhounds,
I am a journalist in NYC and I'm writing an article about Skate Wing, and I would love to hear from you!
Skate (a type of ray) is a bit mysterious. It has been on the menus of almost 50 Manhattan restaurants this year, but many diners don't know what it is.
Skate seems to be gaining popularity in NY, but sustainable fishing watchdogs like the Seafood Watch say that skate is a no-no. According to Seafood Watch, "skates have been severely overfished and most are caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch and substantial damage to the seafloor."

What is your opinion? Should restaurants serve skate?
If you have tried skate, where did you eat it, and how did you find out what it was? Did you know about the sustainability issues before you ordered it?

Thanks! I hope to hear from you!

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  1. skate grenobloise is delicious and because of it's easy preparation/high wow factor it's one of my favorite dishes to serve to guests.

    in manhattan both balthazar & les halles have a delicious skate

    did not know about the ethical implications...

    2 Replies
    1. re: El Tigre

      I would have to agree, with El Tigre. Skate is very easy to prepare and its always good. A black carbon steel and some fat, and you're in business.

      Blue Ribbon makes a nice skate dish also.

      Had no idea regarding sustainability issues. Its been many years since i have eaten or cooked "chilean sea bass" for obvoius reasons.

    2. I remember my father decrying the falling standards in about 1967 or so when the last restaurant in Manhattan stopped serving skate...there were still some clubs doing it, buthe saw it as the collapse of His Manhattan. It was amusing to me to see skate make a comeback as TV Chefs were looking for New Things. I first had it as raie au buerre noir, which was THE standard in the old days. I've not had any in NYC..in fact, the last I had was overseas but I used to get fisherman in teh Gulf to give me any skate they caught and I'd made the things myself.

      1. I enjoy the preparation of skate at Jean Claude on Sullivan St.

        Jean Claude
        137 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

        1. I've enjoyed skate in the past, both in Europe and in NY. Have rarely seen it on a menu in San Francisco (where I live), so was unaware of its Seafood Watch status.

          Will probably choose something more sustainable from now on.

          For those interested, you can get more info, including a little wallet card, here:

          1. i didn't realize people considered skate to be unusual nor was i aware of the sustainability issue despite listening to several programs about it. jean georges has this amazing skate dish with chateau chalon sauce which is to die for. what do you mean "how did you find out what it was"? if you brought me to a fish market i probably couldn't tell a cod from a haddock or a plaice or a tuna for that matter; i suspect most people are equally ignorant.

            3 Replies
            1. re: shane

              Hi Shane-
              What I meant was, did you know what skates were before you saw them on a menu? I am trying to get a sense if this is a market-driven trend or a consumer-driven trend. Some people speculate that skates are more common now because other fish stocks, like Atlantic cod, have been depleted, so the industry is marketing what used to be a "trash fish" as a delicacy.
              Thanks for your reply.

              1. re: sbreselor

                hmmm, i can't say i can recall when i first had skate. i'm not a huge fish eater, but i do look out for skate on menus especially when the sauce pairing appeals to me. will have to reconsider that now however after taking a look at monterey bay aquarium list.

                1. re: sbreselor

                  also, one thing about skate that i always did find curious is how many people call it "skate fish". it always seemed a little odd to me kinda like when people use someone's last name too frequently. but then again cod fish and tuna fish are also used (but not salmon fish or halibut fish!).

              2. I don't eat skate but if you include Korean restaurants, there's more than 50 restaurants in Manhattan that serve it. Koreans generally eat skate fermented (though my family also ate it just plainly grilled).

                2 Replies
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Thank you for this info! I was not aware that skate was common in Korean cuisine. Could you tell me the names of fermented skate and/or any other common dishes made with skate?
                  Thanks again.

                  1. re: sbreselor

                    "Hong uh" is Korean for skate. It will not always be labeled on a menu. It can be present in some kimchi (Korean pickled vegetable -- usually napa cabbage). I think most restaurants in NYC don't have skate in their kimchi though. More of a home thing. And it's a common ingredient in naeng myun (cold buckwheat noodle dish), or more specifically, hwe naeng myun. "Hwe" doesn't mean skate -- it means raw fish.

                    ETA: If you also do a food search on menupages, 117 restaurants come up serving skate. I don't think that is a complete number though as the Korean restaurants didn't show up.


                2. I'm actually very surprised to hear about sustainability issues. It's not scientific at all, but I do a fair amount of fishing off the coast of Long Island and catch them all the time. I always release them as they are not my target fish, but they have always seemed abundant.

                  1. Hi everyone,
                    Thanks very much for your replies. I just spoke to a scientist at Seafood Watch, and he confirmed that skates are highly vulnerable to overfishing, because they grow slowly, lay few eggs, and take a long time to reach maturity. He also said that the "red list" rating was because of the damage to the ocean floor done by the trawlers used to catch skate. He says that, although some stocks may not currently be depleted, he does not know of any sustainable varieties of skate.

                    I do still want to hear about people's experience with skate (eating, cooking, catching, etc.) so please continue to add to the conversation! Thanks again for your interest.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sbreselor

                      Well I think when they call it "skate wing" it's kind of a give away that it's some sort of ray.

                      I first started seeing it on menus right when I moved to NYC in 2000. So I'm not sure if it was on menus much before that or not. Personally I don't tend to like it that much, so I rarely get it. I've never cooked it at home either.

                      1. re: sbreselor

                        Perhaps your researches will confirm or refute my suspicions. I found it amusing when skate returned to menus just becuase it had always been out there before (I cannot speak to teh Korean aspect but it was available in French restaurants in New York in the 1950's/1860's). I always thought---andit is just a guess--that it fell from fashion. the Antoine's people told me that they used to have it in the 1930's becuase it was one of those things that were expected. Again, the buerre noir was the most common means of preparation, at least in my encounters. (I mis-wrote earlier and should have said I have not had skate in NYC since it came back to the menus.) My general and completely un-researched thought was that mans chefs brought it back through their own research into old cookbooks and the need to stand out. A similar thing happened with sweetbreads, which never went away completely but were no so common as they now are. It just appears to me that lots of cooks have been digging into old books and found things that people forgot about. It is true that when I used to get them from the Gulf fisherman they were free. But it was just li'l ole me getting them and even then it was rare. The rumor for years was that the fish were deliverd en masse to processors who cut the wings with cookie cutters and sold them as scallops, whcih were more costly.

                      2. I have had skate several times in NYC. Probably the first time 5-7 years ago. The Red Cat and Artisanal have excellent dishes. I did not seek out skate, rather when I saw it on the menu I wanted to have a new adventurous dish. I did know it was a ray before trying and I was surprised at it's lovely delicate flavor and texture. That said it always seems odd to eat a ray (especially since a friend was stung by a large sting ray on a trip!). It's interesting and important to hear about the sustainability issue. Thanks for sharing. I actually caught a skate fishing off of the beach in NJ. They appear to have a little face - very cute.

                        Red Cat
                        227 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: LBNJNY

                          I have had the skate dish at Artisanal, and was actually somewhat disappointed. I may have had it on an off night, but it was not particularly interesting or flavorful. (In their defense, it was cooked well) I have not had it elsewhere, only at home, but would suggest trying out other places reviewed on this post before going to Artisanal for it; after all, they are known for their cheese dishes, not their skate! (my mistake when going...)

                          1. re: LBNJNY

                            Hey LBNJNY-- Could I quote you saying "I did not seek out skate, rather when I saw it on the menu I wanted to have a new adventurous dish"? I just would like to show that some people recently discovered it, even though many people had been eating it for ages. If you would be ok with me using the quote, please email me at sara(dot)breselor(at)gmail.com and give me your full name. Thank you!

                          2. I first ate skate at Korea House in San Francisco's Japantown about 40+ years ago.

                            I have not ordered it since I became aware of its endangered status (I've carried all of the regional seafood cards with me since they became available a number of years ago and get updates whenever they're printed) and have been depressed by how many restaurants in our relatively aware region still offer it.

                            1. I'm very fond of skate, and eat it both in restaurants and at home. Several vendors in the Union Square Greenmarket sell it - P.E. & D.D. Seafood and Blue Moon, for sure. You may want to get in touch with them.

                              I can't refute that "many diners don't know what it is," but I do remember reading an account, some years back, of a NYT food writer dining in Chelsea with a Vogue food writer (it must be in his book, 'cause I can't find it on the Times site). The NYT food writer was served skate and exclaimed that she'd never had it. And I said to myself, sheesh, this is who's writing about food for the NYT?

                              Union Square Greenmarket
                              Broadway and E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: bronwen

                                  I too have had it at Le Bernadin, and it was paired with a meat based sauce (venison I think, very lightly applied. Skate is not a "trash fish" and anyone who knows even a bit about French cooking knows about skate in brown butter.

                                  1. re: bronwen

                                    Re: Le Bernadin - there's a list of politically incorrect fish on the menu and skate's not included

                                2. Had skate at Jean George and La Sirene. The one at La Sirene was mushy and watery, while the Jean George preparation was better tasting. However, I think I just don't like the texture of the fish, and I didn't realize it's a type of ray. Never realized it had sustainability issues, but that doesn't factor into my dislike of it as much as the texture.

                                  Jean Georges
                                  1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

                                  La Sirene
                                  558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013

                                  1. I've bought skate from the Blue Moon guys at the Greenmarket and enjoyed it very much. Now that you bring up the sustainability issue I guess I won't buy it again. Too bad. A lot of the delicious local seafood at the Greenmarket is apparently on the no-no list. I don't think I've ever ordered skate at a restaurant.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: NYCkaren

                                      Well, I interviewed Alex at Blue Moon, and he thinks the Seafood Watch is overreacting by red-listing skate. He says he sees no reason to think that skates are anything but abundant. A rep at Whole Foods said the same thing. Seafood Watch is more conservative, and their view is broader (including the general ecological impact of trawling) and their concerns are more long term (i.e. skate may seem abundant now but they are vulnerable to overfishing and population decline). I imagine that this is why Le Bernardin doesn't include them on their list of unsustainable options (see Bronwen's comment above). I'm trying to get an interview with someone at Le Bernardin, but, as you can imagine, it's not that easy. I'll continue to post any info I dig up.

                                      Le Bernardin
                                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                      Blue Moon Mexican Cafe
                                      1444 1st Ave, New York, NY 10021

                                    2. I remember moving to NYC in the mid 90s and being warned that many restaurants were calling their dishes scallops but using skate wing instead as it was much cheaper. Not sure there is any truth to that but interesing regardless.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: princeofpork

                                        That's such an old canard--my memory of it goes back at least 35 years, and I am sure it predates my recollection...it's also patently absurd, since the texture and appearance of skate shares nothing with scallops...

                                        1. re: penthouse pup

                                          Agreed! I remember hearing this one when cutting my teeth in NYC kitchens in '94. There's a story: how did this stupid myth get started and why won't it die :)

                                          1. re: penthouse pup

                                            This is stupid. I don't see how anyone could ever pass off skate as scallop. Scallops have such a lovely fine texture and skate is so different. Well, I guess if they were to pass them off as incredibly mushy scallops it might work but the diner would be fairly unhappy regardless.

                                            1. re: windycity

                                              I've had imitation scallops before. About 20 years ago, I purchased 10 fried "scallops" at a fry joint for $3. At that price I knew they were imitation even before I tasted them. It was mushy and gross and tasted nothing like skate.

                                              According to Monterey Bay Aquarium's website, "imitation scallop" is a market name for skate. So my guess would be some imitation scallops are made with skate.


                                              ETA: I meant to say that it tasted nothing like SCALLOPS, not skate.

                                              1. re: windycity

                                                or the other way around; stringy scallops i can see as being like stringy skate, but you would have to do so much processing to line up the "strings" if you were gonna make fake scallop out of skate. I much prefer skate anyway.

                                                1. re: bigjeff

                                                  Yeah, I can also see the other bad "scallop" scenario being stringy skate, though I've never had stringy skate. So much work though, and I can only imagine you'd need something like a sheet of cookie cutters. Not really worth it in my mind but I guess for some businesses willing to sacrifice customer happiness for marginal benefit, it's worth it?

                                                  1. re: windycity

                                                    If the sustainability issue increases, price of skate is going to rise. Pretty soon, you'll have imitation skate make outta scallops...

                                            2. re: princeofpork

                                              I'd heard that they used to try to palm off shark, not skate, as scallops

                                            3. Only remember seeing skate on the menus within last 10 years or so. I, personally, think of it the same way as monkfish. The only reason they're on menus at all is because there's no other fish left. It seems like it's difficult to cook well and only chefs who know what they're doing even try it. Didn't know about sustainability issue.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: keejam

                                                It may be true that cooks have turned to skate becuase of supply problems with other items..I don;t know. I still think modern cooks haveresearched--or had their Team research--old menus and books and found skate and now proffer it as something of so-called "adventurous dining." Each generation needs to learn things for itself but nihil novi sub sole. Skate has been around forever and used to be no stranger to good restaurants. Soon we will rediscover things like Cauliflower sauce mornay or the slow, slow method of scrambling eggs (see MFK Fisher..hell, see just about anyone).

                                              2. Laut ( malaysian) makes really good skate .
                                                When I was a kid fishing and we caught skates we would throw them back, along with hackleheads, and sandsharks. Now it's gourmet , go figure

                                                15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                                                1. I prepare skate very often at home, usually buerre noir. I can't speak to its sustainability, but the one thing no has mentioned in this thread is how easily it goes bad. If you're preparing at home, when you purchase it, smell it. Make sure it doesn't have any trace of hmmm, what's a nice way to put this?... ammonia odor. If it does, don't buy it, because you will taste it in the dish. For this reason, I prefer to buy on the bone (actually cartilage) and skin/debone it myself.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: adrman

                                                    I cook it myself too, and I only buy it at Citarella, as it is always extremely fresh. Nothing is worse than that ammonia smel/taste. The method I use is to flour it and brown it in butter, lower the heat and cook about 10 minutes, then pour the sauce over it and cook another couple of minutes. The sauce is a mixture of chopped basil, parsley, and capers, with fresh lime juice and olive oil, tabasco, salt and pepper. I serve it on the bone, but you could fillet it after the initial cooking and then return to the pan and add the sauce. It's one of my favorite fish dishes. I'm glad to hear that the sustainability issue is somewhat questionable, so I don't feel guilty about it (yet).

                                                    1. re: rrems

                                                      Obviously you are right about that decaying ammonia smell/taste...when I get skate, it is still whole...when it is caught, the wings are cut off and the rest is chucked back into the water.Cut the tips off, scrub the thing, then parboil long enough to peel the hide off. After that, I poach it in a milk/water /salt/vinegar solution. It is simple, really, but requires some atention. The beurre noir is half the fun

                                                  2. I had my first skate at Nougatine. Was okay - I literally was served a whole skate wing (lots!). My only issue with it is the cat pee smell it emits (I smelled it carrying it home on the bus). I filleted one today - what's up with the spines and risk for bacterial infection?


                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: allieb2031

                                                      The ammonia smell means that it had gone bad. Skate is very perishable, but shouldn't smell of ammonia if fresh. That was the fault of the restaurant, not of the fish.

                                                      As for the spines/bacterial infection, it is possible to get a very rare but in some cases very dangerous bacterial infection by getting cut by the sharp part of any ocean dwelling animal (spines on shrimp, oyster shells, etc) or by eating uncooked, infected shellfish. The bacteria are from the vibrio species of bacteria (v. vulnificus is the worst, unless you count the one freshwater species of the bacteria which causes cholera), which is most common in warmer waters. The infection is most common in people who handle fish for a living, and is only really bad (and I mean REALLY bad) in people who are have immune system disorders (worst in people with liver disease). Your chance of getting it? Not high, unless you're a fishmonger. Your chance of getting it and dying from it? Not high unless you're an alcoholic fishmonger.

                                                      Oh, also, I lived in France for a short period in the late 90s and it was really common in restaurants there, and I gathered that it always had been. My in-laws laughed their heads off when I told them that it was quite good, because where they're from (North Carolina), it is considered nothing more than a trash fish. They also look at me like I have my head on backwards when I mention I'm cooking beef cheeks for dinner. For the record, I'm cooking a skate wing tonight a la Grenobloise.

                                                      1. re: halfbakedcake

                                                        When I told frineds from upstate NY that we eat Carp they died laughing. That was always bait for them when they went fishiing.

                                                    2. I had skate for the first time about 20 years ago in Mazatlan and thought myself very daring for eating "rayo," which I had seen in the flesh while snorkeling. But the dish that made me a convert was the skate at Chez Denise, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris....most people go there for meat, but the chef is equally adept with fish and this stands as one of the most delicious fish dishes I've ever had. After that trip, about 4 years ago, I began making it at home and was quite discouraged when I read that it was on a list of "should not eat" fish. Another favorite of mine is monkfish, which was also considered trash fish in this area not long ago.

                                                      1. Hi sbreselor,
                                                        I'm from the Montreal region and don't know if my thoughts are relevent to your article, but for the sake of journalism, I'll throw my hat into the ring and give my 2c.

                                                        I knew what skate was since I was a kid, but only discovereed it as a food item when running a restaurant in my 30s (10 years or so ago).
                                                        I'm thinking my ignorance was due to its relative obscurity in Montreal area markets and the food scene - to this day, the majority of people here do not know skate as a food fish. They probably couldn't ID it in a line-up either, maybe guess "sting-ray".

                                                        One day my fish monger said she had a special on skate, I said I'd get back to her. Speaking to an Italian friend (67 yrs old), I asked about skate, "a new fish". He smiled and said they've been eating skate in Italy forever and adding that his favorite was pickled skate. (I then assumed that maybe skate appeals to other ethnic groups as well - seemingly confirmed here with Korean).

                                                        Intrigued, I ordered some.
                                                        His favorite prep: skin, but leave the cartilage in place. Chop into largish pieces with cleaver. Toss in flour-salt-pepper-powdered yellow food coloring (very important to him). Deep fry. Cool and place in jar, top with a 1/2 - 1/2 white vinegar/water pickle. After 5-6 days enjoy.
                                                        Quite tasty I must say.

                                                        My restaurant prep: skin, but leave the cartilage in place. Place on charcoal grill, sprinkle with Old Bay, flip, repeat. Great texture resembling lobster.
                                                        Customers were always leary;
                                                        "What kind of fish is it, like salmon?"
                                                        "No, its a type of ray."
                                                        "You mean a sting ray? Aren't they poisonous?"
                                                        "No, it looks a bit like a sting-ray, but skate is not poisonous. It has white flesh, consistency of lobster or crab, and very tasty. We grill them! Would you like to try it?"
                                                        "No - I'll have the fich&chips, ocean perch, right?"

                                                        Adventurous types would try it and thoroughly enjoy it.

                                                        It wasn't a regular item on my menu, but ocassionally featured as a special (they do spoil quickly).

                                                        I was (and until now) not aware of the sustainable issues. When I first ordered it years ago, I assumed it was a trash- or byproduct- type fish.
                                                        Restaurant wise, it was attractive because of the price (I am assuming the same today) and its 'exoticness'.

                                                        My opinion on whether restaurants should serve it?
                                                        Restaurants (in my opinion) will continue to look for inexpensive base items to have greater profitibality (kinda like pork 'osso buco'). If skate fits the bill, it will be served.

                                                        Customer awareness, as with chilean sea bass, will weigh heavily on a buyer's decision. Customers have a long way to go with the skate, I think, since many consider it a 'cheap' or 'trash' fish in most of North America. Again based solely on my own opinions.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: porker

                                                          Porker-- thank you very much for your reply. I would love to quote some of your post in my article. If you would be ok with that, please email me your name and the name of your restaurant at sara(dot)breselor(at)gmail.com. Thank you!

                                                        2. Apizz has the very best skate dish in NY.
                                                          As for the sustainability issues, the NEFSC website reports that certain types of skate have been overfished and others have not

                                                          217 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: bubbleandsqueak

                                                            How is the skate at Apizz prepared?

                                                            217 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

                                                            1. re: rrems

                                                              it's oven roasted with lemon, capers, white wine, breadcrumbs and roast potatoes

                                                              1. re: bubbleandsqueak

                                                                Thanks. I may try making that at home. I don't think I've ever had it roasted.

                                                          2. One thing no one has mentioned here is that skate is cheap. I've been buying skate from Blue Moon Fish (Greenmarket) for years--it's one of the cheapest fish they have. I remember going to restaurant week a few years ago and noticing the entree choices were chicken & skate. I've occasionally tried high-end Manhattan restaurants during RW and they almost always have skate as one of the choices. I like it, but it's about $5/lb so I'd rather cook it at home & have something fancier in a resto.

                                                            1. very good in a hwe-naeng-myun!

                                                              1. Hey Everyone,
                                                                Thank you so much for your helpful & informative replies. I'm wrapping up the article, and I would like to quote some of you. If you are willing to be quoted in the article, please email your full name (and your chowhound handle, so I can identify your post) to me at sara.breselor (at) gmail.com. I will be happy to email you the article when it is completed, and answer any questions you have about the piece. Thanks again!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: sbreselor

                                                                  I am especially not interested in eating skate after looking at the photos. Blech: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajidae

                                                                2. I tried skate for the first time at DBGB and thought it was delicious. I really had no idea what to expect but found it to be non-fishy and firm yet tender. As with other commenters, I had heard in the past about perfectly round scallops being cut from skate wing. But I found the texture of the actual skate to be way different from the more "rubbery" scallops. Also, the piece I had was very thin.

                                                                  1. Skate wings (and middle) have been a staple to the london Fish and Chip market for years, as of recently Skate has been a fish you had to special order, growing up it, along with Cod were the two most popular fish species you could eat. Great for kids since the fish has no bones of sorts that can ruin your day when eating. Although I don't, it is possibl to eat the entire fish including the semi- solid membranes considered its bones... Yummie

                                                                    1. Seeing how this thread is resurrected, I'm wondering how the OP's article went?
                                                                      sbreselor hasn't posted since (or before)....