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Started a quest for amazing cooked fish…? (with my rankings thus far)

  • c

Where to go? Bonus if it would be low-end or mid-range dining. Obvious targets:
Chinatown, because of steamed live-fresh fish. Maybe a secret Thai restaurant somewhere. Or salmon collar in some izakaya. Le Bernardin, because obviously.

My quest began with the subjective rankings below. I am interested in other genres of restaurants and species of fish. If it is earth-shatteringly good, I will definitely be interested and look into it.

••• [excellent]
Per Se - Halibut
Corton - Monkfish
Corton - Madai
ABC Kitchen - Black Sea Bass

•• [highly recommend]
EMP - John Dory (ca. 2010)
Hearth - Swordfish
Babbo - Branzino
JG - Black Sea Bass

• [would order again]
Robataya - Anago
Tsukushi - Hake
L'Artusi - Tilefish
Tsukushi - Mackerel
Sushi Yasuda - Chilean Sea Bass
Atera - Halibut

+ [very nice and tasty]
The Modern - Cobia
The Modern - Cod
Bouley - two fishes
Aldea - Monkfish
JG - Red Snapper
JG - Turbot
Acme - Red Snapper

n.b.: This list is more about the flavor and texture of the fish alone (which of course can be highly variable); the sauces and accompaniments may be fantastic, but I don't particularly account for that here. For example Aldea's Monkfish is a must-order due to everything else happening in the dish.

p.s.: Despite this list of restaurants, I really mean it regarding low-end dining. Last week I had the best tilapia, ever, and from a deli, of all places, and would put it under • if only it were within NYC.

p.p.s.: The ecosystem is important. To that end I hope to strive for small quantity, high quality.

What kind of fish have you liked?

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  1. Interesting post,,, hard to recall all the great fish I have had. But I'll try to remember a few.
    Danji- the poached sable, flaked off perfectly and great flavor sauce
    Jungsik- crispy snapper with crispy scales on skin
    Greenwich Grill- Grilled Branzino ( other grilled fish as well, perfectly done)
    Nobu- jalapeño yellowtail ( others have copied but no one does it better)
    Kanoyama- Blue Fin ribs,,,scoop off raw delicious fish with a spoon,,then grill what's left
    Kanoyama- Blue eye and socket
    Lutece- ( no longer around) baked whole salmon ( unbelievable)
    Blue Ribbon Izakaya- salmon with crispy skin
    Blue ribbon Izakaya- aji 2 ways
    15 East- bluefin tail sushi
    15 East- best anago, best octopus
    Tito Rad's ( Queens) tuna collar
    Paradou- marinated white anchovies
    Lucien- Bouillabaise
    Robataya- every fish I've ever had there has been excellent
    Bar Pitti- Grilled Sardines
    Acqua Grill- grilled Atlantic Salmon with a falafel crust
    Sushi Azabu- warm Shirako
    Toon's Thai- crispy red snapper
    Maharlika- fried bangus ( milkfish)
    Russ and Daughters- Smoked Gaspe salmon

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Surprised to see Marea missing on your list. Try the branzino.

      1. re: arepo

        I never tried the branzino at Marea, I'll remember to do so. I had scallops when I was there, which were very good. I also had amazing sea bass at le Bernadin when they first opened, my last meal there was terrible ,so i left Le Bernadin off my list also.

    2. Larb Pla Korb at Zabb Elee is a whole tilapia, filleted, sliced and fried into tough, chewy chunks, dressed with larb accoutrements, and then reunited with its crunchy fried skeleton. It's unique (to me at least), and you can read all about it on Lau's website.

      I'm not sure what to make of your pps on the ecosystem. If you're down on farmed fish, then you have no business setting foot in any inexpensive restaurant anywhere. And every fish you listed in your rankings is on the red list. Seriously.

      4 Replies
      1. re: knucklesandwich

        Well, looking at the Monterey Bay Aquarium list, many are coded Green and Yellow. Some are indeed Red-listed. I appreciate your criticism, but I think it is important to be factually correct.

        Sorry if my comment about sustainability was too vague. Personally, I have a *lot* of comments about it. Though I felt this wasn't necessarily the place to discuss the issue in depth, I felt it important enough to at least mention it. The consumption of fish is a kind of privilege, and should indeed be thought as such.

        My list probably does generally appear quite insane from an environmental standpoint, but the truth is it is a one-time survey that I will not be repeating again any time soon. Furthermore, out of this list, only the first 8 I feel are "worth the trip", so to speak, and in particular, the ones under ••• are essentially lifetime occasions. Considering also that some are merely are bite-sized morsels, the total direct impact is negligible. (Of course, I could be accused of implicitly encouraging the status quo through my expression of approval, but that's another can of worms to analyze).

        Looking at the bigger picture, I'd humbly suggest that environmentalism is åctually a hidden motive in my own search for truly good fish. By sharing what's good and learning to become a more discriminating taster, perhaps it will one day become to possible to enjoy the offerings of the sea while minimizing one's environmental footprint. This is a known idea in general: by showing people how to enjoy high quality, nutritious meals, they are less likely to want low quality foods like junk foods. I am reminded of the book "French Women Don't Get Fat". The thesis behind that book was that pleasure is not a liability but a kind of weapon against excess.

        I guess the final question is, why not eschew fish completely, or at least adhere to the official lists of safe fishes? And there I will openly admit to my own ambivalence. I feel a need to strike a balance between my traditional culture (growing up in SE Asia) where fish is integral to our eating, and the scientific reality of the state of our world's oceans. So I'm working on it. And I think there are many others experiencing a position like mine.

        1. re: calf

          The Monterey Bay Aquarium list is a compromise at best, and an exercise in restaurant marketing. Whether the issue is trawling, depleted stocks, or exploitation of juvenile finfish (which are made into food for fish farms), any fish on your list which wasn't caught with a single hook and line is a lousy choice.

          Except for the mackerel. My bad.

          1. re: calf

            I fish for much of my fish There is a legal size and quantity limit on striped bass. Even a number limit on bluefish. Fluke has a size limit. But the commercial "draggers" drag their their nets dig up the bottom of the ocean, mess with the ecosystem. Ban the commercial draggers, who fish up tons and tons of especially the oily fish ,,and ship much of it to the middle east who are big consumers of these.

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              Folks, let's not have this argument here -- it's more of a topic for Food Media and News or General Topics. Thanks.

        2. Esca
          Momofuku Ssam
          Ma Peche

          1. Maialino - Salt baked sea bass for two
            JG - Salmon with tomatoes (summer menu)
            Il Mulino - Salt baked dover sole
            Daniel - Turbot
            Gramercy Tavern - any fish special
            Lure Fishbar - bronzino with ponzu sauce
            Aquagrill

            1. as a recreational fisherman, I have my own opinions about the ecosystem argument, which I will leave for another time and place.

              Prima has some good basic fish, maybe mid-end relative to your list. Maybe worth a look, Im not a fish connoisseur, so I would be interested to hear peoples opinions.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Hey19

                Thanks for bringing Prima to my attention. I never noticed this place. The NY Times article describes some excellent fish dishes they have. I will surely try this place soon.
                http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/din...

              2. Is there a
                - [would not order again]
                to steer us clear of disasters?