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Fish Snob That I Am

I have caught and cooked a LOT of fish in my life and I cook it well enough that I’m a snob about eating fish at a restaurant. My friends know this about me. I’ve sent fish back to the kitchen when we’ve eaten together. If we’re at a restaurant that touts itself as a fish-cooking wonder, it’d damn-well better be.

Segue. I’ve eaten some incredibly delicious fish at restaurants here in Italy. Heaven on my plate. Divinity. But I’m still perplexed by something I’ve seen a number of times.

I have ordered, and seen ordered, succulent “pan fish”, either roasted or grilled: branzino, orata, trota, etc. After whatever masterful preparation, the tuxedoed waiter arrives at the table with the fish on a platter and presents it with a flourish to the hungry diner. He then steps aside with the fish and proceeds to mangle it in offering his services of deboning the poor beast. Ten minutes later, the fish is cold and lies in a heap looking as if it has already been masticated. It resembles little of a fish.

Fish snob that I am, it baffles me when I see this abomination of fish-delivery.

Please tell me, WHY doesn’t the man-in-the-tuxedo simply lift the tail and let the lower filet slip away from the bones? He can then flip the remaining filet over, lift the tail again, and have two entire, appetizing filets ready and waiting. The rib bones are all attached at the spine and lifted away in one piece. The whole maneuver, in experienced hands, can take just a couple flicks of the wrists and leave the fish still-hot and appealing.

My dinner tonight, granted, is of a finer-textured fish (trout) and hasn’t been cleaned of edges and fins for a beautiful presentation, but, boom-boom, it took just seconds to lift the bones away. Since the fish hasn’t been cooked ’til dry, the delicate meat lifts off the skin with a wisp.

Last October I cooked a delicious branzino meal, my first time cooking that fish. Mmm.

  1. lynnJuly 12,10

    I am always amazed at the waiters that employ two spoons, wielded like chop sticks, to pick up the fish and separate the spine. Skilled waiters are faster with their spoons than I am with my fingers, and leave less bones.

    If I were you, I’d be tempted to ask your waiter to leave the fish whole. Once he’s gone, you can debone as desired. Can that be more tacky than the hash he makes of the fish?

  2. MaureenJuly 12,10

    But you never know until AFTERWARDS whether the guy knows what he’s doing or not. Last summer in Ischia, I watched, horrified, at what a waiter did to the fish ordered by the woman at the next table.

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