Why the whole fish?
Last week, an anonymous commenter raised a good question: Where can you go to get a good whole fish in Houston?
But first, why eat the whole fish? A recent New York Times article gave two reasons why eating the whole fish is better.
The first reason I knew -- honesty. As Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan has said, "you should at least have the guts to look it in the eye." Or as my anonymous commenter asked, "Where to [go] for a fish that stubbornly returns your glance when eating it?"
The second reason never occurred to me -- eating the whole fish reduces waste and helps fish populations. The NYT article explained, "Millions of pounds of good meat are dumped into the sea after the fillets are removed from a fish’s carcass." In a time when overfishing is a serious problem, and fish prices are rising, it makes sense to avoid waste.
Plus, in my opinion, the best fish meat is in the back top of the head -- a part that doesn't show up in a fillet.
Whole fish in Houston
In Houston, whole fish is difficult, but not impossible, to find in restaurants.
For the last two weekends, I have had an outstanding whole fish special called "huanchinango entero" at Pico's Mexican Restaurant. This is a delicious, high quality snapper. The restaurant's standard preparation is with garlic and olive oil. But I prefer Pico's delicate Veracruzana preparation -- a light, barely spicy sauce of tomatoes, onions, and green olives. I can't remember the exact price, but I believe it was around $24.
A much cheaper whole fish is the steamed tilapia on the menu at Chinese Cafe on Richmond. Although I am often disappointed with the quality of tilapia, the tilapia at Chinese cafe is very good. I have eaten it at least 10 times without complaints. Chinese Cafe prepares whole fish several ways, including steamed fish smothered in black bean sauce and fried. My favorite is the simplest and healthiest -- steamed with ginger and green onions. The cost less than $10 -- a real bargain.
An unsual whole fish is the tempura fried bass with dipping sauces, called "fish and chips," at Soma. The dish is visually interesting, but exterior of the fish I tried tasted a bit dry. Also, it is too heavy for one person. It is a fun dish to share for a large table.
Other commenters suggested a few restaurants that serve whole fish dishes, which I have not tried. These include Mykonos Island and Da Marco's. Arcodoro and Pesce also make whole fish dishes that I would like to try.
Unless it is a large fish (tuna would be difficult), I much prefer eating a fish whole. It is surprising that more restaurants do not offer that option.