Whole Fish

Gulf Seafood + Southern Food

Being consumed by a life in the Food & Beverage industry has proven to be many things, in many places. As a professional cook I have bought and sold fish on 3 different continents in 5 different countries, searching for as many varieties available and learning the cooking techniques and methods that will bring the best out of each fish on the plate. I suppose that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for a childhood saturated with fishing and hunting, good cooks and grandmothers (and a father who insisted I learn a marketable trade). I spent my childhood, and now my adulthood, scouring the Gulf Coast in search of any manner of fish to make my drag scream and straighten out my line. Still, after all these years, I am continually humbled by the vast amount of things that I don’t know about and what’s really out there.

I am sure you can understand the pure elation I experience when I stumble on a fish from the Gulf that I have never seen, nor was even aware existed. That’s when it starts for me: I begin to sweat and my mind starts reeling. What can I do to this unfamiliar and underutilized prize to spark interest (besides standing on the street corner and shouting like a carnie, “Live! On Showcase!”).

I recognize what it must feel like on the other side of the table, that the unknown can be a nerve-racking thing to a diner, and rightfully so. I know I am asking that person to blindly trust and ingest a foreign substance (and to make it even worse) in a highly social setting. It’s a complex, intimate relationship between strangers. You have to somehow establish a base of trust either through their previous experience, familiarity with the product or simply reputation. And you must do it quickly and in 10 words or less. Jumbled with many other choices that could be more accessible, familiar and comforting, the unknown can so easily be dismissed. It’s a hell of a thing.

So here we have it, from Whole Fish to sales pitch.

Longtail Sea Bass

Longtail Sea Bass, Smoky Oil, Jalapeno-Ponzu, Pickled Watermelon Salad

Longtail Sea Bass - Hemanthias leptus - This fish was totally unknown to me three months ago. I have yet to find any information on-line (other than one picture) or in a book. I believe it is a true sea bass because of its long pelvic fins, larger expanded hinged jaw and the full flowing soft dorsal and anal fins that are extremely similar to that of the Black Sea Bass from the North East Coast. This fish averages 1 ½ -3 pounds, lives in extreme deep water and has a stark white, opaque flesh. It is extremely tender and should not be wasted with hot food applications. Raw is the only way to go.

Pink Sea Bream

Thai Style Whole Pink Sea Bream

Pink Sea Bream or Red Porgy Pagrus pagrus- A member of the Porgy family (some well-known international family members from the Mediterranean Sea are the Orata or Golden Dorade). Locally, you can find other Pink Sea Bream relatives like Sheepshead, Jolthead and Knobbed Porgy – all of which are just as tasty. This fish usually runs in the 2-6 pound range and has a sweet flaky flesh. When in the 2-3 pound range, they are perfect for a whole fish application.

Texas Queen Snapper

Crispy Skin Queen Snapper, Sweet & Sour Swiss Chard, Tomato Brown Butter

Texas Queen Snapper or Onaga Etelis oculatus- You’ll know this fish as Onaga; it is used prevalently in many sushi houses. It is mostly sourced from the Pacific Islands, especially around Hawaii. I believe the Texas Queen Snapper to be the all-around best tasting snapper I’ve ever had. Looking at the oversized eyes, you can guess that this fish comes from super-deep waters. It has a white, translucent flesh that is flaky and sweet. Great with or without heat; skin crisps up wonderfully.


Christopher said...

Nice work, Caz. Looking forward to the blog.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the perpetual educations of Caswell...thanks for keeping us updated on the subject. Your my #1, Siracha-man...whoa!!!

jei said...

~ and nothing but the fish...

`cept at y'all's new place, little BIG's!

Met you on opening night - loved the chic slider.

Hoping for more menu items - - -

Keeping with the name, would love to see some apps. in either littler portion, (that you could triple up,) or in dinner sized portions or both.

Keep up the GOOD FOOD!!!



Joe said...

Aside from fishing from the gulf, where would one get these goodies?

neverfull said...

oh just rub it in will you? the elusive thai-style whole fish that always sells out before i get there. you would think i would start coming in earlier in the evening...

the other 2 dishes are delicious! the queen snapper was a real treat. now i know exactly why they are so special.

great blog bryan. looking forward to reading/learning a lot more from you.

Whole Fish said...

availability is always a bitch but the best man in town for these types is Mark Mussatto over at airline seafood on richmond. Tell him the Caz sent you. He's been a friend, co-worker, supplier and fishing buddy of mine for years. Most of what I've learned about these fish we have done standing side by side.


Whole Fish said...


Just twitter the wholefish request and its guaranteed

provided i figure how to work that deal by then


Anonymous said...

Fish On!!! My wife and I loved the porgie special at your stella sola last Friday night. It was an amazing fish; tender, moist & tasty. A fish I will look forward to eating again. Oh, not to mention the crudo app. Wonderful!
Thank u.

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