ChefTalk.com would like to thank Chef Charles Weber of Riva Restaurant in Chicago, Il. for sharing some of his fast knowledge about fish. Recently Chef Weber put together a comprehensive document of fish descriptions for his wait staff to help educate them about the subject. At our last Chef's Journal we asked Chef Weber if he would share it with the ChefTalk community and he was more than happy to do so. The list is very comprehensive, in fact, the list is so comprehensive that we have broken it up into two parts.
SEARCH TIP *(If you are looking for a particular subject, just press the Ctrl key and the F key at the same time to bring up a mini search box. You can then type in the type of fish you are looking for and it will locate it for you on the the page.)
Anadromous: This is a term that refers to any species of fish that migrate from fresh water to salt water, usually in the late spring after the ice breaks up, returning in the early fall to spawn. This is where they get the pictures of the salmon jumping up the waterfalls.
Angler: a.k.a. monkfish or lotte Found in north Atlantic waters only from North Carolina to Newfoundland. Only the tail portion is eaten. Sweet firm white meat, texture like lobster. The liver is also edible. Used at RIVA as the blackened special with ancho chili sauce.
Arctic Char: Arctic Char live above the 60th parallel around the world. There are dozens of species each one quite different than the rest. Today it is a very successfully farm raised fish from Iceland to Alaska. Very similar to salmon but more closely related to the eastern brook trout. We offer it as a grill fish and some great specials.
Black Sea Bass: From the East Coast, predominantly in the middle states. Firm yet delicate, lean, sweet flavor, white meat. Usually line caught to depths of 250 feet.
Chilean Sea Bass: From the South American pacific coast. Delicate firm, brilliant white flesh, sweet mild flavor. At RIVA used as a grill and special fish.
Striped Bass: East Coast. Available wild in different seasonal locations and farm raised in Carolina and Virginia. The farm-raised fish are in the 2# range and are used as a whole fish preparation and filleted tableside. The wild fish are bought direct from the East Coast whole at 30-40 lbs. per fish. We use the "hand line caught" wild fish as a grill fish but recommend it in some special roasted preparations. A wonderful medium flavored firm flesh- delicate flaked fish.
Black Cod: Atlantic cod from the East Coast. Pristine white delicate meat. Firm yet flaky texture. At RIVA we prefer not to grill this fish but we love to use it in creative specials, usually steamed or roasted.
Cobia: Most commonly available from the West Coast, but also popular in Florida. This fish is in a family by itself, there are no closely related species, however its shape resembles the mackerel. Quite a bit larger however because it is a favorite for sportfisherman. The fish has a good fat content and grills wonderful, its large flaked white meat resembles mahi mahi.
Corvina: Drum family, from the West Coast. Rich firm flesh. High oil content Makes this an excellent fish for the grill or grilled specials.
Flounder: Also called fluke. A popular East Coast flatfish, that means the fish is not rounded like most fish but is flat and has both eyes on the same side. These types of fish as well as skate are also dark and spotted on their top side and all white on their bottom sides. The meat is delicate in flavor and texture and tends to be overpowered when grilled. At RIVA we prefer to Sauté or steam this fish and highlight it a daily special.
Grouper: We use both black and red grouper, they are very similar except for coloration. The fish come from Florida, both the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast. The flesh is firm yet flaky and white with a mild flavor. At RIVA we sell a lot of grouper due to its popularity, we offer it as a grilled fish preparation as well as several popular special preparations.
Mahi-Mahi: Dolphin fish, Dorado. This fish comes from both the South Atlantic and the south Pacific, but is much More Superior from Hawaii. The flesh is moist and firm with large flakes with a med. to mild flavor, its high oil content makes this another great grilling fish. Due to its popularity it sells well just plain grilled or as creative special preparations.
Marlin: Available from the Florida coast but we buy the Hawaiian blue marlin known as "kajiki". Dense rich meat, definitely should be served medium or less. Similar to swordfish or spearfish. We use it frequently as a grill fish as well as for some nice specials.
Moonfish: More commonly known as OPAH this fish is pictured * on the previous page. This one time bycatch fish has now become a pricey popular fish from Hawaii only. It has a large-grained flesh and rich oily sweet flavor. It has a beautiful pink color (sometimes it can be very dark ranging from deep reds to orangish red) when raw but turns white as it cooks. This impressively beautiful fish has a lot of lore that goes along with it including reference to it being a "good luck" fish etc&. We offer opah as a grill fish as well as some great specials including the ever-so- popular Grilled Opah "Hawaiian Style".
Parrotfish: This beautiful fish is also a rare and expensive culinary delight. With a resemblance to grouper it is much richer and more delicate. It is bought directly from our Hawaiian fish man.
Pompano: This popular Florida coast favorite has a firm fillet and mild flavor. It is white with a distinctive sweet flavor. It makes a great grilling fish and lends well to Caribbean preparations with spicy flavors cooled with tropical fruits.
Red Snapper: This wonderful fish from the Florida coasts is well known for its delicate, flaky, mild, white flesh. At RIVA we use the 2# fish as a whole grilled special preparation. We also use larger 10 lb. and up fish as a whole grilled fish offering as well as some great whole fish preparation specials.
Salmon: Salmon are one of very few types of fish that are anadramous, meaning that they migrate from their saltwater habitat to spawn in fresh water. The primary salmon we use is Atlantic salmon, farm raised in Canada. It is the finest quality farm raised salmon available and there are a lot out there from the East Coast to the West Coast to Chile in South America. The wild salmon we buy are predominantly from Alaska, the most popular or well known being the Copper River kings. The wild salmon have a more distinctive flavor they are fattier and the flesh is more desirable. The farmed salmon are milder in flavor but are more readily available and less expensive. Salmon is one of the most culinarily versatile fish available. At RIVA, salmon is a very popular grilled fish as well as a wonderful fish For various preparations from baking in a parchment paper bag, to roasting, to steaming or a creative preparation we do is to pound the fish very thin and flash broil it.
Spearfish: This Hawaiian fish know also as hebi (pronounced like heavy with a b) is frequently offered at RIVA. It has firm flesh that is mild flavored similar to swordfish in flavor and texture. It is a great grilling fish but tends to dry out if overcooked.
Shark: Several species are available: mako and thresher. Mostly available from Tropical areas. The flesh is firm with a thick leathery skin. The fish may have a strong smell when raw but the smell is gone after cooking. The fish is excellent as a grilled fish. Shark has mild to medium flavors.
Skate: Manta Ray wings, found on both coasts, have no bones only cartilage that is removed before cooking when present. The meat is delicate and if not handled properly its uric acid will quickly turn to ammonia. The meat is very delicate and flaky. It resembles the flavor of scallops. At RIVA we use it exclusively for specials where we generally prepare it by sautéing.
Steelhead: Another anadromous fish, this time a trout related species that has a light pink color and resembles the flavor of salmon. We use a farm-raised fish from the Carolina Mountains. It makes an excellent grilling fish.
Sturgeon: This prehistoric looking fish is the same species of fish that the worlds best caviar comes from. The flesh is very firm and dense with coloring that is pinkish yellow with shades of gray. The flavor is a cross between swordfish and shark. There are two different options on the market for Sturgeon; one is the seasonally available wild Columbia River (divides Oregon and Washington) white sturgeon, the other is also white sturgeon where it is farm raised in California.
Swordfish: Found all over the world but prized from several locations. One being the Hawaiian swordfish also called "Shutome", the other being from Block Island (one of the best quality fishing spots on the East Coast). Swordfish is one of the most popular fish in restaurants, generally the customer is familiar with it. The flesh is whitish pink. The bloodlines (thick red-brown coloration between the "eyes" of the swordfish loins) will cause the fish to have a particularly strong fishy flavor even if it is as fresh as can be. Due to the high fat content it is a great grill fish. We also serve it as a RIVA signature item the Swordfish "Monte Cristo".
Tautog: This wrasse fish is abundant both in the Gulf of Mexico - Florida coast and the Atlantic coast as well. Thriving on clams, crab, barnacles, oysters, mussels, coral and anything they can crush in their powerful jaws. Because of their diet the flavor of their meat is wonderful and a little reminiscent to but better than grouper. We offer this fish when available; it is a by-catch and is not readily available. It makes an excellent grill fish but we also use it in some creative specials.
Tilapia: This fish doesn't show up on our menu often but occasionally will make an appearance. One of the oldest commercially raised fish ever, dating back to 2500 B.C. Ancient Egypt. These fish breed after just a few months, because they breed so fast they are easily interbred to produce new hybrids that adapt to new environments quickly and increase productivity. I won't get into the specific abuses of the farming practices of these fish which is very important to have a reputable supplier. When you have a fresh quality tilapia it is an excellent fish, its fine textured white meat can be a wonderful culinary delight! Because of its African origins we run tilapia as a special "Moroccan barbecued with almond cous cous".
Trout: Trout species vary all over the world. Mostly found in cooler northern waters of the United States and Canada. The fish thrive in mountain rivers and streams. The wild trout however are very seldom offered to restaurant customers. The most popular types of trout are farm raised brook and rainbow trout. The ones we serve occasionally are farm raised right across the border in Wisconsin at Rushing Waters Fisheries. Trout flesh can range from almost white to shades of pink to salmon colored dark orange depending on species and diet. The flavor can be from sweet and mild to a rich and full flavored. Trout are also adaptable to many different cooking methods, from pan frying whole to steaming rolled fillets to poaching to broiling even curing and smoking are popular methods of preparation.
Tuna: Tuna has become one of the most popular of all fish. Tuna can grow to weigh as much as 300-1500 lbs. They restlessly roam the deeper off- shore waters, feeding on fish, squid, crab larvae and shrimp. They actually prefer the tropical waters of Hawaii and Florida. The species most prized for the best meat-primarily served raw are Bluefin, Bigeye and Yellowfin. The meat is deep red and firm with a flavor that resembles beef more than fish. At RIVA we have a signature appetizer and entrée highlighting Yellowfin Tuna. We try to bring in the tuna from Hawaii whenever it is possible because the quality always seems better than the Florida tuna which is very nice anyway.
Walleye Pike: The walleye pike is a freshwater lake fish. There are very few of these types commercially available, especially that are use in a white tablecloth restaurant. Other freshwater fish include perch and whitefish. These fish have snowy white meat, fine flake and a sweet delicate flavor. They are much more esteemed in Europe than they are in our country, but their popularity is increasing. They are versatile and suit well to the same cooking preparations as sole. We don't offer it as a grilled fish but run specials with it occasionally.
Whitefish: The whitefish is a Midwest signature fish. Believe it or not this fish is barely even known outside of the Midwest. It is commercially harvested from the Great Lakes, predominantly lakes Superior and Erie. It has a very mild flavored delicate flaky white meat that is best broiled or sautéed. We do not offer it as a grilled fish but serve it as a signature "Barcelona" preparation.