Chef Simon Stojanovic, AltaMare's head chef, likes big fish. "Growing up in New South Wales," Stojanovic says, "I used to love eating a big bundle of fish and chips -- the fish always being local shark." It was his idea for AltaMare's new happy hour special: $10 Fish and Chips, the catch being either mako or black tip, daily from 5 to 7 p.m.
"The idea to feature this dish actually came to me on a rainy day when I was in Orlando watching the shuttle launch," Stojanovic pauses. "I just thought of fish and chips!"
The sharks are caught in local Florida waters by a fishing charter company that recently provided him with a 40-pound mako. He explains that shark, unlike most fish, has a great yield ratio; "I usually get 70 to 75 percent of meat from a shark whereas other fish yield around 30 percent." It's cheap too, at only $3 a pound.
Momofuku, a story and recipe book by Chef David Chang which conveys bold
Asian flavors, sits beside Stojanovic. He tells of his admiration of
Asian cuisine but explains his disapproval of shark
fin soup which is often prepared by using the fins and discarding the live body.
He presents the finished fare in rectangular wrapped brown butcher paper
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and unfolds it, exposing the two eight-inch fillets of Heineken battered
black tip atop a generous portion of steel cut fries. Tangy homemade
dill tartar sauce accompanies it along with malt vinegar and ketchup.
When asked how he promotes this deal since it's not on the menu, he says he prefers word-of-mouth and that he'll be getting a chalk board soon
to display his catch to patrons passing by.
As for customer feedback: "All positive," says Stojanovic. He even
bragged about reviews by three English customers, experts of the dish. "They said it was the best
fish and chips they've ever had" he says with a proud and confident
"Shark is a good fish," he says bluntly "It's tender and layered like
tuna but with its own unique taste." He says if he had to compare it
with another fish, it'd be snapper or grouper.
When asked about his other menu favorites, he brings out whole uncooked trigger fish and hog snapper, items featured on the dinner menu. The hog snapper ($24) is flaky and soft on the
inside. These fish eat lobsters. Stojanovic explained that they enter
lobster traps and go to town on the imprisoned crustaceans, using their
small but sharp fangs as weapons.
The trigger fish ($34), has the fleshy consistency of lobster but is veiled in a thick firm skin.
Asked if he's a fan of Shark Week, "I put it on at the
restaurant, but with all the blood and gore, I didn't want to upset
customers so I turned it off."
Looks like the tables are turned now as the predator becomes our food.