Few things are more enjoyable than eating a whole fish. Cooked on the bone, its flesh stays flavorful and succulent -- a far cry from most dry, overcooked fillets. All a whole fish needs is a bit of lemon. All you need alongside it is a cold beer.
Sure, not everyone agrees with me. Commentators on this week's Fish Fish review showed disdain for head- and tail-on eating, and their preference for fillets has become increasingly evident at Miami restaurants.
At Bocce Bar in midtown, Timon Balloo serves a roasted branzino fillet alongside braised fennel and cipollini onions. Offering the fish whole would deter diners from ordering it, he fears.
"The fish was supposed to be more authentic and served on the bone. But the reality is people say, 'We don't want to see the bone,'" he explains.
When you order the grilled whole daurade at Lure Fish Bar, the staff issues a disclaimer: The fish is served head- and tail-on. During a recent visit, our server warned us twice. I've encountered similar warnings at many restaurants -- Oishi Thai, Fish Fish, among others.
So why are Miamians so squeamish about eating whole fish?
Cost is a valid concern. On most menus, whole fish are listed at market price. They're certainly pricier than most dishes, but they can usually feed two. Eating around the bones can also prove cumbersome for some. If you eat enough whole fish, though, you can get the hang of it.
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SHOW ME HOW
Maybe it's because cooked whole fish looks too much like its live, swimming counterpart. We've gotten used to thinking of fish as one thing: Neatly-arranged fillets sitting inside a refrigerated display case.
But this is Miami, a city endowed with terrifically fresh hogfish, lion fish, and snapper. It would be a shame not to enjoy our local catches in their purest form -- even if it means battling the occasional bone or two.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.