#3 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#3: Pan-Seared Halibut @ Gautreau’s Halibut is not a local fish, but we can forgive it that. It’s one of the best of the exotic species we find on New Orleans menus. Chef Sue Zemanick at Gautreau’s features it as often as she can get it fresh (usually and best from Alaska). She cuts thick rectangles from the enormous fillets, and either sears them or roasts them under an herbal crust. It has become a signature dish at the Uptown bistro. Gautreau’s. Uptown: 1728 Soniat St. 504-899-7397.

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#16 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Entrees.

#16: Combination Pan Roast @ Pascal’s Manale Although Pascal’s Manale is most famous for its shrimp, in my opinion their great specialty is oysters. They’re good from the raw ones in the bar through this dish, one of the most complex of their concoctions. It started as an all-oyster entree, but evolved into an appetizer with oysters, shrimp, and crabmeat. Holding everything together is a bechamel sauce that looks cheesy, but isn’t. It does include a lot of green onions, which makes the dish. Bread crumbs on top, a pass…

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#17 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes.

#17: Mussels, Saffron Cream Sauce, Chorizo @ Pardo’s Pardo’s is the newest five-star restaurant in the area. This dish is an appetizer special there, and worth calling ahead to make sure they’re serving it. I love mussels, but it’s rare that I’ve had a version as good as this. In fact, I can’t think of a better version. The sauce/broth is thick, aromatic with saffron, and spicy with the juices coming from the Spanish chorizo. It’s a little too thick and intense to eat with a spoon, as is my…

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#19 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#19: Crabmeat Remick @ Clancy’s Crabmeat Remick is baked in the same way crabmeat au gratin is, but with a much zestier sauce. It became famous locally at the Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel, although it appears to have been invented in the 1920s at the Plaza Hotel in New York, where it was named for William H. Remick, the former head of the New York Stock Exchange. The Caribbean Room through most of its history was a high-upscale restaurant that routinely reproduced famous dishes from all over the…

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#20 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#20: Blue Crabmeat Eggs Benedict @ Mattina Bella Mattina Bella is the best breakfast cafe on the North Shore, which is saying something–what with the large number of breakfast places in Mandeville and Covignton. There’s nothing especially offbeat about the menu, but they put out the classics with such attention to detail that you’d have to go to a fancy hotel or Brennan’s on Royal Street to equal it. This dish is exactly what it implies: English muffins topped with crabmeat or crawfish with mushrooms, topped with poached eggs and…

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#21 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#21: Gnocchi With Crabmeat And Mushrooms @ Tujague’s When the ancient (1856) restaurant Tujague’s updated itself in 2013, one of the dishes on the new menu was something so superb that customers who had it as an appetizer often asked to have a bigger plate of it as an entree. The gnocchi are made in house with a very deft hand. The texture is perfect. So is the sauce that connects it with the other elements on the place. The crabmeat is a no-brainer, but the wild mushrooms are another…

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#22 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#22 Free-Form Crabmeat Raviolo @ Atchafalaya “Raviolo” is singular of “the much more common Italian word “ravioli,” and says that you only get one of them. That’s plenty enough in this case. The pasta part is a five-inch-square sheet, folded over some lump crabmeat in an uncomplicated but very good sauce involving shiitake mushrooms, spinach, unsweetened mascarpone cheese, and a creamy-looking citrus beurre blanc with a sprinkling of green onions. The crabmeat is the center of attraction. Even though it plays solo, one of these is big enough to split,…

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#23 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Although the black drum (cousin of redfish) is the center of the plate, the shrimp are what you’ll remember. It comes to the table napped with a buttery, peppery sauce, but a little pitcher on the side allows you to add the second, different, and much hotter sauce to your liking. Owner JoAnn Clevenger said she saw the idea in a restaurant she visited, and had then-chef Ken Smith devise the Upperline’s version. Read More. . .

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#24 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#24 Trout Muddy Waters @ Mondo The funky restaurant phenomenon that was Uglesich’s is gone and probably will never be back. Most of its unique dishes are gone too. But one has made a leap from beyond the grave onto at least two current restaurant menus. Trout Muddy Waters (it can be and often was made with redfish or drum) was a straightforward pan-seared fillet with an equally commonplace meuniere sauce in the Creole style. What made it different was the addition of jalapeno pepper chopped into the sauce. Susan…

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Exotic Seafood Countdown #25: Monkfish
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Countdown #25: Monkfish

Monkfish has a helpful nickname: “lobster fish.” That tell you almost everything you need to know about it–that its flesh has the texture, firmness, and brilliant white color of lobster tail meat. Its structure even has that twisted appearance that lobster meat does.

The difference is in the flavor, as fine as its appearance. A little too assertive to be called mild, but not so strong that it would put anyone off. This must have come as a surprise to the first man who ever caught a monkfish, because this is one ugly sea denizen. Read More. . .

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#27 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#27 Salmon with Choucroute and Gewurztraminer Sauce @ Bayona As good as Bayona has been during its entire eighteen-year history, it seems to me that it’s improved since the hurricane. One index of that is what happened to this dish, a standard on Chef Susan Spiscer’s menu since opening day. The salmon is now routinely wild-caught Pacific salmon. That’s exceptional here; I know of only one other restaurant that offers that incomparably superior salmon all the time. The dish itself always was good. Its flavor is that of Alsace, the…

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#28 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

#28#Crabmeat and Brie Soup @ Dakota This soup–now such a signature item for this five-star restaurant that they bring it to every charity event they join–was created when the kitchen found itself with an excess of Brie cheese. Brie does not last forever, so chef Kim Kringlie plowed it into the already rich crabmeat and cream bisque. What emerged was a soup with the tang of cream, the bitterness of Brie, the fat mouthfeel of both, and, overriding it all, the flavor of crabmeat both from backfin lumps and crab…

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#33 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Every year during Lent, we take a long, loving look at the most distinctive part of the New Orleans menu: our matchless seafood. The theme is different each year, sometimes looking at restaurant menus for the best familiar dishes, other years reviewing the species of seafood that enrich our tables. This year, our search is for the most creative, offbeat dishes on restaurants’ menus. It’s a countdown of thirty-three seafood dishes, one for each of the weekdays in Lenten, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. As always, the thirty-third best…

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Exotic Seafood Survey #1: Red Snapper
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #1: Red Snapper

Chefs who really know their fish (at Brigtsen’s, Commander’s, GW Fins, and Peche, to name a few) find getting red snapper well worth the trouble. It’s frequently and prominently featured on the menu. Snapper is distinctly better in taste and texture than redfish, with which it is often confused (on menus, not in markets). Red snapper has a tender texture that holds together well even though I’d call it a flaky fish. The taste is pure and good. The oil content is relatively low, but despite that there is no lack of flavor. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #2: Soft-Shell Crabs
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #2: Soft-Shell Crabs

No food illustrates how fortunate we avid eaters are to live in Louisiana. Everywhere else, the very idea of a soft-shell crab is attended by connotations of rarity and exotica. The stuff of ambitious restaurants whose dishes require a paragraph to explain. Have you ever seen a soft-shell crab on the menu of a national chain restaurant? But around here, we eat them all over the place, down to poor boy sandwiches from neighborhood joints.
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Exotic Seafood Survey #3: Halibut
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #3: Halibut

The best dish I ate during a cruise in Alaska was a surprise special. The ship’s captain went fishing one day and pulled up a 200-pound halibut. He sent it to the galley, where the chef made it a verbal dinner special. It was magnificent: a thick block of white, flaky goodness, moist and vivId, in a sauce with a little cream, peas, and red pepper. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #4: Sea Scallops
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Exotic Seafood Survey #4: Sea Scallops

Sea scallops have become omnipresent on local menus, even though they come from waters far away from New Orleans. Air shipping of seafood makes it possible for us to enjoy fresh scallops in our restaurants, and sometimes even from our grocery stores. Unfortunately, we’re also still getting the not-so-fresh scallops, too. Like as not, those are the ones you’ll see in the supermarkets. More on that–and the little bay scallops, too–later.
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Exotic Seafood Survey #5: Wild-Caught Catfish
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #5: Wild-Caught Catfish

The best catfish–small, wild-caught specimens from the freshwater bayous around Louisiana–are among the best eating fish we have. Unfortunately, almost all the catfish you are likely to find in markets and restaurants was raised in farms. The food it eats, the environment it lives in, and the large size it is allowed to attain make the flavor of farm-raised catfish sub-optimal. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #6: Tripletail
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Exotic Seafood Survey #6: Tripletail

Tripletail is a fish found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. It also swims up the Gulf Stream and into the Atlantic, where fishermen in the Carolinas sometimes catch it. There it’s better known by its other name–blackfish. But “tripletail” has a better ring, doesn’t it? That arises from the positions of the dorsal and anal fins, which are about the same size and shape as the tail fin. So they give the illusion that the fish has three tails.
Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #7: Pacific Salmon
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #7: Pacific Salmon

Five different species of salmon live in the Pacific Ocean, and spawn in rivers on the American and Canadian West Coast. The main difference between these and the more common Atlantic salmon is that the Pacific fish face an incomparably more challenging swim upstream on their native streams to spawn. To survive this, they build up a lot of fat. Much fat=big flavor. (The fat is also why salmon is also the most beneficial fish to eat from a health perspective.) Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #8: Lemonfish
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Exotic Seafood Survey #8: Lemonfish

Lemonfish–also called cobia or ling–is a big Gulf fish much liked by both fishermen and cooks. It grows to about 100 pounds, and when you land a nice one it’s cause for celebration. Not just because of the battle, but because of the prize. This is a great eating fish. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey. #9: Freshwater Trout.
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Exotic Seafood Survey. #9: Freshwater Trout.

As opposed to speckled trout–which, good though they are, are trout in name only–true trout are members of the salmon family. The varieties that come our way come from rivers both in North America (mostly west of the Continental Divide) and Russia. Some populations spend time in the Pacific Ocean, but others remain in the rivers where they were born. Rainbow trout, steelhead trout, and salmon trout are all excellent fish for eating. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #10: Black Mussels
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Exotic Seafood Survey #10: Black Mussels

Mussels are closely related to oysters. They have bivalve shells, thinner and smoother than those of oysters. They hang on anything in the water that will hold them (including other mussels), and filter sea water for nutrients. The meat inside the shell looks like that of an oyster–just smaller, and a different color (the males are orange, the females a cream color). Unlike oysters, however, they’re not especially good raw–either from a taste or health perspective. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #11: Not-So-Red Snappers
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Exotic Seafood Survey #11: Not-So-Red Snappers

Red snapper is one of the great eating fish of the world, and will appear further up this list. But its populations are under pressure and you can’t always get it. To fill the gap, the fish business supplies restaurants and a very few stores with other species in the snapper family. None are as good as red snapper, but they’re far from bad. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #12: Atlantic Salmon
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Survey #12: Atlantic Salmon

Salmon is the most widely-served fish in the fine restaurants of the world. It’s highly thought of wherever it’s found fresh. And that’s just about everywhere these days, courtesy of fish farming and air shipping. Salmon is meaty, tasty, and easy to cook in myriad ways. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #13: Choupique Caviar
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Exotic Seafood Survey #13: Choupique Caviar

The world’s greatest caviars came from several species of gigantic sturgeon that live in the Caspian Sea. But those fish are nearing or beyond the state of endangerment. You cannot buy beluga caviar legally anymore. And the other Caspian caviars are fantastically expensive. But we have an excellent local caviar, from a primitive fish that lives in rivers and bayous around Louisiana. Ichthyologists call it a bowfin. The local name is choupique (pronounced “shoe-pick”), from a Native American word that means “mud fish.” Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #14: Maine Lobster
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Exotic Seafood Survey #14: Maine Lobster

Lobsters do not live around New Orleans, which fact makes them less good than the ones you’d find in the Northeast or Canada. Even with efficient air shipping of live lobsters, the longer they’re out of the sea the less delicious they get. The best locally come from sources that sell so many lobsters that they don’t get a chance to go hungry. Tough lobsters spent too much time in that tank in the dining room. What we call Maine lobster is an homard in the French-speaking world, where a…

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Exotic Seafood Survey #15: Groupers
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Exotic Seafood Survey #15: Groupers

The groupers are more popular in Florida than in Louisiana. But groupers are commonly caught in Gulf waters, and show up ever more frequently on local menus. Groupers come in a number of species, some better than others. The best of them is Warsaw grouper, a large (as much as forty pounds) fish with enormous flakes. I’ve seen individual flakes of it served, interleaved with other seafood or vegetables for a handsome effect. Yellowfin grouper–a smaller fish–is more likely to be the one offered as the fish of the day on New Orleans menus.
Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #16: Wahoo
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Exotic Seafood Survey #16: Wahoo

Long and narrow, the wahoo is a big fish. It grows to a hundred pounds at times, although it’s more usually twenty to fifty. The fish live in the blue-water areas of the Gulf of Mexico, grow quickly, and are in fairly large supply. The name, I hear, comes from what you say if you catch one; it’s supposed to be great sport to pull one in. It shows up only sporadically on menus, because the fish are unschooled loners. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #17: River Shrimp
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Exotic Seafood Survey #17: River Shrimp

The rarest of all edible shrimp in Louisiana waters are the unique little blue shrimp that appear in the major rivers–the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya, at about the spot where the wedge of salt water from the Gulf makes its farthest upstream appearance. Unlike most of the shrimp we eat, river shrimp live fresh water streams. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Survey #18: Stone Crab Claws
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Exotic Seafood Survey #18: Stone Crab Claws

A large crab with an almost square body, stone crabs are well named. Their shell is thick and hard. That’s true even for the claws, which are the parts of the crab that are eaten. The shell on the claw, when broken, can be so sharp that if an eater isn’t careful he can cut his fingers rather badly. (As I have.) Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Countdown #19: Mackerel
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Countdown #19: Mackerel

First, we apply the anchovy test. Nobody’s indifferent about that little Mediterranean fish, but everybody’s familiar with them. And you either love them or hate them. If you like anchovies, please join my movement to get mackerel back on local menus. New Orleans restaurants from the inexpensive to the fancy used to cook Spanish mackerel from the Gulf. Its popularity began to decline after World War II. Now it’s herd to get unless you’re a fisherman or know one. Sushi bars are about the only consistent restaurant servers of mackerel. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Countdown #20: Sea Bass.
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Countdown #20: Sea Bass.

The term “sea bass” is probably too generic for a list like we’re compiling here. There are many kinds of sea bass, found all over the world. However, sea bass is not especially common on Louisiana menus and tables. And only two species are likely to show up here: striped bass and black bass, which are similar and excellent. When fish wholesalers are looking for Carolina speckled trout in the Louisiana off-season, sometimes they get sea bass, too. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Countdown #21: Tropical Lobster
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Countdown #21: Tropical Lobster

As the name implies, these crustaceans come from warm waters. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean are the usual sources of spiny lobster in our part of the world. They are of a different genus from Maine lobster, something most noticeable from their lack of large claws. Langoustes (yet another name, the French one) are covered with spines all around. Read More. . .

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Exotic Seafood Countdown #22: Swordfish.
Countdown: 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes

Exotic Seafood Countdown #22: Swordfish.

The well-named swordfish has been returning to menus and fish markets in recent years, after a brush with overfishing a decade ago. Management of the stocks in the Atlantic has made swordfish populations tenable again. If the program keeps up, the average swordfish–much smaller than it once was, will get bigger, too. The recreational fishing industry is a friend in this case, because swordfish are prized catches. A wall-mounted swordfish in the man-cave is a familiar cliche. Read More. . .

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