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. Its head is enormous in comparison with the rest of its body. It looks like something out of a monster movie. The big, wide mouth is full of sharp teeth, ready to trap any fish that wanders within range as the monkfish sits on the sea bottom. It’s a cold-water species from the North Atlantic Ocean.
The liver of the monkfish is a thing apart. It shows up in the better sushi bars, where it’s referred to by aficionados (of which I am one) as “Japanese foie gras.” It’s seriously delicious.
Part of this survey’s ranking methodology includes availability. Monkfish is only rarely found in New Orleans restaurants. It would rank higher if we could get it more often. I do, every time I encounter it. One thing I’ve learned: monkfish is not one to be served medium-rare. It should be opaque all the way through, for flavor and texture reasons.