Our annual survey of seafood in Southeast Louisiana this year counts down the 33 best seafood species enjoyed in our restaurants. Restaurants are able to get a wider variety of seafood than you or I could find in supermarkets. On the other hand, certain excellent species are not legally available to the restaurants and other commercial outlets.
#21: Sea Bass
The term “sea bass” is probably too generic for a list like this. 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.
two raw seabass with fresh thyme on a rustic wooden table
Striped bass is a great eating fish–a favorite in its home waters along the Atlantic coast. It’s a nice size for meatiness–two or three feet long. Its texture has the meatiness of a grouper, but a much better flavor and more fat. In addition to the clean, off-white fillets, you get cheeks of edible size from a whole sea bass. If you’re very lucky.
You can cook sea bass many ways. It’s a great one for roasting whole. Good sauteed with butter and a flour coating. Excellent broiled. I’ve never tried poaching it, but I’ll bet that’s wonderful with hollandaise.
If you ever run into striped or black bass, order it. It’s a rare treat. If you can’t find it, use redfish or black drum.
Unacceptable Alternative: The Patagonian toothfish–a denizen of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica–has become much better known in this country as “Chilean sea bass.” It is not a bass at all. While its flesh is appealing to the eye, it’s a tough fish that needs to be cooked longer than most fish to be edible. Worse, its populations have been depleted by at least ninety percent in just a couple of decades. I never order it.