Whole sea bass for a culinary adventure
Having black sea bass at Mac’s Seafood is not for the faint-hearted. Even Mac Hay says it can be intimidating, but worth it.
“I always enjoy serving it whole,” he said. “It’s so cool. A lot of people are totally into it.”
And, Hay said with a chuckle, some people act like they didn’t order it when it is placed in front of them.
Eating a sea bass requires your attention; and it looks at you. Diners say it is an experience, not easy like striped bass’ big, beautiful fillets that are laid in front of you. Sea bass you have to work at, take the meat off the bone, but the reward is great.
“It’s a fantastic fish,” said Hay. “It is a great local product that has great flavor to it.”
The frilled fin fish is fried with cornstarch, seasoned, and often graced with lemons inside or grilled and paired with Ponzu, an Asian, citrus-based sauce.
Fans hope that as sea bass increase in Cape waters, so too will they become more common on Cape plates. Hay said more adventurous eaters are drawn to them already, but others may need an incentive.
“People get stuck in their ways. They want to eat a piece of fried cod (even if it is not from the Cape) … or sea scallops. Everyone loves sea scallops,” he said.
Hay said sea bass are much like many other under-appreciated fish caught just offshore: they aren't commonly served. The fisheries would be more sustainable if there was a diversity of species, such as skate, monkfish, scup, and whiting, in nets and on plates. Now most of the sea bass caught here is shipped to New York, where there are more, and more varied palates.
Mac’s Seafood has been focused on serving locally caught fish for more than a decade – its motto is "there is no match for local catch." Only makes sense, Hay said:
“When you are directly connected to the fishermen you find out about any good product that is coming out of the water.”