What Skin-On Fish Says About A Restaurant's Quality

With so many quality restaurants in up-and-coming cities, diners have become savvier in where they spend their hard-earned dollars. And while remote work has been on the rise, remote eating is just not as fun. The conversation around seafood in particular has seen more transparency around sourcing, freshness, and nutrition. In addition to the trend of menus featuring whole fish, restaurants have also adopted deceptively simple-looking preparations like skin-on-fish, highlighting the beauty of the natural ingredient.

For restaurant-goers, the quality of ingredients is top of mind, but don't sleep on technique either. Of course, no one likes soggy or burnt skin-on-fish. Chef Sun Kim of Michelin-starred Meta in Singapore serves up a golden eye snapper with a crispy brown skin atop a yuzu-based sabayon sauce. Per the Michelin Guide's Technique Thursday, Chef Kim explains, "a little bit of flour brushed on the skin helps it crisp up, but a marinade would actually make the fish too wet to crisp up."

Restaurant quality rests on technique

As classically trained chef and food writer at Kitchen Ambition, William Mack, explained to Eat This, Not That, "any seared or pan-roasted filets of sea bass, barramundi, or snapper should almost always have the skin intact." The difference between a good restaurant and a truly great one comes down to the details. Treating specific types and cuts of fish the way they are best enjoyed is the mark of a top restaurant.

Jonathan Gill, executive chef at Portland, Oregon's RingSide Fish House, notes in a Thrillist interview, "as chefs, we'd rather get in whole fish to have better control over its shelf life." A restaurant that makes it a point to fillet its own fish is going to own more of the process before it gets to a diner's plate. Chefs can show off their skill, treat the seafood better, and highlight the beauty and freshness of the fish.

Skin-on fish is delicious and nutritious

In addition to crispy skin-on fish being delicious, it often indicates a restaurant's focus on sourcing only the best and fresh ingredients. It can communicate to diners a venue's food philosophy when it comes to buying local, the relationships with conscious seafood suppliers and fishermen, paying attention to local ecologies, and whether the establishment is using frozen or pre-portioned versus fresh seafood.

Discerning eaters can tell the difference and their bodies will, too. Per Harvard's School of Public Health, fresh, wild-caught fish that includes the skin is a higher and more robust source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which play a key role in cardiovascular health, cell repair, and the reduction of inflammation.

In short, being served skin-on-fish at a restaurant is a subtle and excellent indication that the restaurant cares about highlighting the simplicity and quality of its whole ingredients without compromising on technique. As importantly, the restaurant is providing nutritious meals, serving fish with a sustainable approach in mind and an eye to reducing food waste, ultimately being thoughtful about the overall well-being of diners.