Summer seafood means lighter, zestier fish dishes than cold-weather counterparts. But there’s one ingredient when cooking fish that’s paramount, and doubly so for summer preparations.
“Cooking with fish means keeping it simple and that’s especially true in summer,” explains Antonio Cardoso, the new chef at ATRIO wine bar and restaurant in Battery Park City. “I’m from Portugal and fish and simplicity are very important to my culture. ATRIO has a Mediterranean influence, so I will be bringing that to the menu. For summer, that means fish that’s plain grilled, and avoiding heavy sauces. It also means seasonality, using summer produce. We’ll be getting great corn from the Hamptons. Tomatoes from New Jersey will be ripening. We have fennel, too — a citrus and fennel salad is perfect to accompany many fish dishes. I will also use vegetables and herbs from our rooftop garden.”
Cardoso favors local species for a lower environmental impact and freshness. The latter results in the best possible flavor.
“For summer, I’ll have local scallops, pan-roasted with a sweet corn puree; Long Island and Jersey shore striped bass will still be plentiful. I’ve been doing that with a pea puree and tender young cauliflower. Branzino isn’t local, but it’s very popular in the Mediterranean,” Cardoso says of this flavorful bass-like fish. “It’s very versatile.”
Branzino is usually served whole, but Cardoso filets and pan-roasts his till just browned on top. He layers with roasted eggplant puree and his rooftop vegetable crudo, including a thick ribbon of raw zucchini on top of the fish.
“I will bring the simplicity of Mediterranean summer cooking,” Cardoso adds, “which often means fish straight from the water with little more than lemon and olive oil.”
New York City boasts many fine seafood restaurants – Marea, The Mermaid Inn, Pearl Oyster Bar – but, elsewhere, many chefs have favorite summer fish preps: At SoHo Caribbean restaurant Miss Lily’s, Suzanne Couch pairs Long Island black sea bass with coconut rundown sauce, which includes curry spices, coconut, and, unusually, thyme. And at the Paramount Bar and Grill, chef Jason Kallert’s whole branzino is miraculously de-boned in the filet and lightly grilled. Kallert serves it with sautéed fennel from Upstate New York, a nutritious, parsley-rich fresh salsa verde and a grilled lemon.
If you go
ATRIO Restaurant and Wine Bar, 102 North End Ave., 646-769-4250.
Miss Lily’s, 132 West Houston St., 646-588-5375.
Paramount Bar and Grill, 235 W. 46th St., 212-827-4116.