Lionfish: King of the Menu at Beach House
It’s a venomous predator known to ravage local Florida reefs and destroy surrounding ecosystems, but, thanks to restaurants like the Beach House, a (delicious) solution to the Lionfish problem threatening the Gulf has been found. And, it involves serving the fish alongside roasted vegetable cous cous.
Though the Lionfish is known for its frightening appearance – thanks to its bright vertical stripes, expansive fan-like fins and 18 venomous spines (used in defense) – diners should not be fooled. They are much more delicious than they are dangerous, posing no threat to the humans who eat them.
And, in serving Lionfish in his restaurant, owner Ed Chiles is also contributing to the solution and getting these predators, who are known to wipe out entire populations of sea creatures, out of the wild.
It is thought that the non-native fish was first introduced to the Gulf (and surrounding bodies of water) in the 1980’s by those realizing it made for a terrible aquarium tenant, eating all other reef fish it came into contact with and stinging its owners during aquarium cleanings. And, since then it has surely made its presence known.
That’s because Lionfish produces upwards of 30,000 eggs at one time. And, with no known predators, the fish has been spreading along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf and Caribbean, jeopardizing the populations of many other fish it comes into contact with, specifically the snapper.
Because the Lionfish lurks towards the bottom of the ocean, it’s tricky to catch and is most often caught in lobster traps or by spear only. This means catching it can be far less lucrative for fisherman than it is for other species, which exacerbates the problem.
Once caught, however, the Lionfish is a treat. It’s light and delicate, and is another healthy and tasty fish on the Beach House menu.
In serving the Lionfish (pan seared with roasted vegetable cous cous, Basil and Red Curry infused Olive Oil at the Beach House) Chiles, who is currently the only local restaurateur offering the pervasive and evasive fish, is also working to increase demand, which will aid in the continued removal of the species from the Gulf and further alleviation of the problems it causes
And, as Chef Will explains, diners should not fear the venom found in the Lion fish’s spikes. The fish’s meat is separated from where the venom is stored (in its spine) and cooking renders the venom harmless, meaning the Lion fish poses no threat to those who order it.
Still not sold on the spikey seafood delicacy? Beach House is now offering samples on a limited basis and serving it as an entrée while it is still available. In trying it out, not only will you be introduced to a new unique dish, but you’ll be helping to preserve the nearby gulf. So, you are officially out of excuses to not give Lion fish a taste during your next visit!
Hungry for more? The Chiles Restaurant Group is constantly looking to source the best fresh seafood available while also educating our guests on local sustainable seafood items. For information about other products and projects, including grey striped mullet, Mount Cook Salmon, Open Blue Cobia, locally-grown middleneck clams, sunray clams and more, check out our blog.