Fish ribs aren’t limited to pacu. Brian
Cantrell, executive chef at A Fish Called
Avalon, Miami Beach, Fla., serves
up halibut ribs. “I had whole halibut
delivered to a restaurant I used to work
at. As we filleted the fish, we wanted
to do something with the ribs because
there is a lot of good meat in the
middle,” Cantrell says.
yolk and extra virgin olive oil and finished
with lemon, lime and orange juice.
There’s no reason not to consider fish
ribs if halibut is already in stock, Cantrell
says. “It is a bonus to buying a whole
fish, and does not incur any additional
costs,” he says. “There is enough meat
on the bone to provide for a large-sized
He decided to flash-fry the ribs in peanut
oil to resemble a fish-and-chips-style
dish that he recreates today. “They are
large, and the meat is delicate and flaky.
Flash-frying gives them a great crispy
crunch on the outside,” Cantrell says.
The halibut ribs arrive with a citrus aïoli
made with roasted garlic cloves, egg
Halibut ribs produce a crowd-pleasing
dish. “They can be quite large and make
a great visual impact when carried
into the dining room,” Cantrell says. “It
causes a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ because
of its size and shape. It’s not a dish that
is common in restaurants.”
basted in a barbecue sauce made from
housemade ketchup, Galliano, Lingham’s hot
sauce, brown sugar, Honeybell juice, honey
and Worcestershire sauce. The ribs are
served with coleslaw and fresh watermelon.
The dish is currently offered as a special.
“It’s been pretty popular,” Sargood says.
“So, as we continue to run it, it may make it
onto the regular menu.”
Even chain restaurants are serving pacu.
Truluck’s Seafood, Steak & Crab House, a
10-unit operation based in Houston, has
rotated pacu fish ribs on and off the menu
for the past two years. Initially an appetizer,
the ribs became so popular that they
began selling as an entrée, too, says Brian
Wubbena, director of culinary operations.
Three years ago, executive chef Jamie
Gruber first tried pacu ribs at a small, local
restaurant in Hawaii. “At first, I didn’t know
what I was eating. However, I enjoy trying
new things, and I love ribs, so this dish was
perfect for me,” he says.
Jim Sargood, general manager of Naples
Tomato, Naples, Fla., read about pacu fish ribs
five years ago while working as an executive
chef at a country club. “We did a lot of cocktail
receptions, so we were always looking for
unique items to serve on the buffet,” he says.
Today, Gruber serves up grilled pacu ribs at
The Market in Columbus, Ga. “The ribs are
easy to work with. They have a mild flavor,
with a little bit of a nutty undertone,” he
says. This mild flavor helps the ribs adhere
well to most sauces. Gruber dresses his ribs
in sauces ranging from poblano pepper to
chipotle pepper or roasted red pepper.
Pacu ribs traveled with Sargood to Naples
Tomato. “The restaurant takes a creative
American approach to Neapolitan food,
which means we create recipes that
incorporate unusual ingredients or unusual
combinations of ingredients—often locally
available ingredients,” Sargood says. The
use of pacu fish ribs paired with Honeybell
oranges, a local Southwest Florida
ingredient, is a perfect example of how the
ribs fit into the restaurant’s concept.
Wubbena’s seafood distributor first
exposed him to pacu ribs. “I thought it was
pretty crazy. I never saw anything like it,” he
says. “Once I cooked them, I realized how
easy it was to eat.” He prefers grilling the
ribs first and finishing them in the broiler.
“The flesh itself is very delicate. That
contrasts nicely with crispy skin,” he says.
At Truluck’s, pacu ribs are dressed in
a pickled-watermelon-rind barbecue
sauce and served with grits and coleslaw.
Wubbena has also marinated them in miso
and served them alongside seaweed salad.
“I like that I can have a cookout of ribs
and still offer ribs to people who don’t eat
meat,” Gruber says. Plus, the ribs don’t
contain the high fat content of their beef
and pork counterparts, making them
appealing to health-conscious diners.
To prepare, the ribs are rubbed with a
mixture of chopped herbs, black pepper
and sea salt. Then they are charbroiled, and
Pacu ribs are comparable in price to pork
or beef ribs. Wubbena estimates paying
$8 to $10 for a pound, and sells the ribs
for $11 (appetizer) and $21 (entrée). “I use
it as a lower-priced menu item, since it’s
such an unusual item,” he says. “If you sell