So you’re finally out on a date at the best (and priciest) seafood place around. Or maybe you’ve got the biggest client dinner of your career at a fancypants spot that sells fish so fresh they’re practically flopping when they arrive. You’re stoked to order—and then you look at the menu.
Where to start? You could just ask the waiter—but you’re a smart guy, and that means figuring it out yourself. If you really want to order like you know what you’re doing, ask these four questions to learn if your snapper is actually tilapia and why you don’t want it “braised.”
1. What country is the fish from?
The answer says a lot about quality and flavor. If you’re told it’s from the U.S. or Canada—or fish-friendly places like Iceland or Norway—move on to the next question. If it’s from Asia, think twice: There’s a higher risk of fecal matter and drug residue in its farmed kind; and for catching wild fish, deplorable tactics are often used.
2. How was it caught?
Though it’s a myth that all fish farms are bad, wild-caught fish are almost guaranteed to be healthier, to have been harvested in season, and to have caused less environmental damage. (By the way, Atlantic salmon is never wild-caught and is always farmed, no matter what a pushy server might claim.) Great buzzwords to hear: “Hook and line,” “hand line,” “pole,” “troll,” “jig,” or “spear gun.”
3. Is this fish really [_]?
Fish fraud is real. In the conservation group Oceana’s DNA studies on restaurant fish, for instance, 67% of 82 “wild” salmon samples were actually farmed. For the sake of your wallet, know that red snapper may really be catfish, mahi mahi could be yellowtail, and cod could be whiting.
4. How’s it prepared?
Pan fried and braised fish will be swimming in too much oil, and too much butter’s a lock for fish cooked in a pan or served with sauce. Best bets: Grilled, baked, or oven-roasted, with sauce on the side.