I learn something new every time I stop by Kanaloa to peruse the menu. And today, for dinner, I’m looking at something called Loup de Mer. Which sounds French and a little like a loop de loop. But it is actually a delicious Greek fish, that is butterflied and baked. I ask Chef Antonio why the blue tail fin of the fish is attached. “On the beach in Mexico, it is very common that people take the fish right out of the boat and put it onto the grill, so the name of the fish means ‘still flipping’ in Spanish.” Thus the tail is there to remind you of the inspiration of this recipe. Chef Antonio often sees seabass prepared this way, but he has picked Loup de mer, and as he says, “I respect the uniqueness of the fish by baking it, not grilling. And I bake it whole to keep the juice and flavor in.” Flecks of spice cover this white, silky soft fish, and it turns out Antonio has been at play with chermoula seasoning, a specialty spice mix that is available at the counter for purchase. But so too is there the familiar elements of lemon and thyme.
You may think that with such a delicate, soft fish, I will be eating it with a fairy thimble and a single leaf of lettuce on the side. But the delight of this dish is that it is smothered in onions that have been caramelized in clarified butter. And it is topped with beautiful purple and orange carrots that have also been cooked in butter. Look here and there for heirloom cherry tomatoes and some peppery arugula.
This dish brings the savory flavor of a special occasion home-cooked meal, only elevated above what I could ever hope to cook. A masterful hand can take the ordinary and make something magical, and that’s what you will get in the Loup de Mer. I recommend enjoying it with a glass of one of the wines on offer at Kanaloa? Perhaps the Vogelzang Pinot Noir, which is an expressive, floral wine that compliments the fish beautifully.
Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.