How Whole Fish Took Over Restaurant Menus In 2022

If you've gone out for dinner at a seafood restaurant this year, you've probably spied "whole fish" on the menu. Food trends come and go, but seafood stays in fashion for foodies. Try saying "dollar-oyster-happy-hour" around a pack of hungry New Yorkers and see what we mean. The pomegranate glazed salmon fillet at Cafe Gitane might be legendary, but right now, whole fish is having a moment.

The dish has been on-ramping for some time now. Feast Magazine clocked whole fish as an emerging restaurant trend in 2016. The same year, Restaurant Business stated fish belly, a previously unfavorable cut, was starting to gain popularity amongst consumers. Now, the era of whole fish has finally arrived. Kate Kassin, editorial operations assistant at Bon Appétit, lists whole fish as one of the outlet's "10 Favorite Restaurant Trends of 2022," and we couldn't agree more. As Chef Haidar Karoum of Chloe in Washington, D.C., notes (via Nation's Restaurant News), "Any time you cook something on the bone, it is more flavorful." Why not fish?

The past of whole fish

While whole fish is emerging as a trend in the U.S., the dish is nothing new in other cultures' cuisines. Per The Spruce Eats, whole fish is commonplace in Korea. Chinese lifestyle outlet The Woks of Life states that steamed whole fish is found on most Cantonese tables during holidays, formal weddings, Chinese New Year, and other special occasions. At Bonnie's, a new Williamsburg (N.Y.) Cantonese-American spot that's taking the city by storm, a deboned, stuffed rainbow trout called "yeung yu sang choi bao" is on the menu

During 2022, restaurants nationwide are serving whole fish grilled, steamed, broiled, smoked, roasted, wrapped in pasta, crusted in salt, and pan seared, via Nation's Restaurant News – for a good reason, too. It's a move for sustainability: Nose-to-tail eating reduces food waste. Per The Spruce Eats, fish skin, head, tail, and fins are all edible. Depending the fish and how it's prepared, you can eat the bones, too. In fact, explains the outlet, the back of a fish's head is an underrated delicacy that filleted-fish-eaters totally miss out on. Not to mention that serving a whole fish creates a captivating visual, says Sheree Sarabhaya of the New Jersey restaurant Kai Yang (via Nation's Restaurant News). Although Zoë Robinson of I Fratellini in Missouri admits that, while whole fish makes for a fun plate, diners do have to take care to avoid the bones as they chow down, via Feast Magazine. The extra caution is well worth it.

The dish with the most from coast-to-coast

In 2022, New York City emerged as the unofficial capital of the whole fish, with restaurants serving the dish all around the city. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's seafood restaurant The Fulton serves a whole roasted turbot. At Shukette in Chelsea, a dish called "Fish in a Cage" is on the menu: A whole porgy is stuck between two wire racks, grilled, and served right on the grilling racks, per Bon Appétit. Limani in Rockefeller Plaza offers an array of whole fish, including sea bass, pompano, and red snapper. 212 Steakhouse in Midtown does a whole Wild Black Seabass, and Littleneck in Gowanus serves a whole fish crispy with sweet potato curry. Fish Cheeks on Bond Street serves whole fried seabream with cashews, chili, pineapple, and pickled garlic.

While NYC is packed with whole fish spots, it's far from the only place to get it. At Palm Beach, Calif.-based Italian spot Trevini located on Sunset Avenue, whole branzino sea bass quickly became the restaurant's signature dish in 2019 after enjoying mass popularity, states Palm Beach Daily News. Wherever you dine, if you're looking to dine on-trend, whole fish should be on your radar.