Mackerel's Moment

This distinctive fish has charmed local chefs

The previously maligned sardine is experiencing a deserved resurgence.

But there are other sustainable and healthy fish in the sea. And one species in particular, mackerel, is having its moment. Many types of mackerel are quite abundant, and the species is full of omega-3 fatty acids.

Matthew Accarrino, the new chef at SPQR, swears by this rich fish. "Chefs love it," he says, noting its high fat content and ability to withstand bold flavors, like his contemporary take on the classic Italian sweet-and-sour preparation saor ($13).

Rather than frying the fish, he lightly cures it with salt, roasts it to order, then bathes it with a sharp pickle made from Napa Valley red wine vinegar, onions, garlic, chiles and golden raisins.

The Pacific Heights outpost of Out the Door features grilled mackerel (pictured, $12) with pickled cucumbers and Szechuan peppercorns as one of the com phân (rice plates) on the lunch menu.

A variety of mackerel, including aji (horse mackerel) and the sushi stalwart saba, are regularly stocked in the fish case at Sebo in Hayes Valley. On Sundays for izakaya night, chef-owner Michael Black typically serves hokke-yaki ($7), fatty atka mackerel that has been cured in shoyu, air-dried, then grilled.

Our favorite spot to buy mackerel for cooking at home is Japantown's Nijiya Market. Look for it in the fish section in the back.

Nijiya Market, 1737 Post St. (at Webster St.); 415-563-1901 or nijiya.com