I had heard that monkfish liver was the “foie gras of the sea.” If you don’t like foie gras, you can just stop reading now, because you’ll have no appreciation for what I’m about to tell you.
We’re in Hawaii, me for a culinary conference, him for his usual business. Carrie and Jay live here. She works with him and Jay is kind of like a client, I guess, but a cool one. Anyway, C and J are locals so they wanted to take us to someplace unique for dinner, somewhere not splattered all over the tourist map.
We end up at the most charming and hip izyaka (a Japanese drinking establishment with a heavy emphasis on food — think Spanish tapas bar, without the Spain-part). It’s called Sushi Izyaka Gaku and it is too darling for words.
The lighting is low, the chefs behind the sushi bar are dressed in traditional, bright yellow, black and red garb (they’re Master Sushi Chefs, by the way) and contemporary jazz is playing in the background…or was until the evening waned and then downtempo techno lounge music kicked in as the crowd turned noticably younger.
But back to the food. C and J are adventurous sports, and so are we. So we put ourselves in the hands of our server. He looks like a kid from the Midwest, but he speaks fluent Japanese, so off and on throughout the night, he counsels us on a dish to see if it’s to our liking, and then turns and shouts something inaudible in Japanese to the chefs (it’s not a big place, he probably didn’t have to shout but it seems everyone shouts in these izyakas.)
We start with lovely nori wrapped King crab and cucumbers. Delish. Next we have a small slab of meltingly tender butterfish, the thin strip of skin crisped over an open fire. Divine. Next is a hamachi collar — also seared over an open flame. A collar is the jawbone of the fish, and is prized for the rich, dark meat tucked away in cartilage.
Next came the monkfish liver. Three salmon colored disks floating in a citrusy, ponzu sauce with microscopic slices of green scallion. The disk was chilled but three seconds in my mouth it started to melt into a creamy pool of fish liver.
That doesn’t sound as good as it was. It’s hard to describe, but if you love foie gras AND you love strong fishes (salmon, mackerel, etc.) then you would love monkfish liver. I’m not a monkfish lover…I don’t like the texture of monkfish. But I am now a monkfish liver lover. Sublime.
These were just our appetizers, something for the Asahi and Shochu to wash down. I don’t have enough space here to finish the meal description so I’ll save that for another post. I just wanted to tell you about the monkfish liver, you know, in case you wanted to run out and get some.