Article: On the National Menu -- January 2010
Most people think of canned fish, like sardines, as something grandparents ate; however, a new generation of restaurant patrons is rediscovering the joy of sardines, anchovies and smelt. All that was needed, it seems, was a fresh look.
No longer only for the older set, these small, tasty fish are gaining new respect, due to their sustainability, savory taste and health benefits, reports the website philly.com. Since the fish are lower on the food chain, they contain fewer toxins, such as mercury. The high omega-3 content of sardines and smelt make them heart-healthy. Also, chefs love small fish because of their lower price and ability to satisfy the appetite.
The Oyster House, in Philadelphia, serves filleted and grilled sardines on crostini with a side of arugula and roasted red peppers. Smelts are a favorite at Standard Tap, also in Philly, where chef Carolyn Angle dips the small smelt in buttermilk and seasoned bread crumbs, then quickly deep-fries them; she prefers to grill larger varieties.
What may begin as a generational aversion quickly becomes an obsession, with many restaurants reporting customers calling ahead to inquire about the size and availability of the fish. “The older crowd will come in raving about smelts,” Angle says, “but the younger people don’t know about them—until they taste them. Then they love them.” pf