Every once in a while you come across something new in the culinary world that really surprises you because you've never heard of it before and it turns out to be incredible. This is what happened when we dined at Quahog's Seafood Shack, a new restaurant in Stone Harbor, NJ that locals remember as Tridi Jo's.
Quahog's Seafood Shack is owned and operated by Argentina born Chef Lucas Manteca who also owns another Stone Harbor Restaurant that my wife and I dined at called Sea Salt. I'll write about that experience another time. Quahog's is a casual restaurant that welcomes kids, is named for the large hard clam and is all about seafood.
Among his most popular dishes are his soft shell crabs, Maine Lobster Roll, Cape May Salt Oysters and my entree, Pacu fish ribs.
While many local restaurants are serving salmon, swordfish or tuna, you'll find sustainable fish like barramundi or escolar. Chef Lucas post grilled fish but what he serves each night changes depending on what's fresh and available.
My wife shared the Lobster Bake with my youngest daughter and feasted on lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob. They also served a tasty cole slaw that had a spicy flavor to it. Both of them thought it was excellent.
The blackboard posting the daily specials listed Barbecued Pacu Ribs with coconut rice. When I asked our server for more information about Pacu and how they can be served as barbecued ribs, she told us Pacu is a Brazilian fresh water fish that grows to over 60 pounds. When she told us the ribs looked just liked pork barbecued ribs I knew I had to give them a try and I'm glad that I did.
They purchase their Pacu ribs from Samuels & Son Seafood Company so I looked up their web site and here is what they say, "Pacu grows very fast to very large sizes. They can eat almost any food, and are now being raised in huge fish farms throughout the world as a food fish, especially in Brazil."
"The large and meaty pacu ribs, whether fired, grilled or barbequed on a spit are a unique, and highly appreciated delicacy. Whole pacu is normally prepared by oven baking or grilling on the barbeque."
When our food arrived, I couldn't believe how much the Pacu looked like barbecued ribs. They were stacked up on the plate the same way I've been served bbq ribs in restaurants. They were glazed with a rich barbecue sauce that had a hint of chipotle in it that gave it a tangy spiciness. What a great summer alternative to barbecue ribs.
When I took my first bite, I noticed the fish was meaty, tender and delicious. If I remember correctly, there were three thin, flat bones per rib and the meat pulled off the bones with every bite. Although the texture wasn't exactly like meat ribs, Pacu comes pretty close. I don't think you will find them in most fish markets, but you may want to ask your favorite fish monger if he can order you some. I'll see if I can interview Chef Lucas and get some tips for cooking and maybe his recipe for barbecue sauce.
photo from samuels and son seafood - I forgot my camera.