We Ate a Poisonous Scorpion Fish and Lived to Tell the Tale

scorpionfish scorpion fish
Wolfgang Poelzer/Getty Images

We love a daring food adventure and one New York City restaurant is taking a traditional lunch dish to an exciting new level. Fine & Rare, an upscale restaurant and bar that boasts hard-to-find spirits and live jazz, recently launched its lunch menu, and one particular item is known for its venomous spines. The dish is scorpion fish, a bottom-dwelling fish that can be found living among the coral reefs in the Indian and South Pacific Oceans. These nighttime hunters live in colorful coral reefs because their feathery fins have mottled color patterns, so they blend in to avoid predators. Their bodies are covered in sharp venomous spines that make them one of the most poisonous creatures in the ocean. Venom is injected from these spines immediately upon contact, and it can be fatal to other animals and cause serious injury in humans.

You might be wondering why anyone in the world would care to eat such a dangerous creature. We had the same question in mind, and so we recently dined on Fine & Rare’s scorpion fish and chips to see what all the hype was about. Turns out, it’s quite interesting and delicious.

“At Fine & Rare, we like to create a theatrical experience for our guests where they have the opportunity to learn about exciting and rare spirits and foods,” says executive chef Philip Sireci. “I was introduced to scorpion fish when I was a young chef at a restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts. There was a Portuguese fisherman who in a night filled with food, drink, and stories of meals, told me about scorpion fish. Years later, I was dining at NOLA in New Orleans, and it was a special. I loved the texture and sweet flavor the fish had.”

scorpion fish and chips fine and rare
Fine & Rare

Scorpion fish does indeed have an interesting flavor and texture. When breaded and fried as they do it at Fine & Rare, the fish’s texture is a cross between flaky white fish and a shellfish like lobster or crab. It’s very tender and toothsome, and the flavor falls somewhere between red snapper and monkfish.

Sireci adds some spice with scorpion pepper and serves it traditionally as they would in England. “The scorpionfish is carefully and meticulously cleaned and dipped in a beer batter, which has scorpion chili pepper within,” he says. “We deep fry and serve it like traditional fish and chips with our unique twist. We’re very careful to get the sweetness from the scorpion pepper while adding just a bit of the heat. The mashed peas are traditional in England, and we thought to add them for a classic touch with a soft and smooth flavor to go along with the heat found in the fish and chips.”

Once the spines are removed and the scorpion fish is cooked, it’s no longer dangerous to humans. However, it’s still a thrilling dish to eat, especially because it’s such a rare thing to see on menus in the United States (plus, if you don’t tell your friends about the spine removal, then you look like a badass). You can sample the dish for $28 during Fine & Rare’s lunch hours Tuesday to Friday.

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