A while back I wrote a review of Australis brand barramundi in which, although disappointed, I held out hope to give the company another chance. Well that chance has finally come thanks to Julie Qiu, Marketing Director for Australis. After she read my blog post she noticed that I did not get the best example of their fish. She recently contacted me to see if I would like to try some samples that would work well on the grill. Julie, by the way, really knows her seafood and runs an incredibly impressive blog on all things oysters – I highly recommend checking it out.
The box arrived unscathed and inside were several good-looking samples of Australis barramundi. The samples I recieved were individually vacuum sealed and well frozen, with plenty of life left in the ice packs. They were all larger than the package I bought at a local supermarket, the largest being a size that I imagine is made for restaurants.
These bigger, meatier portions are much more in line with what I had hoped. I belive these fillets, both skin-on and skinless, were raised in their domestic facility here in Massachusetts. The composition of the fillets, including the prominent blood line, remind me a little of striped bass, while the skin looks a little like black sea bass. Once thawed you could tell that these samples were far better than my first experience.
In my original review, I cooked barramundi using the pouch method. There are certain fish that I like to cook this way, but I have a feeling that for my tastes I would prefer barramundi grilled or pan seared. So for the first attempt at my second review, I chose two of the skin-on fillets. One should be big enough for my gluttonous appetite and the other will be more than enough for my wife. With luck my 7-year old will get curious and want to try some too.
The plan is just to simply grill these barramundi fillets on a medium-hot grill. Start by patting the fish dry, season with salt, drizzle with olive oil once the fish loses its chill from the fridge. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, skin first. Then serve drizzled with a simple sauce made by whisking together olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsely and basil. (sorry for the lack of pictures…we ate it too fast!)
My second attempt was to cook the skinless barramundi fillets meunière style like how I prepared the Dover sole this past spring. This time, I added capers to the lemon/butter/herb sauce to make it a Grenobloise. The skinless fillets were firm enough that they held up well to pan frying in butter without falling apart. I cooked the fish in olive oil and butter for about 3 minutes on the first side then 4 minutes on the other.
For the two small fillets that I grilled, the aroma and taste reminded me of grilled mackerel in some ways, which at first, was unexpected. However this made more sense after learning about how barrmundi is high in omega 3. All that oil, plus the whiteish flesh really made me think big fat mackerel more than sea bass. I can also see why Australis compares to farmed salmon, if the fish was pink this could be the new arctic char. One thing I do have to be fully honest about: on first bite my wife and I were a little underwhelmed, but the more we ate it, the more we liked it! Even the darker portions of the fillet – the bloodline, were not too strong-tasting. There was nothing left, which is always a good sign.
The barramundi Grenobloise however, may have been even better. The golden crust on the fish, plus all that butter and lemon came out excellent even with my mediocre skills. It cooked in no time, just a few minutes per side and with a nice rich flavor with not even a trace of “fishy” flavor. The grill was fast and easy, but I think I may do it this way more often. My wife and I agreed it was delicious and left nothing on our plates.
In conclusion I am very glad I was able to give Australis Barramundi another review, and thanks to Julie for making that happen. It is certainly worth trying and a tasty alternative to many of America’s most sought-after species. It may even change the way you think about farm-raised fish.