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Fresh From the Sea: Where to Eat a Whole Fish

La Ciccia's Sea Bream, photo courtesy of Yelp.

The best dishes have the power to transport us to a different time or place. There’s nothing more transporting than a simply prepared whole fish. One bite of sea bass or branzino, grilled or roasted, with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of course sea salt, and all of a sudden you’re basking in the sun on a Greek island.  Can’t afford the airfare? Splurge on these dishes for a taste of exotic beaches.

La Ciccia

The abundance of trendy new restaurants in San Francisco can become overwhelming.  But La Ciccia, an intimate Sardinian restaurant located on the edge of Noe Valley, is like a breath of fresh air.  The husband and wife team promises fresh and authentic ingredients sourced from this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  The highlight of their menu is their whole roasted Mediterranean Sea Bream served with Sardinian Olives Sugo, known as “Oratina in Padella Cun Olia Sarda.”   291 30th St. at Church.

Bluestem Brasserie

Bluestem’s eclectic menu may not focus on one cuisine, but its diverse dishes will take you on a trip around the world.  One minute you may be down south licking your fingers after a plate of Southern fried chicken, another minute you might be shucking oysters in Tomales Bay, and then all of a sudden you’re in Italy, enjoying a comforting bowl of squid ink fettucine.  See where their whole roasted catch of the day takes you, served with seasonal accoutrements, currently heirloom summer squash, cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic, and charred lemon. 1 Yerba Buena Lane.

Locanda

It’s no coincidence that Locanda pops up on our favorites lists time and time again.  Its masterfully crafted cocktails and simple, yet sumptuous Italian dishes make it worth coming back to.  While their pastas and grilled meats may be tempting, don’t miss out on their constantly changing seasonal whole fish.  They give you the choice of grilled or “acqua pazza” (literally meaning “crazy water,” but essentially a poached fish).  You can also have the fish filleted for you, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, opt to do it yourself at the table.  557 Valencia St.

Kokkari

San Francisco’s dearth of Greek restaurants is made up for under one roof at Kokkari.  Self-proclaimed “cuisine fit for the gods,” Kokkari truly lives up to its boasting.  Named the best Greek food in town by countless publications, the thorough menu offers everything from goat stew, to grilled octopus, to house-made headcheese.  Their beautifully crafted “Psari Psito” (traditional grilled whole fish) is simply served with horta (bitter greens) and lemon.  200 Jackson St. (at Front).

Sens

If you’re going to enjoy an authentic Mediterranean meal, what better place to do it than in the midst of the beautiful landscape of the bay?  Sens is located on the Embarcadero, so you can soak in the sun while chowing down on hummus, spiced meatball, and phyllo-wrapped goat cheese.  Try their fire roasted Cyprus branzino served with roasted squash, cherry tomatoes, picholine olives, and fennel salsa verde. 4 Embarcadero Center.

Woodhouse Fish Co.

When it comes to American seafood, San Francisco is the place to be, and Woodhouse is the place to eat it.  Their simple menu is comprised of fishy favorites like fish and chips, crab cakes, lobster rolls, and clam chowder.  Nothing fancy here, just good old fashioned seafood.  Try their always -changing whole roasted fish of the day, served with seasonal sides such as steamed vegetables, roasted carrots, or potatoes.  1914 Fillmore St./ 2073 Market St.