When Kokkari first opened, few San Francisco restaurants apart from Chinese places served whole fish. Fortunately, our customers validated our instinct that they would appreciate fish cooked on the bone, in the traditional Greek way. Today, the charcoal-grilled whole fish served with horta and Kokkari dressing — a lively herb- and caper-laced vinaigrette — sells as well as our lamb chops.
Check out the video demo of how to grill a whole fish.
- 1 small whole fish, such as sea bass, about 1 pound, cleaned and scaled
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dried Greek oregano, crumbled
- Kokkari Dressing (see below for recipe)
- 1 lemon, halved
Prepare a hot charcoal fire and move the coals to one half of the grill to leave an area for indirect grilling; or preheat a gas grill, turning one burner to high and another to medium. With a sharp knife, make a single deep incision on both sides of the fish, slicing from head to tail along the backbone.
Just before you are ready to grill, lightly oil the outside of the fish. Sprinkle inside and out with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
Cook the fish directly over the hot zone of the grill until the skin browns on one side, 3-4 minutes. Then move the fish, without turning, away from the coals or to the medium zone of the gas grill until the flesh is almost fully cooked on the bottom side, 3-4 minutes longer. Turn the fish and move it directly over the hottest zone of the grill to crisp and brown the second side. Then move it to the grill’s cooler zone until the flesh begins to pull away from the backbone at the incision. Total cooking time for the fish is about 15 minutes.
Transfer the fish to a platter. Fillet the upper half of the fish with 2 large spoons, working from the incision to lift the meat off the bone in larger pieces and onto a dinner plate. With 2 spoons, grasp the head and lift it; the entire skeleton should follow in one piece, detaching cleanly from the lower half of the fish. You can offer the head and skeleton to your guest (some people love the meaty "cheeks" on either side of the head), or reserve for making a light fish stock. Transfer the bottom fillet to the dinner plate. Drizzle with the dressing and accompany with the lemon halves and extra dressing on the side.