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Dry-Aging Fish: Why ‘Fresh’ Is No Longer Seafood’s Key Virtue

A new trend at top restaurants around the U.S. is taking the rib-eye treatment to your fish fillet.

From left: Dry-aged Shima-aji, or Japanese striped jack; striped bass; and golden eye snapper from the Joint Seafood.

From left: Dry-aged Shima-aji, or Japanese striped jack; striped bass; and golden eye snapper from the Joint Seafood.

Photographer: Joyce Lee for Bloomberg Businessweek

Beneath a sprawling banyan tree at Sunny’s Steakhouse in Miami’s Little River neighborhood, diners sip martinis and enjoy standards such as Caesar salads and New York strips. The secret star of the menu, though, isn’t a chophouse classic: It’s dry-aged fish. A fillet of striped bass, its skin crisped to a potato chip shatter, benefits from the same treatment the rib-eyes get. “We hang our fish like you would hang meat,” says chef and co-owner Carey Hynes.

Dry-aging fish—in this case, for about a week—is a counterintuitive treatment for a protein whose freshness is generally viewed as fundamental. But the process is rapidly being adopted around the world, including at such internationally acclaimed restaurants as Saint Peter in Sydney and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, as well as at suburban favorites like FoodWorks at Jailbreak Brewing Co. in Laurel, Md.