For all the eating I’ve done at various incarnations of Whitney Aycock’s cheffed up Rockaway pizza parlor Whit’s End the only seafood I’ve ever eaten is the little neck clams on the salciccia e vongole pie. His Instagram shows him to be an avid fisherman, but I suppose the lure of pizza is sometimes stronger than that of the sea.
The other day pescatarian appetites prevailed, so I gave Whit’s “quick ass ceviche” a try. I love ceviche on a sweltering summer day and the menu’s terse description—dayboat catch, charred pineapple, lemon verbena—was intriguing. The catch of the day turned out to be black seabass or as Whit called it “knuckleheads, one of the best fish ever,” so nicknamed for the bump on the back of their skull.
When the waiter dropped it on the table, I thought it was a veggie burger. A criss cross of spicy mayo and kecap manis—the sweet thick Indonesian soy sauce—sat atop a layer of toasted bread crumbs. Beneath it were chunks of sweet fish and creamy avocado shot through with watermelon sour and sweet cherries. Lemon verbena and charred pineapple were also part of the summery celebration of flavors and textures. A slick of spicy sardine oil and some batons of toasted bread completed one the most beautiful and tasty plates I’ve ever enjoyed in Rockapulco.
“We throw the whole fucking pineapple in the oven, in the embers,” Whit said. There’s also a bit of blood orange, but more for flavor than cooking the fish. “That’s why I call it quick ass ceviche, there’s no marinating it, it’s basically crudo, but in a different form,” Whit said. Fluke and seabass also appear in the crudo rotation, I can’t wait to try them on future trips to Rockapulco.
Whit’s End, 97-02 Rockaway Beach Blvd., 718-945-4100