Lionfish are a menace to Caribbean waters. Native to Asia, these striped fish arrived to the Americas as visually striking additions to in-home personal aquariums. However, released into the wild in foreign waters, lionfish have no natural predators. Their subsequent ascension up the Caribbean food chain has unfortunately disturbed the ecosystem and harmed coral reefs. Spearing these reef-dwellers is encouraged, but it has not been sufficient to entirely curb the spread of lionfish populations across the Caribbean.
Enter Caribbean chefs. All around the islands, chefs have come up with creative ways to curtail the proliferation of this invasive species. By incorporating lionfish into dishes and positioning it as a flavorful Caribbean delicacy, restaurateurs have spiked demand and encouraged fishermen to start seeing lionfish as a profitable hunt, thereby working to wrestle lionfish numbers under control.
Where to Eat Lionfish in the Bahamas
Renowned Graycliff Restaurant in Nassau was perhaps first to the table when it comes to the trend of putting lionfish where patrons never expected to see it: on the menu. Two years ago, lionfish was added to the lunchtime menu at Graycliff and appeared during the occasional dinner as a special; now, lionfish is a permanent fixture come dinnertime.
Guests can order the dish—titled Le Poisson lion a notre façon on the menu—in the form of a filet prepared “Graycliff Style” as a way to both fill their bellies and demonstrate their concern for saving Bahamian reefs. A soon-to-open addition to Graycliff, The Piazza, will include lionfish cakes on the menu as well.
To try more lionfish in Nassau, head to Fi’lia at Baha Mar for a whole roasted lionfish prepared by James Beard Award-Winning Chef, Michael Schwartz.
Chef José Andrés of the recently debuted fine dining restaurant Fish at The Cove at Atlantis ties his creation of the whole fried lionfish dish to his love of the ocean. “Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the ocean, whether it’s enjoying the freshest delicacies of the local waters or going diving,” he says. “Fish tells the story of this beautiful, mysterious thing we call the sea, through food. Our Bahamian team is as committed as I am to supporting sustainable fishing practices and the protection of the Bahamian coral reefs.”
Taste Lionfish on the Beach in Aruba
Prefer to have your lionfish tasted, but not seen in its entirety? At Elements Restaurant at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Eagle Beach, Aruba, you can order lionfish ceviche for a flavor-packed way to boost sustainability efforts for Caribbean marine life. The fresh-caught fish is combined with lemon juice, avocado, shallots and more, then paired with fresh tortilla chips for the perfect beachfront snack.
Eat Your Catch in Belize
If you really want to get in on the fun yourself, head to Turneffe Island Resort off the coast of Belize City, where you can participate in a weekly lionfish hunt. Guests at the resort are invited to spear all the lionfish they see and then bring their bounty back to the resort for dinner.
Lionfish in St. Lucia
Another spot where visitors can take an active role in lionfish control is at Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia. Applying the sea-to-plate dining philosophy in an interactive way, Anse Chastanet connects guests with the resort’s scuba operation. Scuba St. Lucia’s “Invasive Lionfish Tracker Specialty Course” brings guests along for two dives, during which they learn about controlling the invasive population and become equipped with practical methods for humanely capturing and euthanizing these fish.
Upon their return, visitors can feast upon lionfish in a variety of ways: as sashimi, in a citrus ceviche folded into a crispy tortilla, or even grilled or stewed with the flavors of St. Lucia. In order to ensure that diners get to try as many takes on the fish as possible, the resort also serves a multi-course dégustation menu paired with New World wines that showcase the quality and taste of this problematic fish.
Bring your Appetite to the Cayman Islands
At Vivo restaurant in the Cayman Islands, owner Miky’s motto is “Eat ’em to beat ’em.” Vivo serves lionfish in a variety of ways, but the most popular is the lionfish sandwich with homemade cashew cream, caper chili vinaigrette and a side of sautéed potatoes with local moringa.
Still hungry for more? If you’re staying at Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, opt for a Cayman-style salt-crusted lionfish served with local callaloo and pumpkin from the island’s markets and farmers.