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Free Asian Carp Dish from a Man on a Mission

By JoshMogerman in Food on Apr 10, 2010 7:00PM

Asian carp ceviche at Lockwood. Photo by Josh Mogerman
Many chefs in town have tried, but one man is taking on the Asian carp menace one plate at a time. The name of this culinary crusader is Chef Phillip Foss and he is whipping out invasive species creations at Lockwood in the Palmer House.

Most heroic of all, he is giving them away for FREE.

That’s right. A taste of fine dining, not to mention a great conversation starter, at no cost. Foss is on a mission to change the public’s opinion of the fish, which he considers unduly tarred by a carp name that belies the firm flesh and mild flavor, which puts bighead carp in the “upper echelon for fresh water fish.” Given the chance to talk about the fish, he waxes on excitedly with the zeal of a recent convert about the carps’ “ultra-sustainability” and low mercury levels (a serious problem for freshwater and predator fish like tuna and salmon). And so, Foss is on a mission to make the world aware of the invasive bounty one quirky dish at a time. He just wants people to try it, even if he has to give the fish away.

This week we popped into Lockwood for a lovely presentation of Asian carp ceviche with Michigan wasabi, pickled black garlic, ramps, petite radish and blood orange. Truth be told, it lacked the citrus zing that usually marks the dish, making it a bit more like sashimi---but the results were pleasing nonetheless with a clean flavor and even texture.

And there is more to come. The Lockwood kitchen is offering New England carp chowder throughout the weekend and has been experimenting with a simple “carp-accio.” They have already served broiled Asian carp Provencal and a crisp Paupiette of Asian carp in Barolo Sauce. And there is no end in site. Foss tells us that the hotel has been supportive of the effort to demystify the controversial fish and the result has been overwhelmingly positive feedback from diners. The restaurant loses money on the dishes, but Foss feels that his mission to raise awareness of Great Lakes protection and the fish’s nutritional potential outweighs the slight financial hit.

For information on the current giveaways and a peek inside the kitchen, check Foss’s blog The Pickled Tongue or @phillipfoss on Twitter. They offer a window into his missionary zeal to bring this surprisingly positive bounty to a table near you. Foss is the first to admit that fine dining is no solution to the major threat to the Great Lakes posed by the flying fish, but he is focused on the silver (carp) lining that can come out of the crisis. And while plenty of folks have tried to deliver that message recently with varying degrees of success, Foss is making it happen in the best and most attractive way possible, FREE. That is effective messaging!

Lockwood is located inside the Palmer House Hotel at 17 E. Monroe in Chicago. Call in advance to check carp dish availability (312) 917-3404.