ISSUE 26  |  Farmhouse Style

Crispy Thai Snapper, by Way of San Francisco

June 26, 2012 3:00 PM

BY Maria Finn

The flowers and herbs growing in sous chef Nicolai Lipscomb’s garden often end up on the Fifth Floor Restaurant’s menu at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco. Here’s a recipe for his siganture Crispy Tai Snapper: For more, see A Chef’s Secret Fifth Floor Garden.



  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Splash sherry vinegar
  • Dry French bread no crust
  • 1 1/2 lb snapper (with scales on) butchered into 4 oz pieces (yields about four)
  • 1 Bulb of sliced fennel
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Fennel pollen
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Trout caviar
  • Fresh herbs and edible flowers, such as nasturtiums


  • On Day One, start to make the ajo bianco by soaking almonds in water and cut bread into two-inch cube and let sit out.
  • On Day Two, finish the ajo bianco by blending nuts, bread, olive oil and water. Add salt to taste, along with just enough vinegar to taste it. The sauce should be the consistency of soup; adjust the quantity of bread accordingly.
  • To prepare the fish: Season bottom of fish with salt. Heat olive oil to 450-500 degrees. On a rack in a dry metal pan, ladle hot oil over fish until scales are crispy. For thick parts of filet (if thinker than ¾ an inch) hold up the fish with a spatula and pour a little oil on flesh of the fish to cook the outside.Fish should be raw in middle.
  • To serve: Shave fennel and dress it with olive oil, lemon juice, fennel pollen, salt, and pepper. Make a bed of fennel for the fish to rest on. Garnish fish with trout caviar, herbs from the garden and edible blossoms, such as nasturtium.

Photograph by Marla Aufmuth for Gardenista.