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Off the Menu: Whole fried sea bream at Conrad Los Angeles

Great catch! Agua Viva chef de cuisine Stephanie de Los Santos shares how to prepare a meal that will have all your guests coming back for more. | By Leanne Philip | November 10, 2022

You may not think of cooking an entire fish as a simple meal, but Stephanie de Los Santos, chef de cuisine at Agua Viva — one of José Andrés’ flagship restaurants within Conrad Los Angeles — is determined to prove you wrong.

Says de Los Santos, "One of the things I learned from chef José and The Bazaar [where de Los Santos trained for over eight years] is that when you have a great quality product, there shouldn’t be too much you need to do to it for it to shine on its own.”

Her second cooking philosophy? Have fun. “Cooking something based on a specific memory or emotion that I felt growing up is what gets me excited the most.”

With Agua Viva’s stunning whole fried sea bream, de Los Santos has done both. Showcasing a fusion of Latin and Asian flavors, the impressive entree features an entire fish, beautifully filleted, expertly seasoned and lightly fried to a pale gold before being served alongside a vibrant mojo verde.

For chef de Los Santos, however, the dish is also an opportunity to recall happy childhood days in the Philippines, cooking seafood with her father. Whole fish was the first meal the duo cooked together and is still a favorite of the dynamic chef de cuisine, who adds, “it’s a great, simple dish to prepare at home and is best enjoyed together with family.”

If you’re feeling nervous about creating such a feast on your own, don’t be. Chef de Los Santos suggests getting your local fishmonger or grocery store to fillet your fish so that preparation is a breeze. Whether you decide to fillet your fish at home or via your local market, the chef’s one rule stands true. “Quality of the fish is a must!”

So, go ahead and give this awe-inspiring recipe a try. We guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Whole fried sea breamWhole fried sea bream

Cooking time: 1 hour

Makes one serving


1 whole sea bream (1.5lbs to 2lbs), cleaned and scored

Kosher salt, as desired

Black pepper, as desired

Sea bream flour mix*

Mojo verde

¼ lemon

¼ lime

Tartar sauce

*To make the sea bream flour mix: Combine rice flour, corn starch, all-purpose flour and trisol.

Mojo verde ingredients

2/5 ounce cumin seeds

3 7/8 ounces cilantro

3 7/8 ounces parsley

¼ ounce garlic cloves

1.52 fluid ounces sherry vinegar

1/3 ounce Kosher salt

11.84 fluid ounces olive oil

2/5 ounce ascorbic acid

Tartar sauce ingredients

7/8 ounce tarragon

7/8 ounce parsley, minced

7/8 ounce chives, minced

35 ¼ ounces mayonnaise

5.07 fluid ounces lemon juice

1 ounce whole grain mustard

¼ ounce white pepper, ground

¼ ounce Coleman’s mustard powder

¼ ounce celery salt

3 ½ ounces dill pickles

3 ½ ounces shallots, minced

3 ½ ounces capers, chopped

Whole fried sea bream preparation

In a large frying pan, preheat olive oil to 375 F.

Season fish with salt and pepper.

Dust in flour mixture, shaking off any excess.

Fry at 375 F until golden brown and crispy, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Place on a serving dish. Finish with lemon and lime wedges, as well as ramekins of mojo verde and tartar sauce.

Mojo verde preparation

Toast cumin seeds. Grind until fine.

Place all ingredients except salt in a blender. Puree well.

Adjust seasonings. Cool at once.

Tartar sauce preparation

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Refrigerate until needed.

(Recipe from Agua Viva chef de cuisine Stephanie de Los Santos, 2022.)

Leanne Philip is a content marketing manager at Hilton. She has written for numerous print and digital platforms, including Travel + Leisure, The Atlantan and Barneys New York.

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