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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bar or Loup - European Sea Bass. Bar on French Menus. European Sea Bass in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
 Updated April 2017
European seabass has a firm, delicate, white flesh. Whether caught at sea or raised on a fish farm they are a delicious fish and consequently, they are one of the most popular fish in France.  Despite the excellence of sea farmed bass, in a blind tasting, you may note the difference.  The bass caught at sea are tastier and have a different texture.   Where fish are concerned, you are what you eat.

The names of the European Sea Bass in French.
Bar, Bar Commun, Bar Sauvage or Bar de Ligne, 
and Loup, Loup de Mer or Lubina.
Seabass has quite a number of names on French menus. Do not worry, they are all the same fish. Most of the fish served in the center of France and along France’s Atlantic coast will be on the menus as Bar, Bar Commun, Bar Sauvage or Bar de Ligne.  In the South and along France’s Mediterranean coast the local Occitan language name remains with the European seabass being called Loup or Loup de Mer. Close to Spain, the Spanish name Lubina may be on the menu. 
Wild sea bass and farmed sea bass in France
Seabass that have been farm raised will usually weigh less than 600 grams (21 oz) each and smaller fish may be served for one. A Bar Sauvage, or a Bar de Ligne, the European Sea Bass caught in the open sea, may easily weigh over two kilos (4.4lbs). These and even larger fish will be served as filets.

The European seabass on French menus:
Bar au Beurre Blanc – European sea bass with a Beurre Blanc Sauce.  A Beurre Blanc Sauce is often called a Sauce Nantaise and is one of the best sauces for white fish. Nantaise means from the City of Nantes where the sauce was first served.
Crispy sea bass with warm spinach salad and blueberry sauce

Bar au Four a la Graines de Fenouil –  European seabass baked in the oven with fennel seeds. Fennel has a stronger licorice flavor than its cousin dill. Wild fennel fruits, the seeds,  are mostly used by French chefs with fish and shellfish dishes. Many chefs outside the large cities have wild fennel gathered for them as it has a different taste to the herb bought from market gardeners.  Most wild mushrooms gatherers, ramasseurs, also gather wild herbs. These ramasseurs have specific chefs and restaurants as their loyal customers from year to year.
Bar de Ligne, Artichaut Violet, Jus de Crustacés – Wild seabass cooked with small violet artichokes, and seasoned with the cooking juices from shrimp and other crustaceans.  Bar de Ligne translates as a European Sea Bass caught with a rod a line; however, it only shows that the fish was captured in the wild, not specifically with a rod and line. What counts for the chef is that the fish did not come from a fish farm. The crustacean flavoring, probably mostly from shrimps, comes from the shrimps’ shells and this sauce will flavor the whole dish.
Carpaccio de Loup – A Carpaccio of sea bass. 
At the fish market in Sète
Sete is the largest fishing port on France’s Meditteranean coast and was built as the Mediterranean entrance to the Canal de Deux Mers, the canal that joins the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.  The Atlantic entrance is Bordeaux.    Sete is also famous for its fish and seafood dishes.
Filet de Loup Cuit à la Vapeur d'Algue sur Coulis de Poivrons (Le) –A filet of sea bass steamed over one of France's edible seaweeds, and served with a puree of bell peppers. The use of the word loup tells us that this fish was caught in the Mediterranean. The name loup comes from the Occitan language. (Occitan lost out as the language that would unite France. However, France still has over 25 local languages and dialects that are still used; Occitan is the most important).
The fishing port of Sete on France's Mediterranean coast.
Photograph courtesy of  Cees Wouda.
Filets de Bar Grillés sur la Peau, aux Senteurs de Provence – Filets of sea bass grilled in their skin, and flavored and scented with the Herbs of  Provence herb group. 
Other fish called bass
European seabass and black seabass from the Western Atlantic are different fish though they are related. Once cooked and on your plate, they will seem close enough. However, there are many other fish with the word bass in their names in North America that are not related at all  These can be both fresh and saltwater fish. I, with my family, caught large-mouthed bass in Maine and they were a very tasty unrelated freshwater fish. Chilean Seabass is a tasty fish, but it is no relation to the European seabass; its name was chosen by the marketing department. Its real name is the Patagonian Toothfish.
The many names of the European Sea Bass.
It may seem strange that a single fish, the European seabass has so many French names. History, local languages, and local usage create many names for the same fish and that is true in North America and the UK.  The English names may appear on a menu or in a fishmonger's as bass, common bass, sea perch, white salmon and king of the mullets.

N.B. In France, there is one completely different fish that share a name, but not the taste or texture with European Sea Bass.  That is the Loup de Mer, the Atlantic wolfish; also called the Atlantic catfish. The Atlantic Wolfish is a very different fish and can reach 12 kilos or more. WhenAtlantic Wolfish are caught as a bycatch they may end up as a daily special where they will be baked, and served, as filets.  If you have a choice go with the European seabass,
The European Sea Bass in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan – llobaro), (Dutch - zeebaars ), (German – wolfsbarsch, meerbarsch), (Italian- branzino),  (Spanish – lubina, lupi, lupa).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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