Updated: May 20, 2019
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Fishcyclopedia: Kinmedai 金目鯛 (Splendid Alfonsino)

All you need to know about this fancy, tasty, big-eyed, red fish. If you're in Tokyo and looking to eat some kinmedai, check out the restaurant recommendations at the end of the article!

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What is a kinmedai?

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Some expensive kinmedai for sale at a fish market
Kinmedai (金目鯛)is the Japanese name for these red fish with large eyes. 'Kinme' (金目) means 'golden eye' in Japanese, and 'dai' (鯛)is the Japanese word for 'sea bream' (although kinmedai are actually unrelated to sea bream). In English, the fish are called 'splendid alfonsino.'

Kinmedai are deep water fish, typically residing between 400 and 600 meters below the surface. This is what gives them their distinctively large eyes that sometimes appear to have a golden color.
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Partially dried kinmedai (himono)

Kinmedai season is said to be in the winter, although the fish have the highest fat content (fat = delicious) right before laying their eggs in late spring. The most delicious kinmedai in Japan are said to come from the Izu peninsula, in Shizuoka prefecture, although most kinmedai found throughout Japan are caught in the open ocean.
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Simmered kinmedai

What does kinmedai taste like?

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Kinmedai cooking on a charcoal grill
Kinmedai is a white-fleshed fish with a fairly high fat content and balanced flavor. The meat is not overly fishy, but is rich with umami flavor. Thus, kinmedai is highly versatile, and is prepared in a wide variety of ways. The fish is often simmered in broth (nitsuke), partially dried and then grilled (himono), grilled fresh (shioyaki), or prepared as sashimi or sushi. Another characteristic of kinmedai is its thin skin that is often eaten, even when served raw.
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The tender white flesh of a simmered kinmedai

Can you eat kinmedai raw?

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Kinmedai sashimi
Yes! As stated above, kinmedai is sometimes served as sashimi or sushi. Due to its high oil content, the fish has fantastic umami similar to tuna, but with a slightly chewier texture that is satisfying to bite into. However, kinmedai is expensive, and is not as common to see served as sushi or sashimi. If you get the chance to try it raw, don't miss it!
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Kinmedai sushi

Kinmedai specialty restaurant in Tokyo

Sakana Kinmei

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Kinmedai saikyo yaki
If you're looking for a good place to eat some kinmedai in Tokyo, look no further than Sakana Kinmei in Shibuya. This restaurant specializes in kinmedai, and offers a variety of dishes that feature the fish prepared in different ways.
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Kinmedai shabu shabu!
One of the restaurant's signature items is the 'Kinmedai Shabu Shabu,' which features beautiful cuts of kinmedai that can be dipped in a kinmedai-based broth. The restaurant also has a fantastic sake collection, which is the perfect drink to go with this fancy fish.

Check it out!
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Kinmedai ramen!

Ramen Hosenka

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Delicious kinmedai ramen broth
Ramen Hosenka is a fairly new ramen shop that opened in 2018 in Shinjuku. Despite this, the shop has already gained popularity from its delicious kinmedai broth. It's not uncommon to find ramen broth made from other fish, but due to the expensive price of kinmedai, this ramen is quite rare. Eating here is another fun way to experience the delicious flavor of kinmedai while eating a bowl of ramen. Check it out next time you're in Shinjuku!
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In Closing

Kinmedai is beloved throughout Japan for good reason; the fish is delicious! If you're a fish lover, this is one fish not to miss while you're in Japan.

Restaurants Mentioned in this Article

    DeLong
    I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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