Ankimo, or Monkfish Liver, is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine and I was served this particular appetizer at the now defunct Wasabi Restaurant in Ottawa not long before it closed. Monkfish, for those unfamiliar, is quite possibly the ugliest fish in the sea, but it has delicious firm flesh, and the liver is tasty in its own right too. It has been likened to Foie Gras (and was referred to as ‘Monkfish Foie’ Gras on the menu at Wasabi), but I rather think that just reflects the quality of the texture. Monkfish liver is quite low in fat, in contrast to real Foie Gras, and I am not sure how they would go about force-feeding Monkfish the same way they do Ducks, anyway.
In any any event, the liver I was served had a curious two-tone color, as you can see in the picture. I have noted this in a few other pictures online, but not other cases it has a homogenous appearance. I am not quite sure why this is, and I wonder if the two distinct colors represent different regions of the liver.
To prepare Ankimo, the organ is cleaned, often rinsed with sake, and then it is commonly rolled and steamed. Ponzu sauce is typically served with it, as it was in my case, and caviar appears quite often as an edible garnish. Here there were red and black lumpfish caviar as well as ‘Tobiko’ or flying fish roe (here dyed green). It made for a pretty presentation although, on this occasion, I thought the choice of platter was a poor one.
As for the taste? Well, to be honest, I am not sure if I would put this in the top 50 most delicious foods (as was done in one Magazine review). For me, the closest comparison I can make is with ‘tomalley’ or lobster liver, which has a delicate ‘sea’ flavor and is actually quite nice once you get past the mushy green appearance. Most people tend to shy away from tomalley because of the soft, pasty texture but the monkfish liver is much firmer and also has a more generally agreeable appearance.
Ultimately, I liked this little appetizer well enough, although I thought that the Ponzu sauce made by the kitchen at Wasabi was not a really great accompaniment. It was a little too sharp and was rather overwhelming for the delicate flavors. Something a little more subtle would have been better, in my opinion. Still, it was well worth the try…