Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the products discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.
Wild Planet sources its wild seafood from Pacific Ocean fisheries that practice sustainable fishing methods. I have to think this plays no small role in all that I enjoyed about sampling its White Anchovies in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
It has become something of an overused expression when evaluating a fish or fish-based food product to note its absence of an overtly “fishy” taste or smell. Fish, after all, is supposed to (or at the very least, allowed to) smell like fish. Any pretense to the contrary is disingenuous. Surely no one has ever opened a tin of seafood expecting to be greeted by a distinct bouquet of mango sorbet.
Likewise, remarking on the lack of an exceedingly “oily” texture or consistency in an oil or oil-based product seems an equivalent exercise in uninspired descriptor language. Neither of these shares much information beyond identifying what characteristics aren’t present, relegating favorable attributes to secondary consideration behind less desirable ones. This is why, apt though each of these may be with regard to the product this review focuses upon, I will refrain from both in talking about it.
The olive oil used is of a thinner consistency than I’ve typically seen in such products. Joined by the anchovies’ natural juices, it achieves a near broth-like state that it is easy to imagine warming and sipping on a winter’s day. Its flavor is delicate, contributing richness to the taste of the fish without weighing it down or steamrolling the anchovies’ inherent savoriness the way a heavier oil might do.
The fish itself tastes like something that one might have reeled in as recently as this morning. Its firmness calls to mind countless varieties of Japanese sardine that I’ve enjoyed both over rice and veggies, or right out of the can, but one bite of this product makes clear the distinctions between the two in terms of flavor and texture. Cooked to a pleasant level of doneness that skillfully sidesteps being tough or chewy, the white anchovies flake easily with a spoon or fork. Sampling them as I did with and without accoutrements, I found this product as inviting taken unembellished right from the tin as it was when hit with a splash of fresh lemon juice and heaped upon crackers or diced and tossed with pasta or leafy greens. The uncomplicated freshness of the fish and the mildly savory oil-soup in which our finned friends’ second and most important swim is taken made for an enjoyable sampling. I would wish such an eating experience on anyone seeking a lighter, sustainably-sourced anchovy produced by people who understand that when it comes to some foods, simplicity speaks volumes.