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THE BEST: Retail Fish


chefboy24
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so i did some searching online and thru this messageboard

found nothing conclusive

who's got the best retail fish in the city

i'm looking for things like - sea bass, black bass, salmons, cod, oysters, lobsters, monk, rouget, sable, etc etc

citarella? (is there a difference between the UES, UWS, west village?)

whole foods?

lobster place?

wild edibles?

anything in chinatown/jas/sunrise that i should explore?

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This is a tough one because I think that at any one time, one vendor might have the best lobsters, while another has the best salmon.

And then there's the "non-retail" vendors, if you will. I was at the US Green Market this morning, and Blue Moon had absolutely amazing fish - monk, scrod, tuna, sea bass, shark, flounder - basically, whatever is running. They almost always seem to have shellfish as well - squid, clams, mussels, scallops and even oysters occasionally - none of it farmed - all wild caught. Today, I happened to buy scallops, (and can't decide whether I'll eat them crudo style or slightly caramelized).

With that said, Whole Foods seems to be, right now, carrying some very nice Alaskan line caught wild salmon - last week, I had a delicious hunk of sockeye (but I can't remember what river it was from!). Their wild Key West shrimp (frozen) is also a product I like to use.

I like the lobster distributor on Hester and Allen - when dungeness is running, they usually have good supplies of nice, lively crab as well.

I tend to avoid Chinatown lately - summertime and fish on the street don't really make me that hungry. I suppose if one is very careful, some good fish at good value is to be had - the fish monger on the SW corner of Chrystie and Grand is then a good choice. And there is another vendor on Grand east of Forsythe that people seem to like.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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a couple years ago the Times did an expose on farmed salmon being sold as wild salmon around the city (its possible to lab test for this). in a nutshell, I think only Citarella and Wild Edibles passed (I should google this)...while Whole Foods basically passed because they were able to determine the salmon they bought from Whole Foods was a farmed salmon that had escaped into the wild.....

edit: here's the story. Wild Edibles failed! Citarella wasn't tested. Eli's Manhattan passed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/dining/1...&partner=rssnyt

Edited by Nathan (log)
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I think we can be 90 -95% certain that the stuff being sold at WF as line caught Alaskan wild salmon (never frozen) is indeed that.

BTW, Agata & Valentina, which seems to fly under the radar, has a very nice fish department - I don't believe they sell lobsters, but most of the fin fish mentioned above is available, well handled, and they even have a couple of real fish guys that know what they're doing (just as they have real butchers).

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'm still partial to Sea Breeze at 40th and 9th (haven't had much of a choice since Central closed down several doors down). Haven't seen that sort of freshness, variety, volume elsewhere, even Chinatown. Maybe I'm biased because it's convenient to me and also because it's very affordable, so maybe someone can cooberate my claim....

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If I don't make the Union Square Greenmarket early enough in the day or on an off day, I like to go to (is it?) The Lobster Place on Bleecker next to Murray's Cheese.

I think there's been a long thread on this topic on chowhound. You might want to search there.

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Note that Union Square is by no means the only Greenmarket that has fish vendors. Pura Vida comes to our little Wednesday market on E 47th Street (actually, not so little anymore) and invariably has impeccable fish, fresher than almost any I've bought in fish stores. Is there not fish at the Lincoln Center market on Thursday? Perhaps other members can let us know when fish vendors appear at their local farmers' markets.

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The retail fish situation in New York City, albeit better than in most cities, is pretty grim. For this reason, I do most of my fish eating in restaurants. It's very difficult to get fish retail that's as good at what you get at a good New York restaurant.

The Greenmarket fish vendors offer excellent quality. That's one of the only situations where you as a consumer have access to pretty much the same fish that places like Gramercy Tavern are serving (no, there's no retail solution for getting fish as good as what Le Bernardin or Sushi Yasuda is serving -- forget about it). There are some caveats, though. For one thing, you have to get there at the crack of dawn to have access to the best specimens and selection. For another thing, the selection is going to be very limited -- you can't show up with an agenda; you have to go with what's available. And for still another thing, you're going to pay. By the way, for Greenmarket vendors, my recommendation is the brook trout from Max Creek Hatchery, which Mike Anthony at Gramercy Tavern turned me on to. Just superb.

Anyplace else you go, you're going to be dealing with a lot of unpredictability. The Lobster Place and Wild Edibles do have some excellent fish (if you get lucky, you may get some fish that's the same as a restaurant's order for that day; then again you may be getting the B-level stuff a day or two after the restaurants skimmed off the A-level), as do the premium gourmet markets like Eli's, as does Citarella. But unless you're buying whole fish, and even then, there's no amount of cleverness that will guarantee you good fish. A lot of people think they can identify a good fish filet while staring at it, but that's nonsense.

(Food-miles fanatics stop reading here.) Also, don't forget about mail order. Everything I've ever had from Browne Trading has been amazing -- fully on par with what good restaurants serve. There are several excellent online lobster vendors, though you can also get good lobsters in Manhattan -- that's one of the few products that tends to be pretty reliable at retail. Other things that tend to be okay at retail are clams, mussels and farmed fish (salmon, tilapia, etc.) or anything that has been frozen at sea.

In Chinatown I've had too many disappointments, so at this point I stick to the occasional crab purchase at the times of year when the fish stores have barrels of live crabs out front.

You can also get sushi-quality fish at some of the Japanese markets in the area, but you'll pay quite a lot per pound, so that's only worth doing if you're actually preparing sushi or sashimi in small quantities.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Also, if you have a great relationship with a restaurant, and you're looking to get a whole fish and a little time to plan ahead, you may be able to convince the chef to order one for you along with the restaurant's order. I wouldn't try to make a regular thing of it, but on occasion, sure, it's something some restaurants will quietly do for their best customers.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For one thing, you have to get there at the crack of dawn to have access to the best specimens and selection. For another thing, the selection is going to be very limited -- you can't show up with an agenda; you have to go with what's available. And for still another thing, you're going to pay. By the way, for Greenmarket vendors, my recommendation is the brook trout from Max Creek Hatchery, which Mike Anthony at Gramercy Tavern turned me on to. Just superb.

(Food-miles fanatics stop reading here.) Also, don't forget about mail order. Everything I've ever had from Browne Trading has been amazing -- fully on par with what good restaurants serve. There are several excellent online lobster vendors, though you can also get good lobsters in Manhattan -- that's one of the few products that tends to be pretty reliable at retail. Other things that tend to be okay at retail are clams, mussels and farmed fish (salmon, tilapia, etc.) or anything that has been frozen at sea.

I don't know if I 100% agree with this - the selection at Blue Moon was quite extensive today - as I mentioned above, at least 10 -12 varieties of filets and whole body fish and 5 types of shellfish - certainly enough to be able to plan a meal and then find a reasonable substitute. Early is always better, but when I was there at 11 AM, there was plenty to go around.

I received Browne's catalog in the mail last week - amazing looking stuff, subject to availability, but be prepared to spend some major $$!!

And I've never tasted clams or mussels like those L.I. fresh-dug beauties from the farmer's market.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Note that Union Square is by no means the only Greenmarket that has fish vendors. Pura Vida comes to our little Wednesday market on E 47th Street (actually, not so little anymore) and invariably has impeccable fish, fresher than almost any I've bought in fish stores. Is there not fish at the Lincoln Center market on Thursday? Perhaps other members can let us know when fish vendors appear at their local farmers' markets.

Absolutely - as a matter of fact, here is Blue Moon's schedule from their web site:

Our Markets:

Union Square, Manhattan - Wednesdays

Union Square West and 16th Street

7 am to 5 pm

Tribeca/Washington Market Park, Manhattan - Saturdays

Greenwich Street and Reade Street

7:30 am to 2:30 pm

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn - Saturdays

Flatbush Avenue at Prospect Park West

7 am to 3 pm

And Types of Fish Sold at Market and approximate season:

Availability of fish may vary due to weather conditions.

Fillets

Bluefish (April - Nov.)

Blackfish (March - Dec.)

Codfish (Nov. - April)

Flounder (all year)

Fluke (all year)

Herring (Nov. - April)

Mackerel (Boston: Nov. - May, Spanish: July - Sept.)

Mahi Mahi (June - Sept.)

Mako shark (June - Nov.)

Monkfish (Sept. - May)

Scallops (all year)

Scrod (all year)

Shad (March - April)

Shark (dogfish) (June - Oct.)

Skate (all year)

Squid (all year)

Striped Bass (July 1 - Dec. 15)

Swordfish (June - Nov.)

Tilefish (July - Sept.)

Triggerfish (July - Sept.)

Tuna (June - Nov.)

Weakfish (sea trout) (April - Nov.)

Shellfish

Clams (hard shell - all year)

Steamer Clams (summer/fall)

Razor Clams (fall/winter)

Conch (all year if available)

Lobster (all year if available)

Mussels (May - July if available)

Oysters (March - May and Sept. - Dec.)

Whole fish

Bluefish (April - Nov.)

Bonito (July - Sept.)

Butterfish (all year)

Flounder (all year)

Fluke (all year)

Herring (Nov. - April)

Mackerel (Boston: Nov. - May, Spanish: July - Sept.)

Porgies (all year)

Sea Bass (all year)

Sea Robins (all year)

Squid (all year)

Striped Bass (July 1 - Dec. 15)

Tunny (Aug. - Dec.)

Weakfish (April - Nov.)

Whiting (Sept - May)

Other

Flounder Roe (Spring and Fall)

Monkfish Liver (Sept. - May)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I find Lobster Place to be the most consistently reliable in terms of lobsters and shellfish still in their shells (oysters, cockles, etc.) Their scallops are good, but not sure they are appreciably better than some other places (Dean and Deluca's are good if you're willing to overpay).

For me, with lobster, live is not enough. They should have some life to them (ideally they are really feisty) and most places fail the test once the lobster is out of the tank. The key to this is having high turnover and most places, even good gourmet stores that do a lot of fish business, like Citarella, can have lobsters that hang around too long. Lobster Place is the only place where I've consistently gotten lively lobsters.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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update

well i stocked up at the west village citarella last ngiht

got some phenominal rouget - the fish guy prepped that whole fish so fast i didn't even know he was done - head, tails, guts off in a flash!

got some wild striped bass fillets that were thick and gleaming! the bellys too i cut off and diced and made a ridiculously awesome-o tartare (took the french laundry recipe for the salmon coronets)

will keep everyone updated as i try the salmon, bass, and rougets (i plan on doing a mary's style fry-and-serve on a stick!)

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What about the places in Chinatown where they have tanks of live fish which you pick, then they scale and clean for you? I tried one of those a few years ago and don't really remember the result. You certainly couldn't get any fresher, but I don't know if this means the fish are good or not. If they're floating around half dead I guess that's not good either - and who knows what's in that water. Does anyone have experience with these places?

I've also had good experience with fish from Fresh Direct. Anyone else?

Also - does anyone know when you can go about getting small varieties of fish here? I just returned from a 2 week trip to Turkey and ate seafood almost every day. The fish there is just absolutely incredible and fresh as can be. They're into small fish like anchovies, sardines, and other small fish whose English names I don't know. They usually fry them and you eat the whole thing- bones and all. Sometimes they're grilled. Can you get fish like that in NYC?

For anyone interested, these are some of the smaller fish I ate there - I found a website that has the Turkish names with descriptions and English names where applicable:

http://www.turkishculture.org/pages.php?Ch...76&ChildID1=188

European Anchovy “Hamsi” (Engraulis Encrasicholus): This fish is 10 to 12 centimeters at most. It is seen in the Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean but it tastes best in the Black Sea, which is its homeland. This fish tastes best between the months of December and March. It is inexpensive and rich in proteins. In the Black Sea region, this fish is prepared in an endless variety of ways ranging from jam to pickles.

Mediterranean Horse Mackerel “Istavrit” (Scomber Trachurus): This fish is found in abundance in the Black Sea. This is a migrant fish 20 centimeters in size and 500 grams in weight. They can be caught year round in large quantity. It is suitable for frying and salting.

Blue Whiting “Mezgit” (Gadus Minitus): It is also known as the “Chicken Fish” because of its taste. It is 20 to 25 centimeters long and weighs between 1 and 1.5 kilograms. This fish lives in deep waters, especially in the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas. It is battered and fried and can be found in almost any season.

Pichard “Sardalye” (Clupea Sardina): This fish is 12 to 15 centimeters long and it migrates to all of the seas from the Aegean. This fish is seen in all of the seas. One favorite dish involves wrapping this fish in grape leaves and frying it.

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update

well i stocked up at the west  village citarella  last ngiht

got some phenominal rouget - the fish guy prepped that whole fish so fast i didn't even know he was done - head, tails, guts off in a flash!

got some wild striped bass fillets that were thick and gleaming!  the bellys too i cut off and diced and made a ridiculously awesome-o tartare (took the french laundry recipe for the salmon coronets)

will keep everyone updated as i try the salmon, bass, and rougets (i plan on doing a mary's style fry-and-serve on a stick!)

Looks like you've got yourself a good fish-monger!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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my fish from freshdirect has been very good - but not excellent

Also - if I'm paying $18/pound or more for a fillet - I really expect there to be no pin bones. I think thats fair. And when I get a thicker fillet from freshdirect - there are ALWAYS pinbones. It doesn't take long when you have the entire whole fish - before you cut it into fillets - you remove the bones. Used to do this all the time in restaurants and it is an expected courtesy I feel for fish that are $20/pound for this to be done.

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