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Sushi Grade fish in San Diego

What stores in San Diego sell sushi grade fish that can be consumed raw? I assume 99 Ranch is an obvious answer but are there any others? Is the quality between place pretty consistent?


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  1. Catalina Offshore on Morena Blvd.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DiningDiva

      I second Catalina Offshore. Most of the sushi places in town get their seafood from Catalina Offshore.

    2. 99 Ranch sells it and it's safe to eat, but I find it a bit flavorless. It'll do in a pinch, though, and the prices aren't bad. Mitsuwa also sells it, but it's a bit pricey and visually, it hasn't looked fresh the couple of times I've looked there.

      1. My candidates would be Mitsuwa Market, off the 163, Point Loma Seafood, in Point Loma, The Fish Market, in Del Mar, and one other place whose name escapes me, in Carlsbad, just west of the 5, in a shopping center at either the Poinsettia or Palomar Airport exits. Maybe someone else can chime in on this spot.

        Edit: Add Nijiya to this list as well.

        2 Replies
        1. Nijima on Convoy across from Home Depot Expo typically has a much better selection than Ranch 99. Though I'd probably try Catalina Offshore first.

          1. To me, "sushi grade" can have two meanings. 1) it's safe to eat raw 2) it really is sushi grade, in the sense that it belongs in the best of sushi bars

            For the former I'd limit it to the Japanese, and perhaps the Korean, markets. So we're talking Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and the new Marukai (when their fresh fish section is up and running). Of course Catalina and any of the other commercial specialty suppliers of fish for sushi bars would do.

            For the latter I'd recommend befriending a respected sushi chef and ordering it through a reputable sushi bar. Really most of what's served in the sushi bars out there is not very compelling product. Safe, perhaps, to eat, but most is not really "sushi grade"... By obtaining it through a respected sushi bar/sushi chef, you'll be getting the best product that the supplier has on hand.

            The distribution of top-quality (non-commodity) sushi ingredients is very much a relationship-driven business.

            1. I have been succesful at Mitsuwa in Kearney Mesa.

              1. FDA has no regulations regarding "sushi grade", this is very loose term. What you really want is a parasite destruction guarantee, which is accomplished by 'freezing and storing seafood at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days (total time), or freezing at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours, or freezing at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours' which is sufficient to kill parasites. Catalina Offshore will fill your needs, however cgfan's suggestion would most likely get you superior product better than any local retailer can offer you.


                1. Add Bristol Farms (La Jolla), Whole Foods (Hillcrest and La Jolla), and Harvest Ranch (border of Encinitas/Rancho Santa Fe) to the list.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                    I think Catalina Offshore provides fresh fish to most (if not all) of the finer sushi places in town. It's open to the public and you can buy fish for yourself, but they only sell large pieces. My wife and I bought a beautiful cut of tuna from there for a sushi party we were hosting but we ended up not finishing it and throwing some away -- which was a travesty.

                  2. I'll try Catalina Offshore, Nijiya, and Mitsuwa and see how those work out for me. If Catalina Offshore is only bulk that probably won't be too feasible for me.

                    I'd love to be connected to a high quality direct supplier as cgfan suggests, but I kind of doubt that anyone at Sushi Ota is going to hook me up with that. I'm guessing that they're probably pretty secretive and kind of an "old boys club" regarding their suppliers.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: DougOLis

                      DougOLis: It's a bit of a Catch-22, since unless you get to that level of familiarity with a sushi chef of a reputable shop, you may not be getting the better items at the bar either. And I mention reputable shop, as there's literally a whole world of tane (ingredients) that's simply not available to even the best of customers at 99% of the sushi bars out there.

                      Where I frequent I regularly enjoy "hon" (real) ama ebi (with a far more refined flavor than the freakishly large "ama ebi" that's served elsewhere), a fantastic, and fantastically large, Hokkaido tako, served with hand-grated Himalayan pink rock salt, where a single leg might stretch from arm tip to arm tip and whose flesh is just incomparable to the regular tako, fresh anago (almost all anago is already filleted off the bone in Japan and shipped here pre-packed; so here's a clue to test your sushi bar - ask your sushi bar if they can fry up the bones - most won't even be able to offer it) with the bones fried as a bar snack, and very soon a special event wherein the very rare kegani can be had.

                      But in terms of "tude" and "an old boys club" mentality, I'd say that Morita-san at Kaito is as unaffected as they come. That doesn't necessarily mean that he'll necessarily want to go through the hassles of obtaining ingredients for just anyone, but I think they're worth a try if you can spend some time on relationship building and becomming a regular.

                      I had a really interesting experience once when I stepped in to Nijiya Market with Morita-san to kill some time while we were waiting on a dinner reservation. He could instantly look at every piece of fish and assess which one's were worth buying and which one's were not (most). And the most interesting part of this was that it had very little to do with how the market itself graded the fish! (In other words the regular customer has very little chance of being able to navigate all of the choices and consistently make a good selection in terms of getting the best of what's available, simply because of what we don't know...)

                      What was most interesting was to see how both Nijiya employees and customers, Japanese customers included, would crane their necks to overhear his recommendations!

                      In any case Kaito has offered me access to ingredients, but not only that they've offered access to other regular customers as well, so I know that it's possible.

                      1. re: cgfan

                        In LJ, El Pescador fish market sells lovely sushi-grade tuna.

                        1. re: cgfan

                          That sounds absolutely amazing. Both the food and the chance to actually shop and learn from a sushi chef.

                          1. re: DougOLis

                            DougOLis: Their sushi, and the subtle magic that goes on for those who are sensitive to it, has been attracting quite a loyal following. And the engine that drives all of this magic, from procurement to preparation to final service, (hopefully to a customer that can appreciate the difference), is the head sushi chef and the experience, knowledge, and purchasing relationships that he brings.

                            As to my trip to Nijiya it gave me just a sample of the subtleties in selection skills that a master sushi chef quietly possesses. But I hope I didn't give the impression that I was in the industry or was in formal training. I'm just a non-industry fan and dedicated customer of sushi who is just scratching the surface but desperately trying to probe deeper into the depths of this easily misunderstood cuisine.

                            BTW here's a thread which captures a couple more of these 'Aha!' moments as a frequent customer of the sushi bar: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450613

                            1. re: cgfan

                              Cgfan - You must arrange for a nice morning at Catalina Offshore.....just the harvesting of the Uni had me mesmerized, as was seeing Kaga-san, and his former second Kotani, just pass each other without speaking. The huge tanks of awabi, lobster, and bags of Hokkaido Hotategai....... And all those sttyrofoan boxes marked 'Ota'......

                              1. re: KirkK

                                KirkK: Indeed! I'd love to make a trip there someday, especially with an itamae-san as you have chronicled in your blog. Though the circumstances were quite different, when I made that trip to Nijiya it immediately reminded me of your experience at Catalina Offshore.

                                I'll probably just satisfy my curiosity one day and just quietly make a walk-through of Catalina Offshore, as I've also done in the past with Specialty Produce nearby.

                                1. re: cgfan

                                  Are there only certain hours when the general public can go to Catalina Offshore or Specialty Produce? Where is the public entrance for Specialty Produce?

                                  1. re: DougOLis

                                    Here's the link for Specialty Produce - http://specialtyproduce.com/

                                    They moved several months ago. Their phone number is on the web site, though you might have to poke around for it.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      I actually went by that location a few months ago but felt like I was going to be walking into the middle of a warehouse so I didn't go in. Do you enter through the loading docks or is there somewhere else? On the train tracks side?

                                      1. re: DougOLis

                                        It is a warehouse, and no, I don't know where the entrance is. Specialty Produce is a regular vendor for the commercial trade, they are one of the very few wholesale vendors that will sell to the general public.

                                        With most warehouse operations there is usually a small door that leads to offices somewhere close to the loading dock. I'd just look for an office door and try it. Or, it may be possible to simply walk in off the loading dock. The staff in most warehouses I've bee in have been pretty nice and will give you directions to whereever it is you need to go.

                                        It may help if you speak some Spanish.

                                        1. re: DougOLis

                                          There's stairs/a door on the train track side that leads up to the loading dock, IIRC. I was there for a party, so I don't know exactly how their regular setup is.

                                          Last time I was at their original location (quite some time ago) they only took exact change cash for retail. I don't know if they have the same deal at their new location.