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Diana’s Seafood – fresh fish, great value (review + pics)

Happy New Year CHers. It’s been a while since my last post and scan of the board. During my time away I noticed a number of inquiries come up on Diana’s seafood. Sorry I could not make this post earlier to help Googs and others out. Either way, perhaps it can now be of some assistance to others.

Since I wandered into Diana's a little over a year ago, I have never bothered stepping foot into another fishmonger. The seafood they offer is exceptionally fresh and the selection is wondrous. The prices are very reasonable and IMO it is the best value in the city that I have discovered so far. Though I sometimes get live Tilapia from Chinese grocery stores for steaming and Chinese preparations, I go to Diana’s for all other types of fish and shellfish. I appreciate the availability of whole fresh fish, rather than the filets/steaks that SLM offers. The vast selection of oysters is also a lure for me.

When you enter the store, it has a pleasant fresh aroma. No heavy solvent smell, nor stale fish smell. You face a giant lobster tank when you first enter (I believe they are going for $9.99/lb currently) and a display of whole certified organic salmon at about $5.99/lb (prices are subject to change of course, but this was the price on my most recent visit):

Salmon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

There are two columns of fridges/fish kept on ice. In the whole fish section there are porgies (several different varieties), red snapper, mackerels, flounder, striped bass, black cod, etc. They also offer the whole fish in a filet form on the other side. If you buy the whole fish, you can have them prepare it (filet, clean, etc.) after you pay for the fish at the cleaning counter.

Whole fish selection with prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Photo 2 with prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Some prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Fillet/fish steak section (with prices): http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Salmon filet/steaks: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Filets with prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
More fish with prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Shrimp and Squids: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Clams with prices: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Oyster selection: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
More oysters: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

They supply the oysters to Starfish and to Rodney’s as well (the owner did a plug for Starfish when I was there and the Rodney’s car is often parked outside when I go). So if there is an oyster you ‘discover’ you love on a visit to Starfish, head to Diana’s the next day and pick up some for home shucking. It’s a great deal, provided you’re a good 'shucker'. They sell shuckers at the cash register if you need one. I received a lesson on my first visit to Diana's, but I have yet to master it with the quick flick of the wrist like the pros do it.

Recently, I have noticed that they stock sea urchin regularly – both in their shells and with the roe/gonads removed and put into trays. I believe the trays are a great deal and having done price comparisons with Sakana-ya and Taro’s, I believe that Diana’s offers the best deal. The quality is also exceptional. Great texture since it isn’t just mushy, but has a nice ‘shell’ around the silky smooth milky interior. On my last visit, the owner (a great guy that always tries to remember his customers) mentioned that they were just flown in yesterday. If you prefer the live/fresher urchins and do the cleaning yourself (not too difficult once you get the hang of it), they have the whole urchins – but don’t think you’re getting much of a better deal on those. I believe the fresh urchins were around $6/lb and about 1.5lbs each. At $20 for that tray, I would definitely go with the trays (it is the equivalent of 2 urchins per tray).

Fresh Uni and scallops in shell: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Here is a photo of a red snapper I bought a little while ago. You can see the freshness of the fish in this close-up. The eyes are exceptionally clear.

Red Snapper: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The fish was then steamed and turned into this soba dish: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
The flesh was incredibly sweet and succulent.
Another snapper was stuffed and then grilled: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... stuffed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Do pay Diana’s Seafood a visit because I definitely believe it is worth the drive to Scarborough. And while you’re there, do the combo visit that I often do: stop by Arz for some baklava and baked goods. Though the baklavas have slipped a bit recently (IMO), they are still a nice treat.

Arz Baklava: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Photo 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

If anyone has any other suggestions for fishmongers in the Scarborough area, please let me know. I would always like to discover something new. TIA.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday and may 2009 bring more happy eats for all!

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Diana's Seafood Delight
2101 Lawrence Ave. East
Toronto, Ontario
M1R 3C3
416.288.9286

Hours of operation:
Sunday 10am - 5pm
Monday 9am - 6pm
Tuesday 9am - 7pm
Wednesday 9am - 7pm
Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday 9am - 7pm
Saturday 9am - 6pm
http://www.dianasseafood.com/contact....

Arz

1909 Lawrence Ave. E. (at Warden
)416-755-5084

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  1. If there's something i miss more living downtown than having access to good Chinese food it's not being able to visit Diana's more often or that Lawrence Ave strip. I'm within walking distance of SLM but it's just not the same as Diana's!

    5 Replies
    1. re: CoffeeAddict416

      It is definitely on my list of places that I wish were always near my home wherever I may move to in the future. So I would definitely agree with you.

      Places to take with me if and when I move:
      Grand Chinese Cuisine
      Diana's Seafood
      Ruby Chinese Restaurant
      Fantasy Eatery
      SLM
      J-Town/Zen
      Lotus Pond

      1. re: BokChoi

        Hi BokChoi,

        What does SLM stand for and what type of cuisine do they serve?

        Thanks
        SC

        1. re: sugarcube

          Allow me to answer... St. Lawrence Market.

          1. re: tjr

            Thanks tjr. SC - sorry for the confusion.

            1. re: BokChoi

              Thanks for the info Tjr.

              No problem BokChoi.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. i've also been there recently and bought some scallops, kumamotos and some oysters that cost the same as kumamotoes but forget the name... they were not bad, but one of the oysters were rotten, it smelled like a port-o-potty when i opened it.... is this normal when buying oysters? the counter lady chose them for us....

        i was hoping for more seafoods there that could be eaten raw though... or are these not marked? (can you eat chilean sea bass sashimi???)

        1. re: Pigurd

          Smelling like port-o-potty is not normal. Though some do have stronger, more metallic scents. Personally, I prefer the creamier West coast ones (Fanny Bays, Kumos, etc) and they do have a smell about them. I have never had a bad one though. However, one time I didn't finish them on the day I got them, they did start to smell a bit (and taste was off).

          It is best to ask them - though I have heard some fish mongers claim that all their fish are sushi quality (like Seafront at SLM). So I have snuck in a few pieces of Sea Bass into a sashimi platter I made for myself and I did not have any adverse consequences. But who knows... I don't want to think about what could have happened. I find it odd though that they would label some fish as "sushi quality" (such as salmon or tuna) and not bother with any of the other fish sitting next door to them. Makes me think that they are not.

          1. re: BokChoi

            just as an aside i haven't yet found any information regarding any regulations the ontario or canadian government have for restaurants or supermarkets labelling items as "sushi/sashimi quality". I did a search on the Dept of Oceans and Fisheries site and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and couldn't find anything at all about this term.

            Anyone have some new info on this or if it's purely a marketing term only?

            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

              There was a posting at some point a few months ago with links regarding "sashimi-grade" fish. It basically means that the fish were frozen to the appropriate temperature for parasite destruction. Unless you're buying live fish, most fish in Canada is frozen to specification so that it is "safe for consumption."

            2. re: BokChoi

              yea, this oyster was rotten, colour was off and stinky.. which was disapointing considering i bought a box of 30something pieces of really cheap malpalques from loblaws and didnt have any bad ones.. but the rest were very goood even without any acid (forgot to get...)...

              the most metallic oyster i have ever had is the galway bay flats, it was like eating steel, no wonder starfish is the only place in north america with it.. its for like enthusiast or something...

              1. re: Pigurd

                Pigurd, that name sounds so familiar (galway bay flats) - I think I had the pleasure of sampling one of those several years ago at Rodneys. Let's just say I had a metallic aftertaste in my mouth for almost 24 hrs afterward. Wow. I don't think that type of oyster is for me. It was a recommendation from the oyster shucker as his favourite oyster type. Kudos for him for being able to enjoy that.

            3. re: Pigurd

              Yes this is normal, it's a luck of the draw with shellfish. Just like when you buy mussels/clams to cook at home and some of them won't open after cooking.

              At all reputable restaurants serving oysters, shuckers will give each one a sniff test after opening to ensure it's fresh. They will chuck out the odd one that is iffy.

              Oysters can last for several weeks if stored properly. By properly, I'm talking about a preforated hotel pan lined w/ ice and covered by damp cloth/paper towel. The oysters should have the flat side facing up and excess water drained frequently.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. If only it weren't so far! One thing I like about Diana's is that they know the proper way to store seafood (whole, filets, steaks, etc.) in their displays, which is not only a sign that they know what they're doing, but also that their product can likely be trusted. You don't really see the same thing at a supermarket!

              Nice photos too, that soba dish looks delicious.

              17 Replies
              1. re: tjr

                Thanks tjr.

                The red snapper turned out really well actually. Steamed it under a saran wrap to lock in the moisture. The fish was incredibly fresh which really lent to the texture.

                Ahh the gems in Scarborough. Foodie (budget) paradise.

                1. re: BokChoi

                  Just returned from Diana's, thanks for the rec. Bought a dozen oysters, $20, had to do a little work, but well worth it. They do not shuck for you, as I would have ate them on the spot. Perused the fish on display, will return tomorrow for some fresh fish. Very friendly staff.

                  1. re: spine64

                    Great deal on the 'less than perfect' oysters, no? I keep thinking I'll try to muscle through them, but then the west coast oysters always call out to me.

                    I'll be heading over soon for some more fresh fish as well. Great folks working the counters over there. Always makes for a pleasant experience.

                    Cheers and glad you enjoyed Diana's

                  2. re: BokChoi

                    Fortunately Diana's is close to me too, as well as Arz, Nasr, the nut place, T&T, Soon Lee, P.A.T.and the ubiquitous Costco. With a little more travel I can get to the halal place in Thorncliffe Park, and fresh Japanese style seafood at Taro, Leslie and Finch. Perhaps I could equal all of this at SLM, but with parking and congestion problems.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      A lot of those are regular destinations for me, too. No thanks on trading it all for SLM, tho. Maybe if SLM Saturdays really were filled with farmers... THAT I might consider.

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        Just went to Diana's for the first time last week. I bought 3 lbs of black cod fillets @ $14.99/lb. Later that day I was at the Harvest Wagon, so out of curiosity I popped into Pisces, where it sold for $29.99/lb! I think Mike's in SLM sells it for $21.99/lb. So while I don't always shop solely on price, it's definitely worth the drive from downtown for me, especially if I'm buying larger quantities. And to top it off, the staff were super friendly!

                        1. re: bigos70

                          Wow! Thanks for the price comparison. Wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience...

                          1. re: bigos70

                            The black cod is of exceptional quality there, is it not? I bought a filet a month or so ago and turned it into this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... . SO swore that they would never order another miso glazed black cod at a restaurant ever again. Guess that's a good thing. Need to perfect the skin though.

                            1. re: BokChoi

                              The Black Cod photo looks amazing. I have been a huge fan of Seafood Depot but I think I will go the extra few kms to Dianas on my next outing.

                              1. re: ywgyyz

                                Thanks for the compliment, ywgyyz. It tasted great as well. Fantastic product they carry at Diana's. They don't have black cod everyday though, so do call ahead.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          Nasr is great for my spice needs. Stopped by a while back to stock, so I'm good for a while. Thanks for the reminder. Haven't tried out Soon Lee yet - what do you recommend to get there? Anything stand out?

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            The sable cod plate is really enticing. Must try that.
                            Soon Lee is great for so many things, plus the pan-ethnic crowd for entertainment! I look for beef ribs, pork bellies, marrow bones for stock, and fresh ducks with head and feet. When I needed pho spice sacs (like tea bags) they had it, 5/$1.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              Sounds great. I found two locations on google. Are they similar, do you know? I guess the one you frequent is on Kennedy and Eglinton. How does it compare to the regular T&T experience? The ducks I usually get from T&T do not come with head and feet. How do you prepare these extra appendages? Together with the body, or separate the feet?
                              Cheers!

                          2. re: jayt90

                            Okay so I'm not the only one who's forgotten. Can anyone name the nut place with the big pink sign in the same plaza as Shawarma Empire? Soooo, so good.

                              1. re: JamieK

                                Figuring you let your fingers do the walking I tried the same. It's Samara Roasted Nuts. For sure that's the place because when I googled it, I came up with this visual aid:
                                http://www.streeteatstv.com/video/113...

                                Thanks so much JamieK. You led me to my answer. Now if only I can remember the name 5 minutes from now...

                                1. re: Googs

                                  I was last at Samara a few weeks ago, following a meal at Nasib's. Very disappointing. Cashews, pistachios and a few other things I've since forgotten were boring. Some were stale.

                                  Is there any place that still roasts on site?

                      2. Thanks for the pics. Since the previous post about it, I have been meaning to go but hard for me with 2 young children and freezing winters. I am closer to SLM but from your pictures and some of the prices I see on it, the prices are much more affordable at Diana's. Would love to a nice fresh fish and steam with ginger/onions with oil/soy sauce. The sea urchin looks great too. I agree $20 is great.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: budeeez

                          You're very welcome and glad the photos could help you visualize the store.

                          Glad that Diana's does not have a problem with me taking photos, unlike many other establishments (Healthy Butcher, Cumbrae's) that do not allow photos. I would think the free promo would be a plus for them, but I guess they have their reasons. If anyone understands this, can you please explain it to me? And I don't really buy the explanation of 'espionage'. I doubt a spy would bring a giant SLR into a store to 'steal' ideas. A camera phone would be much more subtle. Too bad, I would have probably liked to make a post about Cumbrae's - my favourite steak purveyor.

                          Cheers!

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            BokChoi, great reviews and photo's. Your recipe for the black cod would be appreciated? Toss up between Diana's or Cumbrae's fro tonights dinner. Soon Lee? Location?
                            Cheers

                            1. re: spine64

                              Soon Lee is on Markham at Lawrence

                              -----
                              Soon Lee
                              629 Markham Rd, Toronto, ON M1J, CA

                              1. re: spine64

                                Thanks for the compliment spine64.

                                Soon Lee - I have not visited (as far as I know - though I do tend to walk into grocery stores without checking the store front name). Perhaps jayt90 can answer questions on that one. Here is a map: http://www.weblocal.ca/soon-lee-super...

                                I did a combo recipe and combined these two:
                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                http://www.rasamalaysia.com/2007/04/r...
                                but I leaned toward the epicurious one. I enjoyed leaving the sake flavour in the sauce and it really came out in the final product.

                                Note: I cut down the brown sugar to about 2tbsp (and it was perfect. Any more and it would have been too sweet for me.) As well, you should note that you should start marinating about 6 hrs ahead of time. I only had time for an hour one time and it tasted great still.

                                You can buy the ingredients at JTown, and the sake at LCBO. I found mirin at T&T, but it was not of good quality (but was cheap).

                                Cumbrae's is great for a nice steak. Everything is well marbled and the aging gives it flavour unlike any other steak I have found easily. The prices are a bit more, but worth it IMO. I did a side by side comparison between Cumrae's and a normal Black Angus from the grocery store (just to see if I could tell the difference and if it was worth the price premium) and it blew the BA out of the water. The grains of the meat were completely different and the taste was beyond compare.

                                Make sure you keep the sauce from the miso marinade. There is a lot and I put it in the fridge to reuse it the next day with some fresh salmon. Tasted great as well (the sauce is a bit expensive for single use).
                                cheers!

                                1. re: BokChoi

                                  Apparently there are two Soon Lee's, possibly more. I didn't know about the one at Kennedy and Eglinton.
                                  Here is short review in Toronto Life on the Markham location http://www.torontolife.com/guide/food...

                                  1. re: jayt90

                                    That's why it sounds so familiar. I was intrigued because I wanted to go there for the balut. I have heard that it does not taste that great though - have you tried it?

                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                      yes. To my western palate, raised on farm fresh eggs, it was disgusting, but if Bourdain would do it, so would I! But there was lots more things there, including good brown eggs for $2.50/doz.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        Thanks jayt90. I will probably not enjoy it either then.

                                        1. re: BokChoi

                                          It wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't something I'd bother eating again. It's more of a conversation starter, I suppose. Most of my Filipino and Vietnamese friends won't touch it either.

                                  2. re: BokChoi

                                    I am fond of Nobu's Saikyo Miso black cod, which is also a really simple recipe. T&T carries several varieties of mirin. It's difficult to find really good mirin, or true hon-mirin, but as long as you look for the ones with the least ingredients, it will usually be okay (rice, water, koji, salt). Avoid ones using corn syrups and strange chemicals.

                                    1. re: tjr

                                      Fantastic and simple - I would agree. I like to not boil the alcohol flavouring away though, I find it adds a bit of je ne sais quoi - but I like it. An interesting mouth feel from the evaporating alcohol on top of the sweet marinade.

                                    2. re: BokChoi

                                      Thank you, I would like to marinate for as long as I can, so I am opting for Cumbrae's. Girlfriend enjoys the filet, I usually opt for the NY, or Rib Eye. The Rib can sometimes border on being too fatty. Last time we had a bone in veal chop.
                                      Tomorrow dim sum. have read your review on the dim sum at the Doubletree near the airport. It is definitely on my radar. Looking for something in the vicinity of Leslie/Finch/Don Mills area. We are at York Mills and Leslie.
                                      Thanks again,
                                      Scott

                                      1. re: spine64

                                        Grand is fantastic - I just returned from another fantastic dim sum meal this afternoon. It really is my favourite dim sum place in the city because I feel like I get a lot of bang for my buck. The quality is superb, and it is affordable. Too bad it is so far.

                                        Some closer ones to you (and I) that I sometimes frequent would be Yang's Chinese Cuisine on Bayview just north of Hwy 16 and Empire Court at Hwy 7 and Warden :

                                        Here are some flickr sets to get your taste buds going. I have been to Empire court off and on for about a year and their quality is consistent. Yang's I have been only 3 times, but each time it seems to be quite good, though I prefer Grand by quite a bit (perhaps because I know what to order and the tastes are more inline with my preferences).

                                        Here are some flickr sites to get you salivating:

                                        Empire Court: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                        Yang's: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                        To be honest, I don't really frequent too many other dim sum restaurants because I found many of them do not live up to my expectations. These ones are quite good - tried, tested and true. Another favourite of mine is Lotus Pond - but it is a vegetarian restaurant (and thus not for everyone). Great value though.

                                        Lotus Pond: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                        Cheers!