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Jun 6, 2009 04:59 PM

Best fresh fish in southern OC?

Where is the best place to buy fresh fish in the Newport/Irvine/Costa Mesa area? I have been buying most of my fish at Gelson's (Irvine), Bristol Farms (Newport), Santa Monica Seafood (Costa Mesa), or Whole Foods (the District/Tustin). If I am very careful (questioning as to when the fish came in, smelling the fish, examining the fish very carefully), I can usually, but not always, get decent fish. I wish I knew a good local fishmonger who carried super-fresh fish and whose recommendations I could dependably trust. Does this exist in this area? I have always previously lived in areas where there was a local fish store where I could get great fish. I have been unable to locate such in this area. Does it exist?

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  1. Newport/Costa Mesa:

    Pearsons Port
    Dory Fleet
    Santa Monica Seafood.

    4 Replies
    1. re: docb

      Are Pearson's Port and the Dory Fleet fish stores...or are you saying that I should go to a port called "Pearson's" or the the pier where the dory fisherman come in?

      1. re: josephnl

        The Dory Fleet is the actual boats at Newport pier. They sell fresh fish very early mornings.

        Pearsons Port is a fish boat in Newport, that also sells live fish.
        100 E Coast Hwy Newport Beach CA . Look em up.

        There's another fish market in Newport but I have not been there .

        Also, lots of Asian markets have tons of great fish. Ranch 99 has a great selection.

      2. re: docb

        Any places in Huntington Beach? Seal Beach, Sunset Beach?

        1. re: OC Mutt

          Try Fish Camp in Sunset Beach on PCH.

          By far the best fresh fish is to be had at The Original Fish Co. in Los Alamitos.

      3. Shop the Japanese supermarkets. Mostly cut fish. Some whole fish, but they're usually the small fish - mackerel, sardines, smelt, etc. The cut fish are packaged in plastic wrapped trays so you can't smell them, but you'll see the quality - better and more reliably fresh than any of other sources you mentioned.

        Mitsuwa & Marukai in Costa Mesa
        Ebisu in Fountain Valley

        5 Replies
        1. re: Professor Salt

          Agree. Marukai has a better whole fish selection than Mitsuwa and better service, but you must be a member to buy (this is a whopping $10 a year or $1 per visit). Also many of the Viet places have very good fish... some label in English, some only in Viet, some in Viet and Chinese.

          The 99 Ranch stores in OC (there's two in Irvine) actually have better fish than the depressing selection at the Van Nuys store, which was my old 99 Ranch before I moved to greener pastures.

          Santa Monica Seafood is absolutely ridiculously expensive.

          Dry Dock Fish (in Fullerton) comes to the Irvine farmers' market on Saturday mornings near UCI.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Agreed about Marukai. It is FAR superior to Mitsuwa for fish, particularly sushi grade fish, which BTW is also less expensive as well.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              1) Is all of the cut fish in Japanese markets pre-wrapped. I never buy fresh fish without smelling it and carefully inspecting both sides.
              2) Do the fishmonders speak/understand least enough to tell me whether the petrale sole or the halibut is fresher, or which is locally caught, etc.

              1. re: josephnl

                1) Yes, but I've never had a problem, not even once, and the plastic is thin enough that 'off' odours will come through.

                2) Yes, fluently.

                1. re: josephnl

                  Yes, it's pre-wrapped at Marukai, but it's not a problem. English is hit or miss. To be fair, I did get one piece of bluefin tuna that smelled funny (didn't make anyone sick) , but I've been shopping there for sushi fish for 10 years. I consider it an aberration and still keep going back. .

            2. You can also check out Bear flag fish co in Newport beach. I bought a pieces of ahi tuna this past Fri and it was much better than Wholefoods or Santa monica seafood. The last time I bought shrimp and fish from Santa Monica seafood was smelly and awful. Bear flag is a great place to eat also. Their fish tacos are pretty good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mrsjoujou

                I second Bear Flag, I had dinner there and I think the owners are pretty passionate about fish. When you walk in, doesn't smell fishy at all and my salmon and panko grilled tacos were cooked to perfection. Check out their website for a coupon:

                Make sure the volume is turned down on your computer, you hear a loud bear growl when you visit the site, scared the heck out of me the first few times.

                1. re: groover808

                  I agree a third time about the Bear Flag Fish Co. I had the salmon plate with vegetables and it was perfect. You can also purchase your fresh fish there to take home... I wish we had one in Dana Point. Bear Flag, if you can read this, we need a fresh fish store in Dana Point desperately. I can't understand how there isn't one.

              2. Our nearby ocean is far too polluted for commercial fishing. Fresh fish from Mexico may be available seasonally, however I am told that most SoCal merchants, be it Johns, Whole Foods, Gelson’s, Von’s, ect - all receive their fish from the same place – imported from Seattle’s wholesale fish markets!

                Seattle is the main fresh fish distributer for the West Coast. - A dirty secret of the retail industry is that many fish today are flash frozen at sea, then sent to China where they are thawed, cleaned and cut. These processed fish are then packaged and re-frozen, then sent to US markets where they are re-thawed for display.

                Pink florescent case lights and an hourly light misting of water make the product look nice and fresh. . . . Beware of any faint smells of diluted bleach (which is an old butcher’s trick so as to move the older product by masking off spoilage odors).