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Wow! Fish Monger with more fish varietals than Diana's, Bill's Lobster and T&T combined!!

In the past, when the topics of fresh whole fish or fish mongers/fish markets were being discussed. The name Diana's seafood, Bill's Lobster, St. Lawrence market or T&T were almost always mentioned. I am not here to dispute these suggestions since i recognised each of the aforementioned establishments all have their own strong points. However, if it is fresh fish varietals you are looking for, then the Chinese supermarket - 'First Choice' on the west side of Kennedy just south of the 407 trumps them all! In fact, First choice has more selection than all of the above 'combined'!!
When I went shopping for my Boullabaisse ingredients this morning, I was stunned by the large selection of fish they offered. To name a few:
For 'flats' they have fluke (the size of my 22" computer monitor), Halibut, flounder, 'live' turbot, skate wings...etc
For Garoupa, they have regular west coast black ones plus Florida yellow fin, Mangrove, spotted and strawberry.
For snapper, they have Pacific red snapper, yellow tail snapper, red 'stripped' snapper, bigeye and one I'm not familiar with.
For bass, they have Atlantic stripped bass at least 2 ft long, California bass, European stripped bass as well as local green and black ones
Other impressive finds include 'whole monk fish ( head, skin and all ) , Croakers, Conger eels,
Scorpion fish, Mullets, Porgy and a few varitals of Pompanos. Of course, they also have your normal uninteresting salmon, mackerels, cod, Pickerel...etc

The two types of Snappers which I bought, their eyes were bright and shiney, the gills deep pinkish red and the flesh bouncy and firm, all signs of freshness! I also bought my scorpion fish and conger eel!! Mission accomplished!! Now, the hard work begins!!

So, fellow chowhounders, if you need to search for whole fresh fish and don't mind getting your shoes and trousers wet ( really resembles an Oriental fish market! ). Give 'First Choice' a visit, you'll be amazed!!

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  1. Sounds great Charles, thanks for the tip. Although I am a big fan of Diana's, and their selection is great for TO, I never go looking for something in particular, just buy whatever is best that day.

    PS I'll be sure to bring my rubber soles...

    1. Sounds great Charles. Were the prices competitive? And how was the shellfish selection?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

        For oysters, of course Diana's is THE place. However, for live Rock crabs, Dungeness crabs, Vietnamese crabs, Giant lobsters, geoduck clams, razor clams, steamer clams, mussels, periwinkles etc, they have a decent selection. Price was more than competitive. In fact, I found them cheaper than T&T and 'much cheaper' than Bill's or Diana's! Economy of scale??!!

      2. Thanks for scouting it out! Do you know when they get their shipments in? Any luck with sashimi grade fish/eel?

        6 Replies
        1. re: Underdog Rally

          Thanks for the tip Charles; I know I'll be making a stop there soon!

          1. re: Underdog Rally

            Typical fish market. Wet with tons of selection but unlike Tao, no sushi grade fish or pre[paration station.

            1. re: Underdog Rally

              The usual Tuesday and Thursday delivery.

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Do you know if they sell Monkfish Roe?
                I would love to duplicate an Esca recipe.

                1. re: erly

                  Do they have fresh octopus at this market?

                  1. re: table4onthefly

                    I must apologize I did not pay attention to that. I did notice fresh squid though.

                    As for monkfish roe ( or liver ), erly, I don't think they have but I know occasionally Taro Fish carries them.

            2. That whole store is an adventure. Their produce section, too, can be fantastic. A really wide choice of mushrooms, chilis, greens - much of it packaged in bulk amounts, very inexpensive. It is also the store where I bought a box of "Visacard Chocolates" a horribly failed attempt at imitating Ferraro Rocher - but with peanuts inside and a very bad waxy chocolate outside. The slogan on the box read: "Nonce can not refuse".

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nyleve

                Yes I too have found this place to have great deals on produce, but you should check the product carefully, make sure the veggies on the bottom are not sub par and I check expiry dates on the stuff I get from the shelves i.e noodles, maggi sauce.

              2. First Choice does have great deals in the Fish and Produce section, but you do have to keep an eye out for less than fresh product.

                First Choice Restaurant
                1116 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J1X2, CA

                1. Well if you live downtown this place is not really an option. I`ll stick with the St Lawrence Market or Bill`s Lobster (who give both personal service and really know their fish).

                  1. Awesome

                    Thanks Charles.


                    1. Thanks for the tip Charles. This is a great resource, especially for us non-downtowners.

                      1. What's the good fishes to get to make Chinese steamed fish at home?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: BLM

                          Seabass, snapper, grouper, even white tilapia will work.

                          1. re: uberathlete

                            Nowadays one can find ' live ' French Turbot in most Chinese Supermarkets! Steamed them as if they are Sole. BTW, Skatewings as well!

                        2. Do they have any sustainable options that are marked and the supplier disclosed? I will make the trek if they do.

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: JennaBean

                            No. If you know your fish or take pocket guides along there is a variety of sustainable seafood there.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              Speaking of sustainable options, any chance I would be able to find some fresh barramundi (aka Asian seabass or Australian seabass)?

                              1. re: Chatty Cathy

                                Chatty C., I don't remember if they had barramundi, but they have many more tanks than T&T Milliken, which does have barrramundi.

                                Milliken Restaurant
                                7725 Birchmount Rd, Markham, ON L3R9X3, CA

                              2. re: jayt90

                                I always have my little pocket guide but I'd rather support stores that make an effort to id these items and therefore hopefully sell more of them.

                                    1. re: JennaBean

                                      Yes. It would be of absolutely no benefit whatsoever given the demographics and their target market.

                                      1. re: tjr

                                        Everyone should care about where their food comes from. I think that's a big generalization. My ethnic 88 year old grandfather has switched to all organic. He probably doesn't fit the typical demo either but it doesn't mean that he doesn't care or there is no benefit. We should all be and want to be informed consumers and then make choices based on knowledge not ignorance IMO.

                                          1. re: JennaBean

                                            While I respect your idealism, which I'm sure mirrors a similar opinion held by most people on this site (including my own), I was explaining what I imagine to be the supermarket's perspective on the issue.

                                            1. re: tjr

                                              Has anyone seen Pickerel there or anywhere lately?
                                              It is my favorite Fish to steam Chinese style, but rather elusive.

                                              1. re: erly

                                                What's the story behind the Pickerel shortage in Toronto? They use to be so available....especially in Chinese stores.

                                                1. re: T Long

                                                  ive seen them everywhere... they were on ice at foody today...

                                                  catching them though, ive been less successful this year.

                                              2. re: tjr

                                                I agree with tjr more than Jenna. At this point in time, it might be better to lobby fish managers at Loblaw, Costco, Diana's, Sobey's, Metro, and even T&T rather than First Choice. Eventually the word will get through.

                                                A fish retailer, however, will have a much more difficult job explaining provenance than a meat retailer, with indelible inspection marks on the carcass, and a paper trail.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  Let me first say I love that store because it's a total hoot to shop in. And there's always a great price on lemons. HOWEVER I will also say that I have seen a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada truck parked at the door. I'm not suggesting what they may have been doing (picking up tofu?) but I'm just saying I saw them there.

                                                2. re: tjr

                                                  Honestly, I know it is idealism. I'm happy that at least the conversation is happening. There I go again! :-)

                                  1. So the Garoupa(regular west coast black ones, Florida yellow fin, Mangrove, spotted & strawberry) are available fresh(not frozen) at First Choice when you were there?