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Feb 21, 2012 12:53 PM

Where has all the Fresh Fish Gone?

I used to be able to go to one or two stores in Chinatown or one of the two stores in Hells kitchen and buy good fresh fish, but now it seems as though all of the fish regardless of price, have grey instead of clear Black iris: eyes. Where can one buy fresh fish now adays without going to Hunt's Point at three in the morning, or paying 12 to 17 dollars per pound, for 6 dollar per pound fish?

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  1. What type of fish are you looking for? Wild, farmed? What type?

    1. I have the exact same sentiments! Where DO you get great fish-esp tuna in Manhattan?

      7 Replies
      1. re: UES Mayor

        I have been fishing for tuna in the Atlanta for about 20 years. There simply aren't that many of them left. You are experiencing a trickle-down effect, where those willing to pay very top dollar (mostly high-end restaurants) are getting a much larger percentage of the available high-end fish than they were five, let alone ten or twenty years ago. What little remains is distributed pretty widely among a rapidly growing middle-class population (here and abroad). The result is that the average consumer in the United States either has to pay much more than they did not too long ago or resign themselves to inferior quality. Anyone telling you different has probably labeled their porgy as "silver snapper."

        1. re: nmprisons

          I have fished the Canyons, Butterfish hole etc etc for tuna. I've fished for Striped bass at Montauk Point. and all other fish in New York area. You will never get fish as fresh as when you catch it. Years ago I used to watch the haul-seiners in East Hampton, pull in bass and blue fish in their nets and hold it until they had enough fish to make a worthwhile trip to the fish market. Those fish were a couple of days old before they even made it to the market and sold as fresh fish. If the fish is kept right it will hold up Ok. As far as tuna goes, I've seen the good tuna brought into the dock at Montauk go right on a truck to the airport and flown to Japan. Funny thing is that same tuna is probably flown back here, and we pay a lot in our favorite sushi restaurant for a fish that travelled 1000's of miles. As far as fish markets in the city go, Central Market on 9th Ave is probably the best. If you can get True World to sell you fish , you would get some nice fish from Japan. The fish market on East Broadway has gone way way down hill. I will only buy live crabs there.

          Central Fish Market
          527 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            I don't think Central Fish is still there. I bought fish at Sea Breeze on the same block. They are great for whole fish and live blue crabs. Some filets are good, but I bought the cheap flounder and it was treated. Am I the only one who notices that the routine cod, sole, flounder and haddock are treated with this type of saline- phosphate mixture that makes the fish look shiny and I guess keeps it fresh. But it gives the fish a nasty, slippery feel and off taste? Shrimp too are being treated and give off a terrible taste. I ruined a nice fish stock I was making by adding shrimp shells I bought from Wild Edibles, of all places. Medium shrimp from Panama. I should have known better but I figured that place would not resort to that. I had to throw out the shrimp. I once bought head on shrimp in Chinatown with the same results. Supermarket fish too. Just because it says wild or fresh doesn't mean untreated. I did research this.

            Wild Edibles
            535 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

            1. re: diakon

              Interesting about the saline phospate treatment, I know an FDA fish inspector I will ask about that. I know about the tuna treated with CO2 to make it look red and fresh. Fish stores used to and maybe still use oil to make the fish look shiny if it is not fresh. Best thing is to get a fishing rod and catch your own fish. That is exactly what i'll be doing in a few weeks when the Striped Bass start the Spring run

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                Actually I believe it is called a polyphosphate dip. Another treatment is called sodium tripolyphosphate. Apparently deemed legal and safe by the government. Maybe so but it ruins the flavor and texture of fish. When I bought those flounder filets, and they did have a strange pink color, they wouldn't cook through! You know how quickly a sole or flounder filet cooks, and I am a professional chef. But when I tried broiling these from an Italian recipe I had great success with previously, the fish only got more firm, like cardboard and kept this disturbing translucence. It was like a hard salt fish.

            2. re: foodwhisperer

              Yeah. I remember once catching a bluefin we estimated at about 650lbs. We released it (despite having a commercial permit, it just didn't seem right to kill it, and we were out looking for marlin anyway), but radioed to the rest of the fleet letting them know that we had caught one. When we got back to the dock there were two separate buyers waiting for us trying to send the fish back to Japan. They were utterly shocked that we had released it.

              I also remember killing a bluefin about ten years ago (the only one I have ever killed). We take care of our fish and it was immediately bled and properly iced. A few hours later we decided to butcher it, as the six people in the party wanted to take it in six different directions upon returning to the dock. I had the honors and convinced them that the right thing to do was to make some sashimi. I cut pieces from the head, belly, loin, cheek, and tail and laid out a plate with soy and wasabi (crappy paste, but what do you expect on a boat). I have done the same with yellowfin, albacore, and big-eye. The difference between that and the very best sushi that you can buy at the very best restaurants is night and day.

              1. re: nmprisons

                Wow a 650lb Blue Fin, is a really nice catch. It could have brought you some big bucks. I admire you caring about the fish. More fishermen should do the same. I do that with Stripers, but so many try to steal the shorts, or take more than the limit.

        2. Hmm... So confused.. you are looking for a great place that is cheap? A new spot in Chinatown that has good seafood is that place right on Mott.. It's directly across the street from Golden Steamer, it's a large supermarket that opened a couple of months ago..

          They have live fish.. But, what really impresses me is the clams, the giant squid, oysters and clams,razor clams, the live shrimp, the baby octopus, they always have a few different species of live crab from Dungeness to, Blue and Cornish looking Crabs. The lobster tanks.. I also buy beautiful looking Sardines, and live fish from the tank. i buy branzino and monkfish.. it's all great. I eat fish three times a week in my house.. And the prices are incredible..

          New York Mart
          128 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

          5 Replies
          1. re: Daniel76

            Chinatown is so much larger these days. Have you tried the places on corridor of Grand Street between Allen and Bowery? That's where the hardcore food shopping is these days. I usually buy shellfish however.

            1. re: chowchau

              I have tried every seafood shop in Chinatown as well as Chinatown in Brooklyn, and basicly looking for whole, bone in fish, not fillets, due to what some of the previous poster mentioned as additives in the fillets, and I have not found any fresh whole fish. Even the shops in Hells kitchen are not up tp par. When I mean fresh I mean the eyes have a clear Black iris, not foggy grey or glossed over or white, when the iris is white or light grey, dont even feed it to a stray cat, maybe bury it in the backyard for mulch, but to be honest this in the only fish I have seen recently in the above locations.
              I had hoped in with the Lenten season coming up someone might know of some neighborhood shops that still have fresh fish at under 15 and 18 dollars per pound.

              The cost of going fishing now a days is about as much as buying a 4 months supply of fresh fish, and after shelling out that kind of money in cold weather there is no guarantee of catching anything.

              1. re: tombombadillo

                If you have access to a car then head up to Arthur Ave in the Bronx. Randazzo's has a great selection of very fresh whole fish. I have been buying from them for years.


                1. re: MVNYC

                  Randazzo's is heaven,if you love a good variety of fish.Fish vendors at the greenmarkets and the Lobster Place at Chelsea Mkt. are other options.

                  The Lobster Place
                  75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                2. re: tombombadillo

                  I know what you're talking about. I've given up -- used to get my fish in C-town or Sea Breeze but quality just hasn't been the same lately. I've just resorted to paying more money for my fish and going to Citarella, Lobster Place or doing mail order at Vital Choice. Vital Choice sometimes has coupons for 15% off your order which makes it a bit less painful.

                  There's one fish shop I've seen in Sunset Park Brooklyn where I've purchased some fish that I think is the best out of the bunch. Unfortunately I don't remember the exact address and name -- it's in the mid 50s and 8th Ave and has English names of the fish.

            2. Finding good, reasonably priced fresh fish has become very difficult. Supermarket fish is generally a disaster. Grey, previously frozen filets look sad & unappetizing. Fresh filets look great only because they have been dipped in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) but their taste & texture are severly compromised. You used to be able to buy nice groundfish filets (cod, flounder, monkfish etc.) for well under $10.00 when they were in season. Now, as others have mentioned, their stocks have been depleted & what's available goes to the highest bidder, usually high end restaurants.I am not a fan of most farm raised species or frozen fish but that's pretty much what's available that's wholesome. My solution is that I just retired & live near Long island Sound. Hopefully, I can find a friend with a boat so I can catch my own.

              1 Reply
              1. re: zackly

                I basically only buy fish at the green market. But, if I had to, I'd go to:

                Whole Foods, if you shop carefully...daily deliveries. And you know where everything comes from, farm vs. wild, etc.
                Agata & Valentina has a nice fish department.

              2. There are a number of Chinatown markets selling live fish. Only buy live in Chinatown and you will always have something fresh. Look on these streets: Mott, Mulberry, Doyers, East Broadway.

                Whole Foods has been very reliable. There is almost always a good weekly sale, plus certain items are well priced most of the time -- $10/lb for trout fillets.

                Trader Joe's for IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) which can be better than fresh fillets, as they may be cut and packed on the boat right after being caught.

                2 Replies
                1. re: batterypark

                  Just to help readers navigate, that's Mott north of Canal and Mulberry south of Canal. Not aware of any place on Doyers that sells live seafood.

                  1. re: squid kun

                    My mistake. Bayard Street has a live seafood market.