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May 2, 2013 07:03 PM

Fish Market(s) in Japantown [San Francisco]

Off and on for years I have bought fresh fish, tuna, halibut, eel etc.. for sashimi, and fresh seaweed salad, out of larger jars, not prepackaged. I haven't done it in a few years and yesterday I wandered around for quite a while and couldn't find the store I used to frequent, or any fish counters. All I could find was packed pieces of fish.

Any recommendations for fish from a fish counter with a butcher to cut it? Tuna is around $33.00 plus per pound, so I am not looking for bargains, I want quality fish.

We almost had a heart attack, on a week day, the parking meters cost $4.00 or $4.25 an hour!!!!

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  1. There is no fish market in Japantown that will cut-to-order. Most locals go to Nijiya Market where the fish is all butchered in the back, packaged, and brought forth - but quite exceptional.

    For cut-to-order, consider Ranch 99, which is Chinese and not in Japantown (but great quality).

    11 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      So I guess the fish markets that I used to frequent are all gone... sad, because the last one that I was at about two years ago, was nowhere to be found. How disappointing.

      I am not familiar with Ranch 99, but I just googled it and will go to the one in Daly City. Thanks for the info.

      I am very familiar with Nijiya and we did do some shopping there the other day, and the but passed on the packaged fish although it did look fresh. It isn't so much the fresh tuna, I can get that in a lot of good markets, but I want to get smaller pieces of the other fish that I mentioned and the regular markets won't cut off smaller pieces for me .

      1. re: Canthespam

        Uoki used to cut fish to order but I think Nijiya took everyone else out of business.

        Slightly different model but I find the sashimi at Yum Yum Fish on Irving to be very good, and at takeout prices much cheaper than at a restaurant.

        1. re: calumin

          Just thinking about this has made my mouth water.. we like Yum Yum, too bad it closes at 7:30PM - maybe tomorrow.

      2. re: CarrieWas218

        nijiya and ranch 99 are great.

        swan's has some great fish as well.

        the fish market in the ferry building sometimes has some nice things -- live, in-the-shell scallops in particular.

        there are also a number of fish markets in chinatown that have interesting things. live crab and lobster, but i've also seen little live abalones there.

        anyway, these are the places i go for seafood to cook at home.

        agreed, the parking meter rates are ridiculous.

        1. re: Dustin_E

          I don't have any problem buying regular fish for dinner, Whole Foods and Mollie Stones are near me and I like Bryan's too. I am just looking for sushi grade fish - it has to be super fresh, only hours old. Next stop Ranch 99.

          1. re: Canthespam

            Depending on the size of the fish, it can take up to 10 days for the meat to reach perfect aging to consume raw. A large tuna, for example, is best consumed as sushi after 7 to 10 days of aging. "it has to be super fresh, only hours old" is such a misconception about sushi... super fresh does not always mean tastier.

            1. re: od_sf

              Interesting. Several 'butchers' have told me that it had to be only hours old for them to sell it as sushi grade. Unfortunately most butchers today seem to be in their early twenties!..... not like the old days where butchers really knew their craft and were not just hired to sell meat and fish.

              1. re: Canthespam

                It depends on the fish. As a general rule, small, oily fish (such as iwashi, saba, aji, kohada, etc) should be served as fresh as possible. But large fish such as tuna will generally need to be aged. As mentioned earlier, a very large tuna might need 10 days of aging before reaching optimal texture and taste. A fish that is smaller than a tuna, such as halibut, might benefit from 3 or 4 days of aging. There are many variables involved. But fresher is not always better with sushi! I've seen a million reviews of sushi restaurants that usually go something like: "the tuna was so fresh it tasted like it was caught this morning!" and right away it's a sign to me that the reviewer knows nothing about sushi.

                1. re: od_sf

                  You learn something new every single day .... thank heavens!

                  1. re: Canthespam

                    By the way, in case you are wondering where many good sushi restaurants (and retailers like Nijiya) in the Bay Area get most of their seafood from, it is from a company called IMP Foods.

                  2. re: od_sf

                    Well tuna as a large fish is frozen when caught, and so how can we really have "fresh" tuna?

        2. With all respect you will not find "sushi-grade" fish at Ranch 99. At best they MIGHT have ahi. I was at Hapuku Fish Shop at Rockridge Market Hall, Oakland last weekend and they had gorgeous (and expensive) ahi, hamachi, and wild salmon.

          1 Reply
          1. re: letsindulge

            Even my closest Whole Foods doesn't have sushi grade tuna. It is almost impossible to find. I can't believe that there are no markets left in Japantown -- nothing left for locals, just tourist stuff.

          2. Consider going outside of the range.

            Tokyo Fish Market (Berkeley)

            Suruki Supermarket (San Mateo


            Berkeley Bowl might be another option, but I don't know.

            These places will sell by the pound, carved to order.

            Tim at Ichi Sushi goes to a wholesaler at ABS per SF Eater article


            You can call and ask if you can buy a minimum amount (hopefully not more than what you can consume) without opening an account, and see if that will work.

            I do not recommend 99 Ranch at all. Crabs, lobster, fish on ice, or the run of the mill farmed sealife from the tanks...yes....but not sashimi.

            1. Try Nikko Fish Company in the Sunset.