Monday, February 12, 2007

56th St. (Fish) Market

Ironcially, when you Google 56th St. Fish Market the best entry comes up with "other considerations". "Other considerations" are what I will be making the next time I need seafood -- or need to refer someone to a fish market to buy fresh seafood. Apparently, with the expansion to include a deli and soup counter, the old east side standby has stopped focusing on what they did better than anyone in town -- sell fresh fish.

When I first started going to this market 7 or 8 years ago, you could always ensure they'd have fresh fish, shellfish, and specialty items -- and plenty of them. And they're not cheap! But after a while, they became less reliable. In the past few years, I've been caught up short a few times as regular seafood they normally had in stock was absent -- shellfish, sea bass, trout. I began to always call ahead a few days for anything that might be scarce or vaguely special. When they can help me, which isn't always, I still call at least twice, confirming my name and phone number. I always worry that there will be a problem. (When you're relying on a schedule or a particular ingredient for a carefully planned dinner, it makes a difference.)


I haven't had any huge issues lately, so when I asked a friend to bring mussels to my house for dinner last week, I gave him the number and address. He dutifully called ahead and made an order for 4 lbs (after he was told they only come in 2 lb batches, which seems odd and inflexible) to be picked up late Saturday afternoon. And of course, I get a call at 5:45 that he's there and they don't have his order. Not only do they not have his order -- or any record of his order -- but they have no fresh mussels (of course, they have almost *no* fresh fish there anymore.) The clerk kept trying to get him to substitute frozen, cooked mussels. (Sure, easier for them, but not really what I was going for to be steamed fresh with lemongrass and basil.)


Sadly, they appear to have taken another step backward in that now they can't even process special orders. Whether misplaced, "lost" or sold, we lost a dish from a dinner party and I inconvenienced a guest because of their mistake. It's a sad day when at their prices they can't even be relied upon for special orders anymore. And as always, they try to push frozen substitutes because it's easier for them. If anyone has any other ideas for sourcing really good fresh fish (and no, Saraga doesn't count), I'm eager to hear them. I'm done with 56th St. (Fish) Market.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joe's in Carmel might be an option. He does not have a large selection but customer service is tops. Call a few days ahead and I'm sure he can get what you need.

scott
www.hungryhoosier.com

peter said...

How about the two local Wild Oats stores? I have purchased fish and shellfish there over the years and had good luck, although I buy meat more often. That's too bad about 56th St. Fish Market, but someone is supplying mussels to restaurants such as Brugge and Oceannaire. Either way I would get to know the fish guy really well - you can't assume those mussels will make it all the way to Indiana AND be stored properly.

braingirl said...

Joe's in Carmel is a trek for us downtowners, but might be an option for something more unusual. And knowing how fish gets to Indiana and how it's stored is exactly why I don't like grocery store fish counters -- even Wild Oats.

I dont' think, in general, that groceries move their inventory or keep the fish as fresh. They also don't have anything off the beaten path or allow special orders. (No sea bass or red snapper.) I hate to have to source fish from local chef pals -- I just think it must be a pain in the ass for them. But I suppose it's an option.

Most restaurants use any number of wholesalers. (Oceanaire ships in their own.) Midwest Seafood is one popular restaurant supplier. And their retail storefront? 56th St. Fish Market.

Anonymous said...

How great would it be to have a fresh fish stand at the city market?

Neal said...

On the contrary Miss Braingirl. I happen to not mind at all. A) Because I can usually persuade people to buy fish that I already have on my menu, which in turn keeps my rotation fresh. B) Because it is just an added service that a restaurant can provide. We Cut at least 10-20 lbs of fish a day, whats one more pound? Service, thats what it is. And C) If I order your fish and the quality is good ( which I know it will be or you aint gettin it anyway) where do you think your going to go to dinner the next time your sweety says, "Billy, I have been itchin for some skate wing!"?
And just as a side note, and one that I don't care who reads or decides to contact me concerning...
56th Street fish market has tried to bluff me on the "Oh yeah, it's fresh" shit one too many times...they misrepresent their product.

Kona Jacks Fish market is the place to go, think about it....how much fish do they move in a packed sushi bar and a seafood based adjoining restaurant. They get the vast majority of their fish from the same vendors as Ocean Air, H20 Sushi, Elements, and L'explorateur. Ok, Im done.

braingirl said...

Mmmm. Skate wing! I know where I'm going to dinner tomorrow night.

re: Kona Jack's -- I have no problem with their fish the last time I made sushi at home, I went there for fish and the guy at the counter was an idiot. They were out of everything -- tuna, mackeral, anything that wasn't salmon. Then he almost wouldn't sell the salmon to me when I said I was going to cut it raw and serve it as sashimi. He kept saying that it couldn't be served raw -- it was illegal or something. Ridiculous.

Next time I need fresh fish -- or foie gras for that matter -- you're the one I'll call!

Anonymous said...

I KNOW THAT THE 56TH STREET MARKET HAS GONE DOWN BUT I DO KNOW THAT LATELY THEY ARE COMING BACK UP. THEY THEY WENT THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGES BUT THE STAFF THAT THEY HAVE NOW IS DOING A GREAT JOB AND ALL THE FISH HAS BEEN FRESH. I THINK THAT THEY HAVE GOT IT TOGETHER NOW.