Sea Breeze Fish Market
Address: 541 9th Ave, New York, 10018
I lived in Hell’s Kitchen for a few months and during that time, one of the very few things I liked about living in that area was the proximity to Sea Breeze Fish Market. There are no good grocery stores in that area (except maybe the Amish Market, but even that supermarket was not that good) but at least I could get quality seafood for very reasonable prices. You would think that buying seafood in a cosmopolitan city like Manhattan would be an easy task. Restaurants may be able to get their hands on good stuff but I think retail customers are left with pretty poor choices. I now sometimes buy seafood from Wild Edibles at Grand Central because it’s close to work, but I haven’t been too impressed with the quality (throw in the higher prices and satisfaction goes down one notch). The Manila clams I bought there tasted like some sort of chemical (which seems to be a trend with Manila clams here…).
One hot summer day I bought a Long Island fluke and made a simple but delicious ceviche. Just “cook” the fluke pieces in a mixture of lime and lemon juice, salt, black pepper and add minced jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, sliced red onion, minced scallion and cilantro. I find that a lot of ceviches in restaurants are too complicated. I love the kind of ceviche that you would find on the beach in the Caribbean somewhere. Lots of acidity (preferably nothing sweet) and very fresh.
One of my favorite fish to buy there are the smelts. So cheap but so good. I used to take out the intestines but I quite like the bitterness of it so I like to leave them in sometimes. I give them a quick rinse and sprinkle a generous amount of salt and just broil them until they brown up nicely. I guess they are the same as Japanese shishamo, which are especially nice when you get them filled with eggs. They are typically grilled (most Japanese households have a fish grill- my parents have one installed in their kitchen) and eaten with condiments of liking (whether it be kewpie mayo and shichimi togarashi or kuro shichimi). You don’t even need to use oil for this so these are a pretty healthy snack (plus you’re eating the whole fish with the bones so you’re getting some calcium!). They are great fried as well, served with some lemon.
Head on shrimp is pretty hard to find in the city (unless you go to Chinatown) but Sea Breeze has them of course. Shrimp is so much more fragrant cooked with the shell on, and you can’t forget about the most flavorful part which is in the head. I cooked these with some minced garlic, minced scallion, chili pepper flakes and a lot of black pepper.
I was excited to see live craw fish there, but I was not a big fan once I cooked them. I felt really bad that I didn’t cook them well! I don’t know if the quality of these were just not that good or whether I didn’t prepare them correctly. When the season comes they have some nice soft shell crabs.
So if you live in New York City and are looking for quality, reasonably priced seafood, you should definitely check out Sea Breeze Fish Market. I got some lobsters from there for Christmas and they were very good ($10.99/lb). If you’re downtown, I highly recommend the Union Market in the Lower East Side (have bought some nice razor clams and a variety of fish there). I never get the chance to go to Union Square Farmers market but apparently you can find some high quality seafood there as well.