When it comes to buying fish, there are a few basic rules I have learned to follow over the years to ensure we serve you incredibly fresh fish. I once read a quote from Chef Masa Takayama (of the Michelin 3-star sushi restaurant Masa in NYC) that really opened my eyes: “Once I have found and ordered the best fish on the planet, my job is 90% done.”
As a general rule at The Merchant Kitchen & Drinks, we try to only buy day boat fish. This means that the fishermen we buy from go out fishing and return that same day. This ensures the fish was caught that day, and gets into my hands the following day.
Most people may not know that this is not the norm – many commercial boats go out for days or weeks at a time (known as trip boats) – so the possibility of you getting a fish a couple of days old is pretty high.
So does this mean that all you have to do is buy day boat fish and you’re all good? Of course not. You could be buying a day boat fish caught a week ago. My solution? Find a trustworthy fishmonger, and be willing to pay a little more for your product. At The Merchant, we trust Georges Bank Seafood right here in Boston.
My other big rule is to buy wild fish, rather than farm-raised. When fish are farm-raised, which is about 50% of the fish we consume now, it affects quality in several ways. First, the feed isn’t natural. Many of these farms use modified corn feed, which doesn’t allow the fish to produce the normal oils that make it so healthy to eat. They are also kept in such tight areas that the oxygen level is lower, making the fish less healthy, and in turn, affecting the flavor of the fish.
Of course, there are exceptions to rules, as there are a few amazing farms that are producing some fantastic fish. Places like Veta La Palma in Spain or Lock Etive in Scotland have huge farms enclosed in the wild, and the fish are left to feed naturally in the ocean, all while being able to breed and keep the fishing of their species sustainable.
From there, cooking is the easy part!