Westchester Food Lover’s Guide: Local Seafood
The best area fish-sellers, where nothing’s fishy.
A red snapper, one of the most popular white fish, with a firm texture and sweet, nutty flavor, from The Market at Eastchester Fish. It is excellent grilled with fresh herbs and olive oil.
Don’t pass by the Highridge Plaza on Central Avenue in Yonkers just because it ain’t pretty—you’d be missing two all-star food shopping stops, one of which is JJR Highridge Fishery (see Latticini A & S Pork Store under Italian Delis for the other). Dad Frank Siragusa, the owner, who’s been in the fish biz since 1979, and daughter Johanna, the store manager, offer fresh fish of which 90 percent is bought whole and fileted on-premise and 95 percent of which is wild-caught. Look for sushi-grade tuna ($17.99-$23.99/lb) to prepare tuna tartare at home, skate ($6.99) for a fish version of Francese, or wild-caught large shrimp ($15/lb) and pink-as-roses wild salmon ($21.99/lb) to set under the broiler with fresh herbs and olive oil.
Lots of cooking goes on here (many of the recipes are Frank’s): seafood salads (try the Riviera with calamari, shrimp, scungilli, garlic, lemon, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil); fish cakes; stuffed clams; salmon with house-made teriyaki; clam sauce for linguine; and soups including chowders, lobster bisque, and gazpacho (summer only).
There are also lunch specials Monday to Saturday, 11 am to 3 pm, at which, for $8 to $10, you get a main (go for the eight pieces of fried shrimp or two pieces of fried flounder), a side, and a sauce.
It’s 3 am on a weekday, and Rick Ross, owner of The Market at Eastchester Fish Gourmet, has already started his workday. He’s busy amidst the hanging scales and troughs of ice-covered fish at the vast New Fulton Fish Market (second largest worldwide after Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market) in the Bronx. Once a week, Ross, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, makes the trek to the Bronx (a buyer for The Market handles the fish selection the other six days of the week). Ross is an expert at picking out the fattiest, most colorful—and thus most flavorful— fish, from 200-lb swordfish to 80-lb halibut. All fish are delivered to The Market where they’re hand-cut and fileted.
“There’s prime versus choice when it comes to meat,” says co-owner Monica Lavin. “Well, we’re the fish equivalent of prime. Also, our service makes us stand out: from steaming lobsters, shucking clams, and in December, grinding fish for gefilte. Who still does that?”
And if you’re the type to make reservations and not dinner, no problem—there are prepared foods to heat and serve like Parmesan-crusted cod, chowders, honey-mustard salmon, crab cakes, and fried calamari. Or, if you really don’t want to lift anything (except a knife and fork), Ross owns Eastchester Fish Gourmet restaurant (just four doors down), which serves the same fresh catches found at the retail shop.
Holiday Helper: In December, special prepared items are offered daily, like baked clams, mini crab cakes, zuppe di pesce, and seasoned oven-ready lobster tails.
If there are any doubts about the freshness of the fish at Mount Kisco Seafood, just peep in the windows anytime between 5:30 and 9 am when the doors open. Owner Joe DiMauro and his staff are in a flurry of activity slicing up whole swordfish or striped bass into cuts, cleaning scallops of the last bit of grit, peeling and boiling shrimp, preparing sushi, and boiling house-made fish stock as a base for soup. Peep the following day and you’ll see the same routine. Essentially, there’s little inventory here; everything is prepped daily. No wonder well over 4,000 lbs of fish are sold weekly.
If you haven’t a clue about how to cook that bright and shiny filet, the countermen are helpful with recipes. Or, if you don’t want a clue on how to cook, just purchase something from their prepared-foods menu (horseradish-crusted salmon, baked clams, stuffed sole) to heat and serve. And don’t pass up on the selection of crusty breads and gourmet condiments and sauces.
The parking is a little tight at H MART, a Korean supermarket conglomerate with more than 40 stores in 13 states (and, yes, I made a point of disparaging national chains in the article intro, but there are exceptions to every rule, no?), but it’s difficult to find a seafood department with selections this fresh and at such reasonable prices. There are some wild-caught selections (cod at $9.99/lb, halibut at $16.99/lb, swordfish at $10.99/lb), but much of the selection comes from Captain Blue, the first Korean wholesaler in the 188-year history of the Fulton Fish Market, and much of it’s farm-raised (which, according to some, could mean it’s more likely to have contaminants), but some of us are on a tight budget! Prices vary based on weekly specials, but think salmon steak ($6.99/lb), head-on shrimp ($7.99/lb), head-off black tiger shrimp ($10.99/lb), scallops ($7.99/lb), and lobsters on sale (albeit infrequently) for the Holy Smelts! price of $4.79/lb.
371 Central Ave
Hartsdale, (914) 448-8888
JJR Highridge Fishery
1791 Central Park Ave
Yonkers, (914) 337-3775
The Market at Eastchester Fish Gourmet
837 White Plains Rd
Scarsdale, (914) 725-3450, ext 3
Mt Kisco Seafood
477 Lexington Ave
Mount Kisco, (914) 241-3113
1 Stew Leonard Dr
Yonkers, (914) 375-4700