Little Fish Shops

There is a theory that runs around my family regarding a women’s diet when they are pregnant.  They believe that a fish heavy diet (within the mercury-poisoning risk levels) will produce smarter offspring.  Given the biochemistry, it kind of makes logical sense to me but I’ve yet to find a study validating this.  The only evidence is the offspring in our family, particularly my two youngest cousins.  Their mother ate a ton of fish while pregnant and likely produced the two brightest and good-looking kids in the family (they are still pretty young which is why I use the word “likely” but this could be wishful thinking on the part of my ego). Although I believe each of the other cousins harbors a bit of jealousy towards them, the kids are so sweet and so cute that it is impossible not to love them.  Just ask Bank of America and Toyota who plastered my cousin’s face all over their ads.  So on days when I’m feeling a little dumb, which seem to grow more numerous with age, I eat fish.

I read somewhere that the best sandwich in Toronto is a fish sandwich and that it can be found at place called The Fish Store.  On a warm summer evening I made my way over to little Italy to sample this tasty delight.  I walked up the to store and giggled when I saw the outside.  The thought, “whoa this place must have been around a long time” entered my mind. 

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The inside is tiny with a friendly Korean couple frying up fresh fish which is displayed on ice under fluorescent light.  The display board is hand-written, advertising the special fish of the day and the other menu items which includes fish sandwiches, soup and a few other dishes I can’t remember.  My friend and I decided to go half and half on the wild salmon and halibut sandwiches.  Below is the heavier salmon.

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If there is one thing I have to say is that they give you a LOT of fish.  In terms of taste, it is excellent!  The fish is cooked perfectly.  It is warm throughout, juicy and tender.  The meat is also lightly spiced.  The spice doesn’t take away from the natural flavors of the fish and if anything, brings out more flavor.  I remember a hint of lemon which they must add while they are cooking it. Below is the lighter and more fluffy halibut.  Like the salmon, it was cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful.

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The bread is also delicious.  Fresh and soft.  The bottom bun looks really big but once you pick up the sandwich the soft dough compresses under the weight of the huge pieces of fish so you can actually fit the whole thing into your mouth.  The sandwich is also completed with a few tomato slices and lettuce.  The veggies are fresh but nothing special.  I think I would have preferred thicker slices of tomato but I think that’s just because I really like tomatoes.  All in all, it is a great sandwich.  I wouldn’t go as far to say it is the best sandwich in the city, but if I’m ever in the mood for a fresh fish sandwich this is the place to go.

I was feeling pretty healthy after I left The Fish Store that day.  Last night’s fish meal was a different story.  I’ve had mixed feeling about fish and chips throughout my life. Fish sticks were the only type of seafood I would down at a young age but only after a complaint was filed to my mother about how I didn’t like seafood.  Back in my athlete days, battered fish and fries was not exactly the meal of choice but it was an occasional indulgence since I argued that fish was high in protein.  Once those days had passed I developed a love for the breaded fish and the tasty tartar sauce that came with it.  Then on one fateful Tuesday in the summer of 2004, a friend of mine brought me to Joey’s Only Seafood for their $8.99 all you can eat fish and chips.  Too much breading, too much bad fish, too much tartar sauce, and the site of watching my buddy go through three bottles (the size of standard size ketchup bottles… not little bottles) of tartar sauce turned me off fish and chips until 2007.  The Pilot House in Kingston got me back on board with their tasty take on the dish and since moving to Toronto, I figured I could find something better.  I’ve had fish and chips at a number of pubs and restaurants but didn’t find any of them outstanding until last night.

I’ve heard people toss around the name Harbord Fish and Chips as having the best fish and chips in the city.  Last night a friend and I wandered down Harbord St. towards the tiny shop with a few picnic tables out front.  Like the Fish Store, the shop could barely fit three customers and the little Asian man behind the counter was very friendly with a big grin on his face. 

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We ordered the dinner for two for $24.99 which could realistically be called a dinner for three.  It came with two and a half pieces of halibut, two plates of fries and two small cups of coleslaw.  After placing the order we watched the man go to work.  Pulling the fish out of a small fridge tucked away in the corner and then quickly patting them down with paper towels.  A large bowl of batter rested on the table and was quickly put to use as the fish were tossed around and then thrown into the fryer.  The fries, fresh cut (you could see the washed whole potatoes in a bin next to the sink), were also dropped into a separate fryer.  You could hear the sizzle in the small space as we waited in anticipation. 

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When he placed the final product on the counter all I would think of was “there is no way we can finish all of this”.  We sat at a tiny counter facing out the window and began to dig in.

IMAG0158The outside layer was crisp and hot.  You only need the knife to break through the batter though since the fish just melts apart.  The batter wasn’t too salty and had a lot of flavor.  The fish was AMAZING!  So soft… so succulent…. so tasty!  We quickly devoured the filets of fish and picked at the chips.  The chips were good.  Crispy, golden and not too salty.  The coleslaw was okay.  It was a nice change of flavor from all the fish and chips.  My only complaint was the industrial brand tartar sauce.  Even with this sauce, the meal was incredible but it makes me wonder how much better it could have been with better sauce.  You really don’t need too much sauce though… I just got some drool on the keyboard…. man that was a good meal.

We left with our stomachs a little too full but very satisfied.  As we walked outside, the breeze was refreshing as I could feel the grease oozing from my pores.  This is not a healthy meal by any standard.  After making it to the bottom of basket it was served in that episode of the Simpsons came to mind, the one where Homer gains weight so he can work from home.  There is that scene where Dr. Nick instructs Homer to rub a piece a food against the wall if he is unsure whether he should eat it.  Homer would have been allowed to eat this meal but I don’t think this meal should be included in my family’s pregnant women fish diet.  

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~ by jlowjlow on October 28, 2009.

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