You'd think that in nouveau Brooklyn, a land flush with upscale butchers, bars with bespoke bitter programs and an artisanal mayonnaise shop, buying good fish would be easy.
Until the opening of market slash restaurant Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. a few weeks ago, Brooklynites didn't have many markets dedicated to fresh seafood. And here it's not just fresh: Owners Adam Geringer-Dunn and Vinny Milburn can tell you what waters each fish comes from, the name of the boat that caught it and what method they used.
You could call it sustainable, but Milburn and Geringer-Dunn prefer seasonal and traceable, or, simpler still, responsible. The two met through the music industry, but Milburn grew up slicing off fish heads at his family's 130-year-old wholesale operation in Boston.
Milburn, who does the buying, favors domestic fish ("the regulations in the U.S. are stronger than anywhere else") caught in the wild with low-impact methods like hand lines and traps. He refuses to carry most farmed fish, excepting the handful of truly sustainable farming operations raising breeds like Arctic char and branzino.
Crabs are a thing of wonder
"There's a lot of misinformation when it comes to shopping for fish," says Geringer-Dunn. "It's a learning process. We get a lot of questions."
Fish arrive whole and are fileted on-site, then sprawled on ice in the shop's window-facing fish counter. Because the shop only buys what's in season from a small pool of trusted fishers—and because customers have been lining up right quick—they occasionally run out. No matter. "I'm not willing to sacrifice quality for variety," says Milburn. And he's excited about the late-summer catches on their way in: meaty sea bass, monkfish and fluke, plus sweet Ipswich razor clams and Maine lobsters.
Both Geringer-Dunn and Milburn want to introduce customers to a slew of undereaten, underrated fish, such as porgy, redfish and sea robins. "A lot of these fish are ugly whole, so people don't want to buy them," says Geringer-Dunn.
Tacos and razor clams make a well-balanced meal
That's where the restaurant arm of their operation steps in, with its small raw bar menu and rotating selection of grilled and fried seafood plates.
"The restaurant really allows us to move product and play around with our favorite seafood," says Geringer-Dunn.
Regular menu items include a quivering raw sea scallop, sliced thinly and served in the shell with its own seared roe ($13), and crisp Baja-style pollock or North Carolina shrimp tacos ($9 for 2). There might be a whole porgy special with lime, fish sauce and cilantro ($MP) and full-belly fried clams from Maine ($18), sweet and juicy and worlds apart from rubbery clam strips.
Oh, and there's always a half-dozen or so daily rotating oysters, from buttery Rocky Nooks ($1.95) out of Massachusetts to briny, floral Shigokus from Washington State ($2.50).
Between that and the rosé on draught, you'll be feeling the sea breeze in no time.
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