You find great fish in some of the most unexpected places…but only if you are looking. I am always looking. Recently, I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. At about 700 miles from the ocean and situated on a lake that contains no fish, you wouldn’t expect SLC to be a seafood hub. Utah has few native species of fish and a population that is not particularly diverse. As a food destination it promises little, but I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, it only takes one excellent provider to make a great experience. I want to make it clear from the beginning; this is not a sponsored post. They have not given me anything for this review. I’m just that impressed with this fish market. If you live within 100 miles of this place, you need to find a way to get in there and try something.
I found this market, Aquarius Fish Co. in downtown Salt Lake City. Situated inside of Caputo’s Market and Deli, you could easily miss this exceptional little place. Their fish is flown in daily and cut from whole. They offer a wide range of species, many of them extremely uncommon. On the day of my visit, they had a huge corvina on display. Corvina, incidentally, is a slightly confusing trade name which covers as many as 300 different types of fish, all of which are different species of either croaker or drum. They are the quintessential ceviche fish. They are not always easy to find, and rarely do I see an impressive specimen like the beautiful 3 foot long example they were working up.
They also had two New Zealand fish that I was not familiar with. The blue nosed bass and trumpeter are both exciting, meaty fish, not common in the United States. These two fish have several things in common beyond just country of origin. They are both beautifully firm with huge flakes, similar to what you would expect from a fillet of halibut. They are both incredibly delicious, with clean, subtle flavors and a natural buttery note that tasted great when sautéed simply with just salt and pepper. I purchased a couple pounds of each of these, and they were both wonderful. This is partly due to the greatness of this species, but in large part is a product of its freshness.
One thing that I was not prepared to take advantage of, was the impressive selection of sushi fish. Like many places, they have some fish marked as “sashimi grade”. This is a term that most people believe means you can eat it raw based on some set of criteria that you can trust. This is incorrect. All this term means is that the sellers believe it is good enough to eat raw. I still recommend asking some questions and taking responsibility for your own person food safety, however based on my conversation with the person at the counter and their knowledge of fish, I believe all of their offerings should be safe. They had several tuna on display. All of these looked outstanding. They also had Hamachi, marlin, waloo, and black cod. I rarely see this many sushi options, especially not this far outside of major sushi cities. You would expect this market in San Francisco or Vancouver, BC, but not in SLC. I hope to return to this market at a later date and sample some of these offerings.
In addition to the above, they had an impressive selection of salmonids. For a person who can appreciate the subtle variations in flavor from one type of salmon to the next, or from arctic char to trout, this place is a playground. They offer some outstanding and rare options like Tasmanian king salmon and Tasmanian ocean trout, as well as more common options like sockeye and coho. They also carry a local Utah red trout that looked outstanding.
I was thrilled with their broad selection of white fish which included barramundi, halibut cheeks, trevally, and sturgeon. All of these are difficult to come by in the US. They stock plenty of more common fare for the less adventurous. They also have a healthy mix of Hawaiian oddballs, like the Opah. This fish is straight from the pages of a Dr. Suess book. They stock monchong, another creepy animal from the deepest depths of the south Pacific. They stock some of those beautiful Hawaiian snappers of several varieties. These always excite me for both their beauty and their incredibly clean flavors.
Beyond all of these options, they stock some of the most underrated fish on the US market. These are fish that few people are eating, but I don’t understand why. These offerings include fish like cobia and amberjack. They also stock parrotfish, a fish worth eating once just for the chance to look at it. You’ll want one for your aquarium. All of this is to say that they have an incredible variety of fish available. I could spend a month in here working with all of the interesting offerings. And to top it off, their fish cutting is outstanding. The two fillets I purchased were perfectly clean and free of bones. They were uniformly shaped with crisp edges. To be fair, these fish are both pretty easy to process, but regardless, they did a great job. I watched the guy there cut several more challenging fish expertly. They will cut the fish right in front of you. They are fast, clean, and skillful. For their cutting and food safety practices, I give them a 10 out of 10.
I don’t understand how they are able to provide this wide variety of fish and maintain their incredibly diverse and deep inventory in a place like this. They are closed on Sundays, have no signage on the outside of the building, and they were not particularly busy when I was there. I know that usually, quality in seafood is directly related to turns. I’m amazed that they can turn these fish enough to keep up the quality that they offer in this part of the country. Whatever they are doing, it is exactly right. Everything they have is absolutely gorgeous. My take away from this is that you can find great seafood wherever you live. You just have to put in the effort and find the great dealers, wherever they may be. Happy hunting!