Ocean breeze

New shop brings fresh—and sustainable—seafood to Chico

Chico Fish Market co-owner Tony Flores holds up a California yellowtail amberjack.

Chico Fish Market co-owner Tony Flores holds up a California yellowtail amberjack.

Photo By melanie mactavish

Chico Fish Market
1141 Forest Ave, suite 10
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Wait! Go back,” I said, looking over my shoulder as Colette motored Pierre down Forest Avenue the other day. We had just spent the afternoon shopping for aprons at The Galley.

“What?” she said.

“A new fish market. Let’s check it out.”

Colette turned around, parked in front of the Chico Fish Market’s big glass windows featuring hand-lettered signs (“Get your OMG-3s here!” “Fresh Fish!” “From Boat To Store!”), and we stepped inside.

Displayed on crushed ice behind a long counter were gorgeous steaks, fillets and whole fish—salmon, rockfish, Petrale sole, sturgeon, and ahi—along with mussels, clams, oysters, and a variety of shrimp and prawns. A woman was chatting with a customer as she weighed a large crab on the counter-top scale. To her left, a man was cutting slices off a huge mahi-mahi fillet. Behind them four large tanks crawled with live crabs and lobsters.

Tony and Rosalia Flores moved to Chico from Monterey seven years ago and opened the Chico Fish Market in November—Rosalia’s father managed the original construction of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They make three or four trips a week to the coast—Monterey, San Francisco and Bodega Bay—to buy fish off the boats or from brokers, who have it shipped fresh from other harbors along the Pacific Ocean, including in Mexico and Washington state. They’ll happily suggest ways to prepare your fish, and several seafood cookbooks are on display on tables in the store.

And thankfully, the Chico Fish Market sells only sustainable fish—Rosalia recently refused a customer’s request for Chilean sea bass, pointing out the species’ decimation from overfishing.

No doubt most readers heard about the 489-pound Pacific bluefin tuna that sold last month for $1.7 million to a seafood broker from Japan, where the fish’s rich belly fat, or o-toro, sells for up to $100 a bite in sushi restaurants.

The three species of bluefin—Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern (Pacific)—are among dozens of fish that have all declined dramatically in recent years, due to overfishing (legal and illegal), mostly of juvenile fish, and slap-on-the-wrist fines for the few poachers who do get caught. According to a report issued earlier this month by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, the Pacific bluefin population is down to 4.6 percent of its pre-fished stock!

Fortunately, environmental groups are taking action. Seafood Watch, for example, through the Monterey Bay Aquarium, advises consumers about what they can do to keep seafood sustainable and publishes frequently updated lists of recommended fish products (ahi, for example) and which ones to avoid (bluefin, definitely).

That evening we enjoyed the first of our sustainable selections from Chico Fish Market—ahi steaks. I made my famous sesame-seed seared recipe, and they were absolutely delicious. And the next night, Colette dipped a sturgeon fillet into a scrambled egg, coated it in panko, and fried it in soy sauce and butter. Even better.

We’ve also tried the Chico Fish Market’s Petrale sole and mahi-mahi, both sautéed simply in butter and dressed with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. We’ve been delighted with the quality and freshness every time.

Visit chicofishmarket.com for the “catch of the day.” For more information on sustainable seafood consumption, visit Seafood Watch at montereybayaquarium.org, where you can download a pocket-sized card with lists of “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and “Avoid.”

Find Henri Bourride on Facebook (or see below) for recipes for Henri’s Sesame-Seed Seared Ahi Steaks as well as Claudio’s Famous Cioppino, then head to Chico Fish Market and pick up your supplies.

Henri’s Sesame-Seed Seared Ahi Steaks


Fresh ahi tuna steaks (3/4- to 1-inch thick)—one half-pound steakper person

1/2 cup sesame seeds (white or black or combination)

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated)

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients in small bowl, stir, pour into large sealable plastic bag. Add tuna steaks and marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Pour a bit of the marinade into a shallow dish or pan.

Pour olive oil into large cast-iron skillet (or non-stick frying pan) and set on stove on medium-high.

Remove ahi steaks from bag and coat with sesame seeds by pressing steaks gently on a plate of seeds and oil. When pan is hot (flick a drop of water into it; water should sizzle and dissipate) cook tuna steaks for about one minute on each side. Meat should be browned but still red inside. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon slices.

Recommended sides: rice pilaf, spinach salad or asparagus (cooked al dente), and a decent pinot noir.

Claudio’s Famous Cioppino

I was staying with my friend Claudio when I first came out to San Francisco many years ago. This is his version of the classic San Francisco crab-and-tomato stew, which he learned from his grandmother. Feel free to improvise, depending on what you can find at the fish counter as well as in your own refrigerator and cabinets.


1 2lb. crab, cleaned

12 mussels

12 clams

2 dozen large shrimp

2 lbs. rockfish (or any firm white fish)

2 onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 fresh tomatoes (or the canned equivalent)

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 8-oz. can tomato paste

1/4 cup vermouth

2 cups white wine

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup red wine (or one cup tomato sauce)

In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion. Add the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, celery, bay leaves, herbs, tomato paste, vermouth, white wine and lemon juice. Simmer for at least an hour. When sauce is done, thin to desired consistency with red wine or tomato sauce—there should be enough sauce to cover the fish. Add the crab, mussels and clams, and simmer another 10 minutes or so (at least until clams open). Add the shrimp and white fish and cook another 10 minutes.

Toast it with a glass of bubbly, and then serve with fresh San Francisco (or Tin Roof Bakery’s Chico) sourdough bread, Caesar salad, and a good pinot noir or zinfandel.