Living in a landlocked country has meant that we can’t always get fresh-off-the-boat seafood. But an increasing number of suppliers that have specialty shops and market stands are offering regularly imported fish that’s well looked after throughout the whole process. Here, a rundown of some of the biggest and newest seafood sellers, but first, some local sea-worthy chefs weigh in on what to look for – and look out for – when selecting fish on ice, as well as their go-to suppliers for fresh seafood.
Primoz Skerjanec, co-owner and head chef at Food Adventure Nenasyta, a Slovenian shop and bistro in Bubeneč that also sells its charcuterie and other wares at several of the farmers markets, sources the fish for his restaurant’s Mediterranean-focused cuisine from Rybárna Kapřík, a vendor who sells fresh fish at the Jiřák farmers’ market on Fridays and down at Náplavka on Saturdays. In addition to the market stands, Rybárna Kapřík also has a shop in Břevnov.
“This fish salesman makes a trip to Zadar, Croatia, every week in order to personally select the best fresh fish from local fishermen,“ Skerjanec says, adding that, at Food Adventure, “We do not use fish from fish farms because the taste of the wild fish is much better, and they are also healthier.”
Andrea Crippa, formerly a chef at Aromi and now head of Aromi’s new bistro, Gastronomica, says Aromi gets its seafood fresh from Italy three times a week through the suppliers Fish4you, Bonapesca, and several others. Aromi is well-loved for its high-quality seafood selection (presented to diners in a charming “fish show”), and Crippa says there are several key factors buyers must keep in mind when looking to choose a fish – a full sensory exam.
“First, use your eyes,” he says. “Make sure the gills are pink or red, not dark red, purple, or gray. Second, use your nose. Third, touch the fish – the meat needs to be hard and not too soft; if the fish is clean, check inside near the bone, making sure the meat is compact and not broken.” Lastly, he says, it’s important to have a fishmonger that you can trust.
Skerjanec agrees in the value of having a trustworthy source. “Buyers should be aware that some salesmen spray their fish with artificial chemicals to make it look fresh, so it’s important to know the supplier and select someone you can trust,” he says. “For example, shrimp naturally change color to slightly gray, and that’s OK. If they are too pink, they have probably been sprayed with chemicals.”
Jiří Nosek, chef at Zdeněk’s Oyster Bar, a restaurant renowned for its imported fish and namesake oysters, seconds the need to examine the redness of the gills, as well as the eyes. “The most important thing is to make sure the fish’s eyes aren’t murky,” he says. “They have to be clear and shiny. … Another factor is to look at the whole surface of the fish – it must not be dry. And lastly, if the fish is already gutted, the cavity shouldn’t smell.’’
Nosek recommends buying seafood at the Delway company, which imports seafood directly from the Rungis market – “one of the biggest and most traditional markets in France” – which is also where Zdeněk’s gets many of the products for its kitchen; its oysters come from private farms in France. He says it is also possible to buy and order fresh seafood and oysters directly from Zdeněk’s Oyster Bar.
In addition to these places, there are quite a few other suppliers selling fresh fish and seafood in Prague. Many are online only, while others have brick-and-mortar shops where you can assess the quality in person before making a selection. Some of these have been around for awhile; some are relative newcomers to the expanding scene:
As of press time, the website was still under construction for this supplier, who partners with the Italian chain of Wine Food Market specialty stores and bistros across town. Visiting its shop requires a car, or a patient walk, as it’s located along the busy road exiting Prague to the south of Smíchov, along the river. It also has an eatery inside, which makes the trek more worth it. Or catch Blue Fjord at Jiřák farmers’ market.
An online shop, Cerstveryby.cz has passed the scrutiny of Czech food critic team Scuk.cz and says on their website that they guarantee “100% satisfaction.” Operating for nearly 10 years, the website sells a large selection of items, including sushi fish, whole fish (including some rarer varieties) from either saltwater or fresh water homes, filets of popular products, smoked fish, caviar, and several types of sea salt, as well as seafood-pairable wines. The website is only in Czech.
With imports straight from Croatia, this supplier, which has an online shop as well as a market stall at several farmers markets, is manned by a team of Croatians, and offers a guarantee of freshness in the form of a certificate with each purchase saying the time the particular fish was caught. The website is in both Czech and English, and the wares include sardines, mackerel, anchovies, tuna, hake, bream, red mullet, angler, turbot and shark, as well as octopus, shrimp, squid, and langoustines, just to name a few. In Pražská tržnice, it also has a restaurant, Maare, where you can sample the fish on the spot.
Market stands at:
Jiřího z Poděbrad: Wednesdays 8 a.m.–3 p.m.
Kulaťák: Saturdays 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
Holešovická tržnice, Hala 22: Fridays and Saturdays 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
The “Friends of Salmon” are true to their name. Their focus is on sea-sourced salmon and fast delivery across the Czech Republic, within 48 hours of the catch. Orders are only possible 10 days in advance through the order form on the website, and advance payment is necessary. The fish is then delivered to designated spots in Prague (Chodov and Čakovice) for pickup.
This French importer and online shop, in addition to stocking a wide offering of cheeses, meats, pastas, and other items, also sells seafood, such as Scottish salmon (smoked or fresh), cod prime filets, shrimp in several varieties, mussels, scallops, and a breadth of caviars. (Website in Czech only.)
Royal Fish & Seafood Supplies has a comprehensive website in Czech and English, and promises delivery within 24 hours, six days a week. Orders must be made by calling the owners Hana and Paul. According to the owners, Royal Seafood gets its fish three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), and their fish comes from the Grimbsy fish docks in England and France. None of the fish has been frozen or defrosted; only fresh fish chilled between 0°C and 5°C is sold. Royal Seafood’s most popular items include salmon, sea bass, sea bream, prawns (cooked as well as fresh), smoked mackerel, cod, hake, haddock, catfish, crabs, lobster, and other products. The website also says that they have a selection of English specialty items.
Where do you source fresh catch in Prague?