This Local Fish Market Will Send You a Text When the Fresh Catch Arrives
At Nimitz Fish Market, the motto is “local fish for local people.”
Photos: Don Wallace
For all our love of poke, sashimi and sushi, Honolulu can always use a new place to get our fresh fish on. And, boy, do we have one for you today: Nimitz Fish Market, down on Pier 25, ‘Ewa from the old Hilo Hattie, next to Koala Moa’s smoking huli-huli chicken rotisserie. Not much to look at—a shaded table next to a stand with a couple of cold cases, one in the bed of a pickup truck—Nimitz Fish Market is a fish aggregator for five local boats: the Jennifer Lynn, Ka Imi Kai, Kealia, Lily Kailea and Makana.
The inspiration of partners Darryl Johnson and Loren Shoop is to take the guesswork out of your fish shopping. Call them up (209-9732, Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) and get the word on the day’s catch. No wasted drive time, although the chicken next door is also worth the trip.
“Or enter your name in our database and we’ll text you,” says Johnson, a lean, deeply tanned and briskly attentive host the day we stopped by. “A lot of our customers follow the boats, because they know what we sell is fresh. It’s not what other boats call fresh—‘ahi that’s been out on a long-liner for two months on a bed of ice.”
A specialty of Nimitz Fish Market is ama ebi, sweet shrimp. “We catch it offshore, right here off O‘ahu, in 2,000-foot-deep canyons,” says Loren Shoop, who mans a tented grill at the Kapi‘olani Community College farmers market on Saturday mornings. Originally the plan was just to sell the meaty, sausage-size shrimp, but Shoop added fire to the mix when some people just couldn’t wait to take them home and cook them.
Al Hekal ENJOYING HIS DEEPWATER SHRIMP.
That doesn’t describe Al Hekal, a web designer who’s driven to Pier 25 to satisfy his man-size shrimp appetite. “I like to grill them on the barbecue with ginger mustard and olive oil,” he says. “Are the eyes red?” he calls out to Johnson, who’s digging in the flatbed coldbox. “Let me look.”
The shrimp—which resembles the West Coast spot prawn, also called the Alaskan prawn, pandulus platyceros—has eyes for Al, who decides to eat one on the spot just as Derek Ching pulls up. “I come for the ama ebi,” Ching says. “Friends who tried it told us about it. They posted a picture on Facebook.”
We check out Hekal’s bravura technique, how he neatly separates head from abdomen, tilts his own chin toward the hot August sun, and sucks the shrimp’s brains until its little black eyes quiver.
“Ah, that’s good,” he says. Ching orders two pounds, at $15 a pound. We buy a pound, which comes out to nine shrimp.
Darryl Johnson holding a Yellowfin Tuna.
Meanwhile, Johnson is on the phone with a customer. “We got ‘ahi, sure, but today’s best bet is monchong. Ten filets? I’ll make sure. That’s right, 10 pound of filets. Okay. Bye.” He hangs up. “We need a bigger boat,” he intones, Robert Shaw’s famous line from Jaws.
Prices and availability are subject to the whims of the sea, but Nimitz Fish Market specializes in whole ‘ahi, aku, monchong and ono. The ama ebi, is fished on two- to three-day trips out of Honolulu Harbor, and, the Nimitz website says, are taken from different fishing grounds in order to spread out the impact. This differs from the farmed spot prawns, mostly raised in British Columbia and sold on the West Coast.
The ama ebi are sold at the Honolulu Farmers Market (Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Ave.), Wednesday, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., and the KCC Farmers Market (Kapi‘olani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road), Saturdays, 7:30 – 11 a.m.
Pier 25, Nimitz Highway, 209-9732, nimitzfishmarket.com
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