|Home -> Paul Elder - > Bohemian San Francisco -> Where Fish Abound|
Where Fish Abound
According to David Starr Jordan, acknowledged world authority on fish, there is greater variety of fish in Monterey Bay than anywhere else in the world. Monterey Bay is one of San Francisco's sources of supply consequently we have a greater variety of fish in our markets than are to be found anywhere else. In the markets are fish from all parts of the Pacific Ocean, from the Tropics to far north in the Arctics, while denizens of the waters all the way, between add to the variety.
The essential element of goodness in fish is freshness, and it is always fresh in San Francisco markets, and also in the restaurants. Of all varieties two rank first in the estimation of gourmets, but, of course, that is purely a matter of individual taste. According to the above-mentioned authority, "the finest fish that swims is the sand-dab." Some gourmets, however, will take issue with him on this and say the pompano is better. Others will prefer the mountain trout. Be that as it may they all are good, with many others following close in choice.
Fine striped bass from the ocean, or black bass from the fresh water takes high place in preference. Then there is sole, both in the fillet and Rex, as prepared at Jule's under the Monadnock building. Tom cod, rock cod, fresh mackerel and fresh cod, white bait and boned smelt all are excellent fish, but were we to attempt to tell of all the fish to be found here we would have to reproduce a piscatorial directory. There are two good methods of acquiring knowledge of the fish of San Francisco. Go to the wharves and see them come and and go to the wholesale markets down in Clay street, below Montgomery. You will then begin to realize that we certainly do have a variety of good fish.
Now for a little Bohemianism of a different sort: Recently there came to San Francisco, with his wife, an actor whose name used to be almost a household word among theater-goers, and when we say "the villain still pursued her," all you old timers will know whom we mean. When he was here in the years long gone by it was his custom to go to the old California market, select what he desired to eat, then take it to the restaurant and have it cooked, and the old atmosphere came back to him on his recent arrival and he revived the old custom.
"Meet us at the California market," was the telephone message that came to us, and we were there, for we knew that something good was in store for us.
First we went through the market from end to end and all the side aisles, "spying out the land." It is not possible to enumerate what we saw. If you want to know go there and see for yourselves. Having seen we were told to go and select what we wished to have for our dinner, and then the selection began and there was a feast of buying fish, meats, vegetables and delicacies of all sorts, even to French pastry.
Our purchases were ordered sent to the restaurant in the corner of the market where the chef had already been duly "seen," and then came each particular idea as to how the food was to be cooked. We had sand-dabs munier, chateaubriand with mushrooms, Italian squash, fried in oil with a flavor of garlic, French pastry, and coffee, together with some good California Tipo Chianti, all flavored with such a stream of reminiscence that we forgot that such things as clocks existed.
It was the first time our theatrical friends had tasted sand-dabs, for this fish has come to San Francisco markets only in recent years, and they declared that it was the "only" fish fit to be eaten. It is possible that they were prejudiced by the sentiment of the surroundings and consequently not exactly in position to be good judges.
All Italian restaurants serve fish well. At the New Buon Gusto you will find a most excellent cippino with polenti, and if you have not experienced this we advise you to try it as soon as possible. At the Gianduja you will find sand-dabs au gratin to be very fine. At Jack's, striped bass cooked in wine is what we think the best of the fish to be found in the market, or at the restaurants, cooked that way. Jule's is famous for his Rex sole. At all of the French and Italian restaurants small fry is cooked to perfection. If you wish fish in any way or of any kind you will make no mistake in asking for it at any of the French or Italian restaurants, or at the Shell Fish Grotto, and if you are in doubt regarding what to order just take the proprietor into your confidence, tell him you are a stranger in the city and ask him to serve you fish the best way he prepares it. You will not be disappointed.