A box of "bomb cuts" sushi. Top row (left to right): Uni and quail egg, bluefin tuna belly, yellowtail belly, white sea bass. Middle row: gizzard shad, seared albacore, Atlantic salmon, tamago. Bottom row: crab inari, seared sea bream, pickled wasabi).
There have always been many great reasons to visit Bay Park fish market Catalina Offshore Products, most of them having to do with seafood you take to prepare at home. But if you’ve stopped by in the past couple months, at the right time of day, you may have discovered yet another one: expertly prepared sushi to take home and eat.
5202 Lovelock Street, San Diego
From 10 am til 2 pm, Wednesday through Saturday, longtime local sushi chef Joey Maldonado sets up at a sushi counter in the corner of the shop to prepare maki and nigiri out of some of the market’s choicest cuts.
Maldonado has worked for several sushi restaurants over the past dozen years or so, including Harney and Tabu restaurants. He didn’t go to Catalina Offshore expecting to make sushi, but when ownership saw his resume, they decided to put his skills to work.
Catalina Offshore fish market in Bay Park
Which turns out to be a fairly consumer-friendly proposition. His limited, rotating menu might include a spicy tuna roll for eight bucks, a salmon avocado roll for nine, and a blue crab California roll for ten. A $12 daily chef special might include uni and/or mackerel nigiri.
However, the best and most delicious bargains may be found in ordering Maldonado’s omakase specials. For $23, he offers what he calls the basic cuts: nigiri featuring the likes of salmon and albacore, for example. More than a dozen pieces of sushi
A sushi counter in the corner of a fish market
Better still is a $30 “bomb cuts” sampler. That’s where you may turn up some of the truly best fish in the shop. My order featured a couple nigiri each of local white sea bass, yellowtail belly sourced from Japan, and smoky seared albacore from Fiji.
The cornucopia of treats included torched sea bream, Atlantic salmon, and inari pockets filled with Maldonado’s California mix of Baja swimming crab and KaniKama (the processed fish cakes otherwise known as krab). As if that weren’t enough, there was a cucumber-wrapped selection of sea urchin paired with quail egg, and exquisite wild caught blue fin tuna belly, which the chef serves with genuine pickled wasabi, rather than the usual green horseradish paste.
Prawn heads sit on ice at Joey Maldonado's sushi counter.
It was an incredible, diverse spread, especially priced at $30. And given that most sushi has been take-out this year, taking home a sealed package of quality nigiri feels almost natural by now. Thanks to few edible flower petals dressing the box, the assortment of fish even looks pretty.
The fish counter inside Catalina Offshore
Maldonado explained to me that when and how a fish dies after being caught has a lot to do with the quality experienced by the diner, especially when it comes to sushi-grade fish. And that’s one of the great, lesser known values of shopping from a seafood market such as Catalina Offshore: it sources fish from trusted vendors and fisherman who know how to handle that properly.
Also given it’s just Maldonado at the sushi counter, it’s a smart move to order ahead if you can. Or, even better, order sushi first, then shop at the fish counter while you wait.