Inside Affinity Fish, a new Toronto fishmonger dedicated to sourcing Canadian freshwater fish
Even in the realm of sustainability-focused fishmongers, Affinity Fish stands alone. This is the only shop in the city to focus exclusively on Great Lakes fish—a near-revolutionary concept given that a ton of Toronto’s high-end seafood is flown in from Japan or New Zealand (or, at the closest, Canada’s east coast). “All that comes at a significant cost, in terms of both dollars and carbon,” says co-owner Jon Klip. “Market access to local fish is minimal, and the handling of it tends to be really bad. We saw an opportunity there.”
Klip and co-owner Matt Taylor, both chefs long frustrated with the seafood status quo, spent three years working with Indigenous fisheries in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay to establish a supply chain. The focus is on meticulous handling, beginning with the catch. All fish sold at Affinity are killed as humanely as possible in a process approximating the Japanese method of ikejime: a spike is inserted directly into the hindbrain, causing instant death and preserving the quality of the meat. (Many commercial fish, on the other hand, die of suffocation or from being crushed beneath the weight of the cargo.) After arriving at the shop, the fish are dry-aged to enhance flavour and texture.
Visitors will find a rotating selection of whole and portioned freshwater fish, including lake trout, perch and whitefish, alongside little-known species like burbot and drum. Pre-marinated portions are also available, like a gorgeous lake trout marinated in a house shio-koji blend. If a customer isn’t sure how to cook an unfamiliar type, they couldn’t find a friendlier pair than Klip and Taylor to offer expert guidance.
The pristine, minimalistic space speaks to Klip and Taylor’s (ahem) affinity for Japanese cuisine: Klip trained in Kyoto, and Taylor has worked at Toronto’s Shoushin and Sakai Bar, as well as Actinolite and other gems. Frankly, with the notable absence of glass display cases, the place looks (and smells) very little like a fishmonger’s until you notice the whole fish dry-aging in the back. The day’s selection is written along the front wall, along with prices per pound; chat with Klip or Taylor behind the long counter to get an order going. A small fridge near the front carries a selection of accoutrements—some house-made, some from local purveyors—like a three-year-old red miso, white soy sauce, XOXO sauce and Korean pickles.
Affinty Fish also has a wholesale arm, selling to restaurants at prices that are generally cheaper than flown-in fish of comparable quality, even though Klip and Taylor make a point of paying their fisher partners significantly more than standard commercial rates. Talk about a win-win. Eventually, they’ll run weekly special events centred around their products—expect everything from omakase tasting menus to fried fish cookouts.