Sort-of Secret: Sailor’s Fish and Chips, a new takeout counter inside Hooked on Danforth
The sort-of secret: Sailor’s Fish and Chips, a new takeout counter at Hooked on the Danforth
You may have heard of it if: You frequent this neighbourhood-favourite fishmonger
But you probably haven’t tried it because: Until now, they were open only one day a week. Now, they’re frying fish Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
With seafood, it’s nearly impossible to hide subpar product, no matter how skilful the cooking. Whether it’s cured, baked, or battered and deep fried, bad fish practically screams its unwelcome presence—and you don’t need an expert palate to notice it. So who better to trust with cooking piscine delights than some of the finest fishmongers in the city?
Sailor’s Fish and Chips comes to us from the team behind Hooked on Danforth, a five-year-old outpost for a decade-old brand that’s come to be synonymous with quality seafood. Co-owned by Sean Kinghan and Laura Cleland, the store prioritizes responsible sourcing above all else. And that’s no mere tagline. If, for instance, you were to come in looking for the woefully overfished Chilean sea bass, you’d be out of luck. Hooked doesn’t stock unsustainable, out of season, or otherwise unethically sourced fish.
It just so happens—as it tends to with foodstuffs—that well-sourced seafood is significantly tastier than the alternative. The quality of the product is obvious from the first bite and is made even better thanks to the culinary stylings of Hooked’s resident chef, Fred Gunnarsson, a major force behind this project.
Take the BC-sourced rockfish, a bycatch of halibut that’s enjoyed a recent popularity spurt in Toronto. Its lean, meaty, toothsome flesh lends itself beautifully to Sailor’s southern-fried rockfish fingers. “It’s basically a fried chicken recipe,” says Kinghan. A quick dredge, buttermilk, and a spiced flour coating is all it needs to emerge so crispy you can hear the batter with each bite. It’s served with honey mustard, creamy house-made mayo, crunchy buttermilk coleslaw and—like everything else on the menu—fresh-cut Yukon Gold fries.
Sailor’s tight menu (four items plus rotating specials) also includes the absolutely stellar Filet-OH-Fish: Pacific cod breaded with seasoned panko, deep-fried to perfection, slathered with tartar sauce and sandwiched with American cheese in a potato bun. The fish is perfect, the combination is harmonious, but it’s hard to overstate how good this tartar sauce is. From-scratch mayo and sweet, tangy house-made bread-and-butter pickles come together to form some kind of alchemical miracle.
The Lake Erie perch sandwich is another hit. If the aforementioned cod creation is a bright, tangy, sweetish ray of sunshine, this is its deeper, moodier, almost smoky counterpart. The inspiration here is a lakeside fish fry. The perch is spiced with cayenne, paprika, garlic and onion powder, then pan-fried to a delightful crunch. There’s not a sad, soggy fishwich to be found on this menu. And that stellar house-made tartar, this time without bread-and-butter pickles, reappears here along with lettuce, tomato, a special sauce and a potato bun.
There are two kinds of shrimp rolls on rotation, though which one you’ll get depends on the day. A milder version involves crunchy cucumber, dill, capers, cornichons, celery and shallots; a spicier take is deepened with sriracha mayo, lime juice and blackened shallots.
Still in the works is a fish burger, fish tacos and—wait for it—escargot poutine. It’s not just the menu that’s expanding: for now, you can get these nautical creations only on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., but you’ll see more days pop up as Sailor’s gets its sea legs. A standalone location is also not out of the realm of possibility. “We’re testing it out, seeing how the neighbourhood likes it,” says Kinghan. “So far so good.” No surprises there.
Sailor’s Fish and Chips, 1246 Danforth Ave. (inside Hooked), 416-462-3222, @sailorsfishandchipstoronto