When in Buenos Aires, it is good to do as the porteños do and order the renowned shoe-sized steak. After a couple of weeks of bife de chorizo though, you may want to consider something on the lighter side, like fish.
Fish is not hard to find here, but a good fishmonger can be and for a lot of reasons: first, the quality of beef is so good it’s addictive and sometimes creates a tunnel effect when purchasing groceries. Second, Buenos Aires sits on a river, not the ocean, which means a lot of seafood needs to come from a little further away (usually Mar del Plata). Third, the importation tax makes it expensive to sell a variety of slippery seafood.
For those that do eat fish, it´s the classic merluza all the way. Merluza (hake) is a type of fish that is related to haddock and cod. However, in recent years the over-exploitation of the Atlantic and Pacific dweller has not only raised concern about the species depletion, but also what kind of fish or seafood you will be able to catch next. So, as an alternative it’s really nice to explore the other options.
Although each neighbourhood boasts a couple of good locales, The Argentina Independent decided to look for a fishmonger in different neighbourhoods that sold something more than just merluza. Whether it be the vibe of the ‘monger’ or the wide array of products, the Top 5 fishmongers of Buenos Aires each have something special about them.
Situated in the Caballito neighbourhood is this funky fishmonger that has become a staple to Mercado del Progreso. When you walk into the large, indoor market and keep to the left, you see a colourful array of blues and oranges and a full spread of already prepared fish dishes. Alejandro has worked as a fishmonger for 20 years, but has been with La Marina since 2008. He describes how he loves his job and that La Marina is special because, “it sells fish. No one sells fish”.
True, it is hard to find fish in the city, but what actually makes this place special is the people and conveniently pre-packaged product. The individually wrapped prepared lunches and dinners look delicious and they fly off the shelves. They also sell seafood pizza and bubbas (small kegs that hold five litres) of Heineken.
Address: Centenera 141
This fish-market hub is nestled in the humble neighbourhood of Barracas, but you can’t miss its aqua-marine thematic exterior. Inside the Azara and Gualeguay corner shop are fresh slabs of fleshy fish. It’s clean, it’s tidy and most importantly, the fishmongers know their stuff.
Marcos has been working at the corner store for only two years, yet when he speaks about the product they carry, his eyes light up and tells me to follow him around the displays, pointing at various sea meats you may not have heard of.
When talking with Marcos, he explained how the family came from Italy in the 1950s and eventually set up shop in 1965. They carry a colourful variety of fish and are incredibly friendly but what makes this place a bit different is the salad bar – tuna tarts and cheesey-salmon tartar tortes galore. They even have a large stock of frozen salmon burger patties, which is a nice change from the usual beef stack.
Address: Azara 99
Not only is it a great excuse to get to barrio chino, where you can find nearly everything, but watching the fishmongers hustle in the back of this supermarket is impressive. One of the fishmongers, Alberto, says that business is good and that more people are eating fish nowadays. “It’s healthier,” he says. “And it’s always good to have a different option to meat.”
Among rows of ice and and sea shells, it is obvious that they have more options than merluza. White salmon, oysters, snails, crab, calamari in all sorts of cuts and sizes and, most rare in the city, sushi-grade pink salmon (although, like most of the salmon in the city, it is from Chile). You can buy a slab to take home with you or purchase a pre-made roll that they make in-house.
Address: Arribeños 2257
You may almost walk by this fishmonger as it’s a small, family-run shop nestled in Recoleta. It has a familiar ambience and when you talk to the fishmonger, Mariano, you realise that it’s because his family came from Italy in the 1950s and opened up the shop a couple of decades ago.
This place has a slower pace and you can tell that it’s not about the amount of customers served but the care they put into the relationships. As Mariano pointed out, they have actually watched some of the children in the neighbourhood grow up on their food. Now, the family has added a second location in Palermo.
Because of its size, the selection is smaller but if you are looking for something decadent, you can pick up a small portion of merluza negra, which has a rich, fatty taste. It’s a pricey piece of fish, but in Mariano’s words, if you are going to celebrate something, this is the fish to do it with.
Rodriguez Peña 1534 (Recoleta)
Beruti 2922 (Palermo)
This shop on Jean Jaures has an old-school feel in the charming neighbourhood of Almagro. Maybe it’s the neighbourhood, where the stores are on the bottom, the apartments up top and where everything moves a little slower than downtown.
If you arrive at closing time, you will be impressed as everything is immaculately cleaned and there is no post-day funky fish smell. The employees are friendly and incredibly professional. They have a pretty good selection, but most impressive is the giant shrimp at decent prices. They also sell packets of different spices, just in case you run out or don’t have time to get to the corner store.
Address: Jean Jaures 927