After almost a year of construction, Effing Seafoods has opened the doors to fresh-fish heaven.
“We have fresh fish coming in every week. I want to be known for a solid fresh lineup,” said Rob Tryon, owner of the seafood store on Riel Drive.
The store features seafood from across the world. Currently, customers can find fish from New Zealand, oysters from the east and west coasts and lobster.
Eventually the store will add fish from Hawaii and Iceland to its roster of exotic sea creatures. Live Dungeness crab will also make its debut.
Tryon has been yearning to open the store for almost a decade. Having grown up in a family of oyster farmers, the sea has always been close to his heart.
“My dad was a fisherman, so I’ve been around it all my life,” he said.
Like many other coastal workers, Tryon left his oyster farm in Effingham Inlet, B.C., to work in Alberta. Even though he had jumped on the oil and gas bandwagon in 2013, Tryon still found his mind frequently drifting towards the ocean.
When the recession hit, it was the perfect time for him to start his own business as a fish distributor in Edmonton.
Effing Seafoods – named after the inlet he farmed oysters in – started in 2015. Tryon said he knew long before starting the business that one day he’d open his own storefront.
“What brought me to Edmonton is the people,” he said. “I was in and out of Edmonton lots and every time I would finish a job for the oilfield, I would kind of start thinking of this and how I could do it on the side. Then I would start working again and there’d be no time.”
You won’t catch a fishy whiff of air when you walk into Effing Seafoods. Instead, you’ll be greeted with banks of self-serve oysters, tanks of swimming lobsters and rows of glassy eyes staring upwards inside a display of exotic fresh fish.
Tryon explained that fishy smells typically come from older product. You can also detect freshness of fish by how clear the eyes are. The glassier, the better.
At Effing Seafoods, Tryon tracks each fish from the moment it leaves the ocean to the moment it leaves his store. He knows where the fish was caught and how it was handled.
For him, buying fish is more than making money. It’s about relationship.
“It’s from people I know personally. I’ve met everyone,” he said. “It’s about relationships, it’s the reason why I’m comfortable bringing in fish from places.”
Tryon won’t sell anything from a place he hasn’t personally visited, with New Zealand being the exception since he already has a personal connection with the fishermen from previous work . He said it’s important to know how the seafood was caught and handled, as well as see the cleanliness of the place.
With the relationships he forms, Tryon also gets first pick of the fish. Effing Seafood also provides product to restaurants in Edmonton and St. Albert, such as Nineteen.
As soon as the fish is processed, it’s loaded onto a plane, and Tryon said the product is usually delivered within 48 hours. That means none of the product in restaurants or on his shelves – unless specified in the display – has been frozen.
Some of the product he gets are swordfish, rock fish, ling cod, haddock, ono, spearfish, blue marlin and ahi tuna to name a few. In store there are around 10 types of fish for sale, but soon Effing Seafoods will offer around 50 types.
The store currently holds salmon, red sea bream, sea perch, nanagi and tarakihi fish all from New Zealand. The fish lineup will frequently change, keeping the selection new and a surprise for shoppers.
When someone buys a whole fish, an employee will take it to the back where they’ll properly cut it up. Customers can watch through a large window in the wall, learning how to do it themselves.
Tryon calls the viewing centre “Effing Edumacation.” He said it can be intimidating handling the piece of meat at first.
The back area will also host a variety of events, where chefs will compete against each other in cutting up large 30-pound whole fish.
During the store’s grand opening event on Oct. 26, customers and viewers online watched as a giant yellowtail amberjack was carved before their eyes.
“It was a lot of fun for people to watch,” he said.
It can be tempting to douse fancy fish in fancy sauce, but Tryon said it’s better to let the meat speak for itself.
Instead, people should treat the fish like a prime Alberta steak.
“When it comes to fish, the key is simplicity,” he said. “You want the flavour to speak for itself.”
Fish can be firm, flaky, sweet or slightly bitter in taste, depending on the type. That’s why employees at the store will also provide suggestions on best cooking practices, to best highlight the flavour.
Nineteen, which has Tryon’s fish on its menu, has offered a recipe from their restaurant. Now people can try to bring fine dining to their own kitchen. The store also features food from other local businesses in Edmonton and St. Albert.
By far the tastiest fish on the rack at Effing Seafoods is red sea bream, Tryon said. The meat is firmer and packed with flavour.
But those who aren’t big on seafood, he said a comfortable staple offered at the store are thick cuts of salmon from New Zealand.
The store aims to be a one-stop shop for cooking meals, so the walls are stocked with extra ingredients. Customers will find seaweed wrappers and ginger for sushi, sea salt from both coasts and more.
For Tryon, the store is all about the customer experience. While many businesses ask for emails and phone numbers, Effing Seafood only wants your name.
This allows the business to keep track of purchases, so employees can suggest new types of fish that haven’t been tasted before.
“We have so many different options, so we can track what you’ve tried and get you to try something new. Don’t always go to the most recognizable seafood like halibut and salmon.”
Before opening Effing Seafoods in St. Albert, Tryon had been setting up shop at St. Albert Farmers’ Market and operating a subscription service. Each month people would receive different seafoods from across the world on their doorstep.
Tryon also appeared on a televised news program, where he would talk about his product and show demonstrations on how to cook it.
When Kristy Antoshko heard Tryon was at the farmers’ market, she knew she had to go.
“I heard about him through his restaurant stuff and he’s been on Global News, so when he came to the farmers’ market it was like ‘I’ve got to try him out,’” Antoshko explained.
The product she received did not disappoint. Antoshko, who moved from B.C., said she was used to eating fresh seafood. When she came to Alberta, it was hard to find anything in store that had been recently caught.
“It’s awesome, it’s the freshest you’ll get on this side of the world,” she said with a laugh. “The lobster, for example, you buy one at Sobeys or somewhere, you can tell it’s old because it’s got a lot of space between the shell and the meat. There’s a lot of water that comes out of it. But when you cook his, it’s fresh. It’s thick meat.”
Antoshko also signed up for the subscription service, which has offered her a wide selection of seafood from across the world. Tryon also includes information on the product’s past, and how to cook the meat in the package.
Now the store has opened in St. Albert, there will be no need to wait each month for a box of new sea creatures. Antoshko can drive to the local store and choose from a unique lineup of international ware.
The store is located at #140, 44 Riel Dr. For more information, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/effingseafoods/.