Shrimp, salmon, tuna—you can buy these popular seafoods at just about any supermarket. But, what about something more interesting? Have you ever tried kindemai?
"It's super tasty," says Adrian Hutchins, showing off one of these dazzling, red-skinned fishes with big, bulging eyes, also known as a splendid alfonsino. "It's like a snapper with a more robust flavor."
Hutchins is a fishmonger at the newest Wegmans supermarket, opening today at Astor Place in New York City. And the snapper-like specimen he's holding is a prime example of what makes this new grocery store so special. According to Wegmans, it's the only place in the entire United States where you can buy fresh seafood shipped directly from Japan's world-famous Toyosu fish market.
A total of 18 different varieties of Japanese fish went on display at the new store on Wednesday, along with a stunning 110-pound wild-caught blue fin tuna from Spain—"a small one," Hutchins noted—in addition to numerous locally sourced seafoods, as well.
"I think we do a really, really great job with seafood at Wegmans, but we wanted to elevate what we already do," says Hutchins, who's been honing his cutting and preparation techniques with the help of Japanese experts in preparation for the new store's opening.
"Japan has centuries and centuries of tradition and respect when it comes to seafood," he explains. "What makes Japanese seafood the best? Is the water different? Is what they eat different? Probably that's a lot of it, but also how it's cared for. From when it's on the boat to when it's served, there's a whole respect around it."
Master fishmongers from Wegmans' Japan-based supplier Uoriki will be on-site overseeing the retailer's expanded seafood department—or sakanaya in Japanese—for several months before Hutchins fully takes over.
Hutchins says the Astor Place location is intended to become "a think-tank and a school" for greater seafood know-how to serve Wegmans' entire company while giving its U.S.-based customers unprecedented access to fish varieties they've likely never seen before. "Not only are these fish beautiful and they're going to catch your eye and bring you over, but what's really cool is, we have the experts that know how to cook them," he adds.
Beyond its unique fish market, the new Wegmans offers other attractions for seafood lovers, too. Almost immediately after you enter the store from Broadway, you encounter an enormous sushi station, lined with a vast assortment of packaged rolls and staffed with chefs preparing orders by hand. There's also a poke station nearby, serving up freshly prepared Hawaiian-style bowls.
Perhaps the most anticipated element of the entire two-level, 87,500-square-foot new store, particularly for fish fans, is yet to come. A new sit-down fine-dining restaurant, located off the entrance, is expected to open next spring. Executive Chef David Lopatynski described it as "almost like a speakeasy within Wegmans."
While the exact concept is still in development—early hints include oysters, sushi, and Champagne—you can rest assured it will take full advantage of the oceanic bounty in the fish market downstairs. "We'll have some really exciting things that you're definitely not going to expect from a grocery store," says Lopatynski. "It's going to be a very unique thing for Astor Place."
Like other Wegmans locations, the Astor Place store also features an on-site bakery and a deli counter serving up the chain's highly popular submarine sandwiches. But, it further features some more unique offerings, too, which you won't see outside of the retailer's flagship Pittsford store in Rochester, N.Y. These include separate stations serving mezze and hot sandwiches, including local favorites chicken shawarma and pastrami.
Other exclusive items include a 30-month-aged prosciutto di parma from Italy and a juniper elk salami in the charcuterie department. You'll also find colorful cans of a new Astor Place IPA, made in collaboration with local Brooklyn brewery Other Half, on multiple displays throughout the store.
The new Astor Place store is Wegmans' 110th location and its first in the borough of Manhattan. The Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer opened its debut NYC store in Brooklyn in 2019.