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Bill's Lobster

Posted by Melissa Yu / Posted on March 6, 2010

Bill's Lobster TorontoBill's Lobster has been in business for over 10 years at Gerrard and Broadview in the heart of East Chinatown. The north-facing fish shop is simply laid out, with tanks of lobsters in front, a fish counter in the centre and some more exotic fare at the back. Beyond fresh fish and seafood on ice, Bill also sells imported goods like soba noodles, miso powder, dried seaweed and a selection of frozen goods including King Crab legs and pre-cooked shrimp.

With stories of tilapia masquerading as white tuna, and Atlantic halibut (considered endangered) being sold under the label of B.C. halibut, it's no wonder that consumers are having a hard time knowing how and where to buy their fish. And contrary to what you might think, it isn't just big grocery chains that are guilty of mislabeling and misidentifying goods; restaurants and small producers are doing it too.

Bill's Lobster TorontoUpon meeting him, what I admire most about Bill is his passion and knowledge of the industry. He always has the findings of a report to share and has direct relationships with the fishermen that supply his store.

Using regular salmon as an example, Bill quizzes me on what I think I should be looking for when picking a piece out. My first answer is correct -- smell is far and away the best way to tell if your fish is fresh. Fresh fish should not smell fishy. But my second answer -- colour -- isn't quite so accurate. Bill reveals that farm-raised salmon, commonly found at grocery stores, is fed varying types of meal that enhance their colour. To my horror, he produces a colour palette not unlike one found at a paint store, which is distributed by a company that sells fish meal.

Salmon colourFish farmers can select the colour they want their salmon to be, ranging from a pale rose to an orange that's unnaturally psychedelic. Bill advises that consumers ought to spend the extra money on purchasing wild or organic salmon. He sells organic salmon from Ireland or Scotland at $19/pound and wild Pacific salmon at $17/pound. At the start of the salmon season in May, he'll also carry wild spring salmon from British Columbia.

Bill's Lobster TorontoCome lobster season in early May, Bill's lobster sells at $6/pound. Currently in the off-shore fishing season, they sell at $10/pound. Bill sources directly from Nova Scotia and tells me that he gets the lobster directly from the fishermen, eliminating the need for wholesalers. I ask to see the biggest lobster in the tank, and he brings out a 16 pound sucker that gives him a hard time coming out of the tank. He notes that the turnaround time for lobster in his store is no more than two to three days.

Bill's Lobster TorontoContinuing on down the narrow room, Bill pauses at the tray of scallops on ice and teaches me another industry trick. Treated scallops (referred to as "wet" scallops), typically found at supermarkets or in frozen form, are soaked in preservatives, meaning that the meat absorbs more fluid, which makes them larger and thus more expensive per pound. When cooked, the excess water evaporates, leaving a shrunken, dry and often tasteless scallop.

On the other hand, wild scallops are considered "dry" -- meaning they are not treated with any chemicals and are harvested directly from the ocean and often frozen immediately to preserve their freshness. Bill sources his jumbo scallops from Digby, Nova Scotia. They sell at $17/pound (where about eight pieces constitute a pound).

Bill's LobsterJumbo tiger shrimp from Florida sell at $14/pound, while choice-grade oysters from P.E.I. sell at $1.50 a piece. I glance over at my date who is occupied with taking a picture of a lobster with his iPhone and silently consider the aphrodisiac properties of oysters. I carefully consider buying two to slurp right then and there, but decide that taking him to a fishmonger on a Saturday afternoon is probably sexy enough...

Bill's last lesson is about sushi-grade fish, which he advises is a dangerous game if not played correctly. Fish sold to be eaten raw must be stored, frozen, defrosted and prepared very carefully. Bill sells sushi-grade tuna and salmon and says that he gives his customers careful instructions when they purchase these products. Depending on the season, he will also carry a variety of fish including Atlantic Halibut, Alaskan Black Cod, Arctic Char, Greenland Halibut, Wild Pacific Snapper, and some more exotic varieties including Branzino from Spain and Turbot from France.

In a murky world of unethical fish practices, it's important to have a fishmonger that you can trust and who will give you sound advice and tips on how best to prepare, store and chose your selections. With over 10 years of business, you could do worse than Bill's Lobster.

Bill's Lobster is open 10 am - 7 pm, seven days a week.

Bill's Lobster

Discussion

51 Comments

Janice Czarnecki / June 2, 2009 at 04:47 pm
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Yum Yum Yum we always buy from here Lobster is Awsome and the shrimps marvy and salmon steaks great Place is very clean and tidy and owners treat my dog {falkor}and i with respect Thanx my friends Jan & Falkor
Simon / December 7, 2009 at 01:30 pm
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Not the right place if you're looking for fresh live fish, they only offer fillets of fish. The grocery store a couple of doors east has live fish, though isn't the cleanest.
Michelle replying to a comment from Janice Czarnecki / December 23, 2009 at 12:01 am
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Gee, Janice, you just turned me off of this place. I'm sick of people bringing their precious pooches into stores where food is sold. Seriously, stop it. If you have no issues with dogs in your kitchen that's your business. You don't have to take them with you to do your shopping.

And for the shop owners out there: quit allowing it and oohing and awwing at the dogs. It's not cool and you're losing customers who don't think every poodle in a plaid coat is cute.
Erdem replying to a comment from Michelle / February 3, 2010 at 09:11 am
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Michelle do you think you're any cleaner than a dog? Maybe I wouldn't like to shop from a store where you visit. Ever thought of that? Stop being an idiot. No harm will come from dogs entering stores where food is sold / served. You are already carrying all the outside dirt with your shoos where ever you go. I hate dumb people like you. Find yourself something better to do than posting stupid comments.
Anna replying to a comment from Erdem / February 18, 2010 at 05:47 pm
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I am a dog lover and my dog is free to enter my kitchen, however I do agree with not bringing dogs into fresh fish or meat markets. You never know how clean some elses dog is and also take into consideration other people.
Lauro / March 6, 2010 at 09:33 am
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Have bought lobster and fish at Bills for several years, always outstanding quality, price and customer service. The best by far in TO.
jamesmallon / March 6, 2010 at 10:11 am
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Keep your 'fur children' out of my way.
johnlee / March 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm
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Bill's Lobster is great, the women that works there will give you awesome recipes to try with the fish. I'll often go there and tell Bill what type of dish I'm planning on making (fish tacos, salted & broiled, etc...) and he'll tell me the best fish to use. I've been going to Bill's for about 3 years, and I've never been disappointed.
sezme / March 6, 2010 at 03:01 pm
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I'll have to check out Bill's in early May then.

As to the dogs-in-the-market sub-issue, I'll have to side with Michelle here. It's great that people love their dogs. Take them home with you, pamper them, take them for long romantic walks, etc. But when you go into a shop or restaurant, unless it's a guide dog, leave it the hell outside.
jack / March 6, 2010 at 03:44 pm
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he is so right about sushi fish.. that's why I don't eat any sushi.. knowing how easily things can go wrong... leave along all the parasites...
jack / March 6, 2010 at 03:45 pm
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*alone
MrPotato / March 6, 2010 at 06:33 pm
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I like to let my dog drink out of the fish tanks there...best in the city!
saltspring / March 6, 2010 at 07:21 pm
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I will try Bill's fish. These days I find the freshest (i.e. swimming) fish at T and T. The T and T on Warden north of Steeles is probably the best of them all, with high turnover and the most live tanks. It helps to know either Cantonese or Mandarin, mind you...but my girlfriend takes care of that.
saltspring / March 7, 2010 at 06:15 pm
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oooof...went to Bill's today. The place stinks, literally. Can't even imagine what it smells like in the summer. No live fish (vs crustacean) tanks. Save your money and taste buds for T and T just a few blocks away on Cherry St. at Commissioner.
kyliep / March 7, 2010 at 07:04 pm
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shop here regularly. very fresh fish, great prices (30% to 50% less than st. lawrence market) and very informed, friendly staff. they'll also cook the lobsters for a small fee if you're too squeamish to do so on your own.
Lauren / March 8, 2010 at 09:41 am
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Nice write up. I see that Bill takes some care in making ethical choices about sourcing. I wonder if they talked at all about their Florida shrimp? Is it farmed? I will have to check this place out for myself.
keven replying to a comment from Erdem / March 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm
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It is against the Toronto Health Code to bring your pet into a places that serves food. So yes, much harm can come to store owners that allow this type of behaviour to continue and unless your dog showers daily like most humans do, I highly doubt Michelle is dirtier than a dog.

http://app.toronto.ca/food2/FDFAQRegular.jsp

Wish I would have tried this place when I lived in the nabe, but wasn't really into fish at the time.
Zach Swan / March 8, 2010 at 09:30 pm
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I get most of my seafood (and all of my lobster) from Bill's shop. He is a very nice chap, always asks questions about what you might be cooking up, even offers his own ideas if you're not quite sure how to prepare something. I trust him. I've also never found his shop to be anything but clean (and certainly never "smelly" - though some of the neighboring Chinatown East groceries are so smelly that I suspect many gwai lo will have difficulty breathing.)

Bill also seems to be a quiet and polite man. He probably doesn't want Janice's dog in his store any more than Michele does but is trying not to be rude. I'm not crazy about it either. Here's hoping she doesn't actually bring her animal into his store, and that they interact out front. That is possible and perfectly fine.
minks / June 7, 2010 at 07:19 pm
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I've loved fish all my life and Bills is simply the best. He and his family (who are all super nice) can answer any question you have and will direct you to better (though not necessarily more expensive) options depending on availability and your planned recipe. They also offer a variety of cooking tips and tricks which is always nice! With all of the concerns over over fishing and mislabeling it's nice to go to a top notch fish monger you can trust isn't just trying to clear out the back fridge.
James / October 9, 2010 at 07:00 am
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Bill is a scammer. He had a tank full of lobsters with a big sale sign. When I went to buy he said I couldn't because they were all reserved and pointed me to another tank which was more expensive. I asked how do you reserve and he said I had to phone in! Never went back...
Angelo replying to a comment from James / October 15, 2010 at 10:52 am
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Last time i checked in at Bill's Lobster (few days ago)to pickup some salmon, I don't ever recall a sale sign being on the lobster tank, maybe on the outside of the stores window where they advertise what the have. I personally wouldn't be surprised if the lobsters were on pre-orders especially if it's right before a holiday. Although the store isn't that big, i do remember when it was new years eve and they had a whole big tank on pre-order, literally no joke i drop by closer to closing and the tanks were empty. However I do know as a fact to pre-order there you need to drop a phone call or at least drop by to place an order, but i'm lazy so a phone call is easier/more convenient for me. JAMES i think you're just an ignorant person, don't call Bill a scammer if you didn't even buy anything LOL, take your broke ass back to the those bad supermarkets and continue buying their crap. I think you're just mad because you couldn't get what you wanted, and didn't have the money for the alternative...soft stuff there buddy, if you don't have money don't blame it on other people. James..you broke....
Tim Shields / December 11, 2010 at 03:43 pm
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Bought lobster at T&T once and the claw meat inside the claws was all shrunken and deformed. Tried to take them back (same day) and they refused. I would never buy lobster anywhere other than Bill's. He doesn't scam. If you want lobster for New Years you MUST call ahead and reserve a few days ahead, otherwise you will be told the same thing. All the lobsters in the tank are spoken for.
I have not shopped at T&T since. THAT place scams.
Ryan / December 28, 2010 at 10:33 am
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Have tried most of the fish places in Toronto before deciding to go with Bill's. I have been a customer for around 10 years, even before they moved to their current location. I have found the selection and quality to be of very high standard. Bill and Judy have worked hard to ensure customer satisfaction and have kept me aware of incoming specials and unique items not generally made available to non-regulars.

As far as lobsters being reserved, yes lobsters, crabs, and certain other items may not be available to walk-in customers. However, this is not any different when going to specialty butchers, bakers or other purveyors. Keep-in mind holidays and special occasions and call in advance. I can only shake my head at customers that walk into a shop during the holidays and act surprised when things are not made available when shelves seem to be full of the items they are looking for. Order in advance and things will be ready for you when you get there.

I have recommended Bill's Lobster to my family and friends for quality seafood and will continue to do so. If I find the quality suffers, I will make Bill and Judy aware of this and give them an opportunity to make things right. They have treated me fairly in the past and I expect they will continue to do so going forward.

Rod Malay / June 18, 2011 at 03:22 pm
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So... I watch the lobster boats pass by my place every day. A few days ago, I went down and bought two, beautiful two pounders, full and succulant, direclty from the fisherman. Those lobsters were in the water a few hours earlier....

Are you all jealous... I live on Nova Scotia's Easter Shore.

I have to say... Bill sounds like a great guy... if I was in Toronto.... I would buy from him and...

Do you know the story of dogs(descendants of wolves)... they truly are a man's/woman's/children's best friend. Humans and dogs interact in a very unique way, that actually alter the chemical balance in both creatures (human and dog) to improve the length of life... a scientific fact. People who love their dogs, take care of their dogs and they are clean.

Ohh... there comes that lobster boat again... see ya later...
Tim Shields / June 25, 2011 at 11:36 am
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Thanks a lot Rod for rubbing salt water in our seafood craved wounds. I have a mind to come on down there just to beat you round the head with some wet kelp. Jealous he asks.
Actually, my son attends university in Halifax, and occasionally we do get the real deal, and yes, there is nothing to compare.
Diana's Seafood in Scarborough is another great source for fresh fish and seafood. Honest. Just ask John Higgins, or Mark McEwan. Here is the link...Diana's Seafood Newsletter <newsletter@dianasseafood.com>
Gotta go...I needs to book a flight to Nova Scotia's Easter Shore.
Evan replying to a comment from Erdem / August 31, 2011 at 01:55 pm
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Dogs in restaurants or retail food environments are against the city's restaurant code and will get you shut down. If Bill allows dogs in his store, then how else does he not adhere to the rules?

Leave your dog outside, and don't take offense when someone doesn't love it as much as you do. It's common sense. Perhaps find a human mate.
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caitlin replying to a comment from Erdem / May 24, 2012 at 02:56 pm
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Actually Erdem, allowing a pet to come into a store that sells food does cause harm. I am highly allergic to them, and anything else with fur thats alive. If their hairs or spit got into one of the tanks, and I purchase something from said tank and ate it? My throat and airway would close up immediately and my organs would start to shut down. So no harm in bringing a pet into a food store huh? I beg to differ.
iriscutforth / June 9, 2012 at 07:49 am
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Actually, if one was to go into Sobey's and other stores, they will see two lobster tanks. The smaller lobsters will be cheaper than the large lobsters and they are the same lobsters. Sale price has to do with the size not the type. And, as far as being allergic to animal fur, I guess that is possible but it is everywhere in the air inside and outside. You should carry a syringe with an antihistamine allowable by law. Your allergy sounds like a reaction to bee stings and to peanuts but stores are for the majority.
Susan Clakre / June 21, 2012 at 10:23 am
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Great quality fish. Great prices. Great hours. Friendly owners.

'Nuff said.
Ingrid / July 23, 2012 at 05:35 am
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I love my dog, but I don't bring him where he's not allowed, or where he might inconceivable others. I only wish the parents of human some children would do the same. I've seen children of inattentive parents stick their grubby hands in seafood tanks. Gross.

It's not cute when your child throws a tantrum, it's not cute when it randomly touches me. Can't keep your child well behaved in public? Stick to kid-friendly places or stay at home. Just because you decided to breed, doesn't mean I should be subjected to your child.
Mela / August 24, 2012 at 11:00 am
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Definitely going to try Bills this weekend thanks for the blog.

Sidenote: WOW INGRID! where did that come from? What makes you think parents think their children are cute when they throw tantrums? and touching you? like dogs jump up on humans you mean... oh and its not cute when dogs "kiss" their owners and other people after they have licked their ass!!
You are so random and full of hate. Remember, you were a child once and people were "subjected" to you.

Romeo Montague / September 8, 2012 at 09:40 am
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I'm goin to Bill's today..ps leave Ur dog outside lol
joel replying to a comment from caitlin / October 11, 2012 at 11:56 am
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How do you go anywhere? There are dogs everywhere.
Terrell / November 3, 2012 at 09:30 pm
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naturally like your website however you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I to
find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I will surely come again again.
greenwoodgerrard / November 25, 2012 at 12:52 am
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I have been shopping here for 13 years and am beyond impressed. Wonderfully fresh fish and seafood. Bill and Judy are great: personable, helpful and accommodating. And I love their recipe/prep suggestions. I will not buy anywhere else and if they have sold out of what I want, I will redo my menu around what they do have.
Sticktotopic / December 21, 2012 at 02:40 am
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I thought people were supposed to comment on Bill's store, not some childish comments about kids' tantrums and hating on other people's comments about dogs. What's done is done, just comment about his store to let others know if it's worth going there.
Jeff replying to a comment from Terrell / January 21, 2013 at 11:34 am
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"Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I to
find it very bothersome..." I too find your comments full of spelling issues.
david replying to a comment from MrPotato / March 1, 2013 at 04:28 pm
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LOL! but not everyone has sense of humor -- some will take this seriously and it will harm Bill's business. Do the right thing and delete it.
Karen / May 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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Very upset!!!!! Order 6 steamed 3 pound lobsters and spoke to Bill twice in the week to confirm pickup on Friday morning. He arrived 20 minutes after store was supposed to open & said he didn't have or do the lobsters. Very unprofessional!!!!! He didn't even apologize. Filthy dirty store. Think twice before going there!!!!! Avoid Bills Lobsters
kaykat / August 28, 2013 at 01:25 am
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Beautiful, spotless store. Top quality fish. Friendly and knowledgeable. I trust this place 100%, have never been disappointed. I just wish I could afford to shop there all the time. I sometimes shop nextdoor for cheaper prices and then treat myself to Bill's once and a while. Have been going for about 6 years have tried many things. The squid is best in city, immaculate.
Pinkeyrosey / October 13, 2013 at 11:09 am
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Too all of I who hate this shop be ashamed he works comes home to nurse 5 children and one of them is me I will talk to my dad about the dog problem and the stink)i haven't been there in a huge while)I'm really happy too see little furry friends too but u don't need to get angry about it being in the store i usually see people leaving there dog outside so I think u are lying my dad says to leave there dog outside and so dose my mom so stop COMPLAiNING
Pinkeyrosey / October 13, 2013 at 11:11 am
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U are hurting me :(
dina sultan / November 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm
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I love Bills Lobster.... its great quality for a great deal... and they are sooooo friendly..... I recommend them to all my followers on www.4sushilovers.com where you can get tips on how to prepare different makis and tips.....

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