“Selling lobsters is definitely a complicated process,” says Steven Wong, owner of Aqua Best Seafood Market in New York City. “I’ve eaten so much lobster in my life I can actually taste the difference in where they caught it.” Wong and his family have been selling and shipping diverse seafood to customers, many of whom are restaurateurs for some of NYC’s best restaurants, for over 30 years. In that time, Wong has become known for his sourcing of high-grade lobster, so much so that he earned the nickname “the lobster ‘sourcerer’”
“A lobster’s not just a lobster. A lobster is just like a diamond,” says Wong of the many different types of lobsters he sources from all over the country. “There are different cuts, different grades, different sizes, there are different areas from where you catch lobster that have different qualities.”
Before COVID-19, the shop went through an average 60 to 80 thousand pounds of lobster per week, and during the holidays that number could be up to 150 thousand pounds. Wong’s company sells lobster and other fish to 175 restaurants in the northeast, and they ship anywhere in the world in under 24 hours; “even in Singapore,” he notes, “which has the longest flight, like 19 hours.”
Eater followed Wong throughout his typical day. His first task, which begins around around 6:00 a.m., is to fulfill special fish orders for specific restaurants. At 9:00 a.m. he receives an order of fish from Fulton Fish Market from his brother, and together he and his team sort the fish by type, weight, and region. At 11 a.m., Wong hand delivers lobsters to some of his restaurant clientele, like Le District in Battery Park where they make fresh lobster rolls, and Saigon Social in the Lower East Side. And at 1:30 p.m. Wong awaits another 5,000 pound lobster order at his distribution center, which has specialty tanks that keep the lobster alive, fresh, and ready for the next delivery.
“I think one of the key ingredients in cooking is fresh ingredients — what kind of ingredients you get, when you get it — so you can create the best dish,” says Wong. “And that’s something we try to do for every restaurant and every chef.”