Essex Pearl

Fishmonger & Seafood Restaurant

Essex Pearl’s story begins with Aqua Best, a mom-and-pop fish counter just blocks away from the original Fulton Fish Market. In 2006, Aqua Best moved to Chinatown, where they provide a wide assortment of fresh seafood at reasonable prices to some of Manhattan’s top restaurants. With Essex Pearl debuting at The Market Line, second-generation owners Freeman, Steven, and Lina Wong look forward to continuing to provide New Yorkers with local catches, many of which are caught and sold the same day.

Get to know: Essex Pearl

Freeman, Steven & Lina Wong

2nd Generation Seafood Specialists

The original Aqua Best shop was located blocks away from the Fulton Fish Market before finding a home in the Lower East Side in2006. How has the neighborhood and community shaped your business and what excites you most about having a second location in this neighborhood?

Our original spot on Catherine Street in 1985 was a one-minute walk from the original Fulton Fish Market at the seaport. We were already used to waking up at night and walking to the Fulton Market to go buy fish for our local customer. We used to go with our dad or mom or uncle and talk to the vendors and buy fish. The older guys remember us and basically watched us growing up. Sometimes, they would have candy for us to take home. Later on the second store was located on East Broadway and Pike Street. That location was more geared towards wholesale and some retail sales. There was an influx of immigrants that had a different taste of the seafood they wanted, so it helped us differentiate what different ethnicities that prefer different seafoods. The current location at Grand Street sees a mix of customer types. We see local Chinese customers that work and live in the neighborhood as well as other customers that travel to Chinatown for their fresh seafood. Quality is the most important factor of why customers come to Chinatown. Seafood moves fast here, fish doesn’t get a chance together old. We’re always listening to our customers; when they come through the door, we ask what they are looking for, is there something that we can help them with. We are excited to being able to bring our second-generation seafood expertise to the neighborhood.

When your parents founded the business, they traveled all along the East Coast to source the best seafood. Did you ever join them on any of these trips? As a second-generation seafood specialist, what are your fondest memories of your early exposure to the industry?

When Steven and I were younger, we would ride along in the truck with our father or uncle on those road trips whenever school was out. Going out to Long Island or to Virginia and even to Rhode Island and Massachusetts and meeting up with the dealers and fishermen was always fun. We got to see how the fish gets from the boat to the dock and being involved in how it gets to the fish markets was very cool. I remember many times, we tried to stay awake and keep up looking down the road and try to stay awake the whole trip and say we made it. 9 out of 10 times we lost the battle. We got to see things that most of our classmates did not see other than what was in books or TV.

When I think of the Lower East Side, I think of...

The diverse people that live here. This is a working family’s community. Growing up in the Lower East Side, we would have White, Italian, Chinese, Black, Jewish and Hispanic neighbors. Chinese people in Chinatown, Italians in Little Italy, Jewish along the Grand Street and East Broadway, etc. Now, it's lots of young people moving in and living in the most diverse neighborhood in all of NYC.

Best thing about NYC and worst thing about NYC:

This is the city that never sleeps! Best thing is that you can find almost anything at almost anytime! Walking down the street at 8pm or 10pm or later, you can find food or entertainment almost anywhere! Worst thing about NYC is the traffic, taking the subway is almost always faster than driving.

What is your earliest food memory?

Would have to be mom cooking in the kitchen. She can whip up dinner almost in no time with whatever was in the refrigerator! Even though it was homemade, mom’s cooking was always the best.

What’s the one food you can’t live without?

Can we say seafood?

Preferred method of transportation:

Walking. Nothing beats walking around in the neighborhood. Walking allows us to stop and see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Driving can get you from here to there in no time, but it's hard to stop and see the neighborhood.

What is your most essential ingredient in the kitchen?

Chinese cooking would mean having ginger and garlic and scallion all the time! We cook seafood all the time and those are ESSENTIAL!

The original Aqua Best shop was located blocks away from the Fulton Fish Market before finding a home in the Lower East Side in2006. How has the neighborhood and community shaped your business and what excites you most about having a second location in this neighborhood?

Our original spot on Catherine Street in 1985 was a one-minute walk from the original Fulton Fish Market at the seaport. We were already used to waking up at night and walking to the Fulton Market to go buy fish for our local customer. We used to go with our dad or mom or uncle and talk to the vendors and buy fish. The older guys remember us and basically watched us growing up. Sometimes, they would have candy for us to take home. Later on the second store was located on East Broadway and Pike Street. That location was more geared towards wholesale and some retail sales. There was an influx of immigrants that had a different taste of the seafood they wanted, so it helped us differentiate what different ethnicities that prefer different seafoods. The current location at Grand Street sees a mix of customer types. We see local Chinese customers that work and live in the neighborhood as well as other customers that travel to Chinatown for their fresh seafood. Quality is the most important factor of why customers come to Chinatown. Seafood moves fast here, fish doesn’t get a chance together old. We’re always listening to our customers; when they come through the door, we ask what they are looking for, is there something that we can help them with. We are excited to being able to bring our second-generation seafood expertise to the neighborhood.

When your parents founded the business, they traveled all along the East Coast to source the best seafood. Did you ever join them on any of these trips? As a second-generation seafood specialist, what are your fondest memories of your early exposure to the industry?

When Steven and I were younger, we would ride along in the truck with our father or uncle on those road trips whenever school was out. Going out to Long Island or to Virginia and even to Rhode Island and Massachusetts and meeting up with the dealers and fishermen was always fun. We got to see how the fish gets from the boat to the dock and being involved in how it gets to the fish markets was very cool. I remember many times, we tried to stay awake and keep up looking down the road and try to stay awake the whole trip and say we made it. 9 out of 10 times we lost the battle. We got to see things that most of our classmates did not see other than what was in books or TV.

When I think of the Lower East Side, I think of...

The diverse people that live here. This is a working family’s community. Growing up in the Lower East Side, we would have White, Italian, Chinese, Black, Jewish and Hispanic neighbors. Chinese people in Chinatown, Italians in Little Italy, Jewish along the Grand Street and East Broadway, etc. Now, it's lots of young people moving in and living in the most diverse neighborhood in all of NYC.

Best thing about NYC and worst thing about NYC:

This is the city that never sleeps! Best thing is that you can find almost anything at almost anytime! Walking down the street at 8pm or 10pm or later, you can find food or entertainment almost anywhere! Worst thing about NYC is the traffic, taking the subway is almost always faster than driving.

What is your earliest food memory?

Would have to be mom cooking in the kitchen. She can whip up dinner almost in no time with whatever was in the refrigerator! Even though it was homemade, mom’s cooking was always the best.

What’s the one food you can’t live without?

Can we say seafood?

Preferred method of transportation:

Walking. Nothing beats walking around in the neighborhood. Walking allows us to stop and see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Driving can get you from here to there in no time, but it's hard to stop and see the neighborhood.

What is your most essential ingredient in the kitchen?

Chinese cooking would mean having ginger and garlic and scallion all the time! We cook seafood all the time and those are ESSENTIAL!

The original Aqua Best shop was located blocks away from the Fulton Fish Market before finding a home in the Lower East Side in2006. How has the neighborhood and community shaped your business and what excites you most about having a second location in this neighborhood?

Our original spot on Catherine Street in 1985 was a one-minute walk from the original Fulton Fish Market at the seaport. We were already used to waking up at night and walking to the Fulton Market to go buy fish for our local customer. We used to go with our dad or mom or uncle and talk to the vendors and buy fish. The older guys remember us and basically watched us growing up. Sometimes, they would have candy for us to take home. Later on the second store was located on East Broadway and Pike Street. That location was more geared towards wholesale and some retail sales. There was an influx of immigrants that had a different taste of the seafood they wanted, so it helped us differentiate what different ethnicities that prefer different seafoods. The current location at Grand Street sees a mix of customer types. We see local Chinese customers that work and live in the neighborhood as well as other customers that travel to Chinatown for their fresh seafood. Quality is the most important factor of why customers come to Chinatown. Seafood moves fast here, fish doesn’t get a chance together old. We’re always listening to our customers; when they come through the door, we ask what they are looking for, is there something that we can help them with. We are excited to being able to bring our second-generation seafood expertise to the neighborhood.

When your parents founded the business, they traveled all along the East Coast to source the best seafood. Did you ever join them on any of these trips? As a second-generation seafood specialist, what are your fondest memories of your early exposure to the industry?

When Steven and I were younger, we would ride along in the truck with our father or uncle on those road trips whenever school was out. Going out to Long Island or to Virginia and even to Rhode Island and Massachusetts and meeting up with the dealers and fishermen was always fun. We got to see how the fish gets from the boat to the dock and being involved in how it gets to the fish markets was very cool. I remember many times, we tried to stay awake and keep up looking down the road and try to stay awake the whole trip and say we made it. 9 out of 10 times we lost the battle. We got to see things that most of our classmates did not see other than what was in books or TV.

When I think of the Lower East Side, I think of...

The diverse people that live here. This is a working family’s community. Growing up in the Lower East Side, we would have White, Italian, Chinese, Black, Jewish and Hispanic neighbors. Chinese people in Chinatown, Italians in Little Italy, Jewish along the Grand Street and East Broadway, etc. Now, it's lots of young people moving in and living in the most diverse neighborhood in all of NYC.

Best thing about NYC and worst thing about NYC:

This is the city that never sleeps! Best thing is that you can find almost anything at almost anytime! Walking down the street at 8pm or 10pm or later, you can find food or entertainment almost anywhere! Worst thing about NYC is the traffic, taking the subway is almost always faster than driving.

What is your earliest food memory?

Would have to be mom cooking in the kitchen. She can whip up dinner almost in no time with whatever was in the refrigerator! Even though it was homemade, mom’s cooking was always the best.

What’s the one food you can’t live without?

Can we say seafood?

Preferred method of transportation:

Walking. Nothing beats walking around in the neighborhood. Walking allows us to stop and see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Driving can get you from here to there in no time, but it's hard to stop and see the neighborhood.

What is your most essential ingredient in the kitchen?

Chinese cooking would mean having ginger and garlic and scallion all the time! We cook seafood all the time and those are ESSENTIAL!