Updated: Oct 7, 2020
A Feature of Culinaire Magazine
“When I first came to Calgary you could only get frozen fish. You might get a few items fresh, but otherwise people are eating meat, meat, meat. Now people are starting to eat healthy,” says David Yip, co-owner of City Fish.
Yip came from Hong Kong to Calgary in 1982 as a teenager, and helped his brother who had a meat and seafood store. As they spoke English and Chinese, they did business in Chinatown and other restaurants too – Cannery Row and Don Quijote were early customers.
He helped with deliveries part time, and studied Civil Engineering full time until his brother asked if he’d like to go into the wholesale business with him. Oil had crashed, and civil engineers didn’t have jobs, so he decided to give it a try. Yip, with his brother, Nelson, started City Fish in 1986.
“City Fish has been very lucky in Calgary; one reason is because after ‘88-‘90 we are growing as the city grows. More people are coming here and more restaurants are opening up,” he explains.
The turning point for fresh seafood was when Catch opened. “They wanted a small guy,” Yip explains. “A lot of chef’s minds are, “if I want seafood, I want a seafood guy, if I want meat, I want a meat guy. If I want grocery, I want a grocery guy, I want somebody who specializes, and they can tell me when the product’s coming, and how fresh the product is.”
Another turning point was the growth of Japanese food. “When I first started there were only five Japanese restaurants in town. Five. Now it’s over 200 including the little cafeteria. It’s big time. And I am lucky to have a Japanese line - salmon, tuna, unagi - so people phone me as I’m the only one really that has the variety of product to supply them,” he explains.
“Then last of all, we supply all the Calgary Co-op as well, so it’s a gradual growth of the business. It is 30 years now in business as City Fish, and I’m happy, and I never regret that day that my brother come to ask me ‘do you want to do this,’ and I say yes.”
So what is the bottle that Yip is saving for a special occasion?
“The whisky from Japan is very good, and for the past few years has been very popular,” says Yip. “Before, it was under the radar and under-priced, then all of a sudden, in Asian countries, it’s become very popular. Supply and demand has raised the price high.”
Yip’s Hibiki is a limited edition 21-year old, which doesn’t exist any more. Demand for the whisky is so great that all the old whisky has gone. As Yip says, ”you can’t go back and make another 10 bottles. We looked in Tokyo and we found two bottles, and me and my friend just grabbed them. I would never open this for a long, long time, until a special, special occasion.”
And what might that special occasion be?
Yip did have a vintage bottle until last year when he had a party. After a few glasses of wine, his friends saw the bottle and… Yip generously opened it even though they’d already really had enough.
“The next day my wife gave me ****, because I’m supposed to be storing it like this one, Yip says with a sheepish smile. “She was really upset about it, so in January, when were in Japan, we saw this and she said “this time we hide it and not open it.” What occasion? I’d say an anniversary, a birthday, with a few friends and we might open it for enjoying it, not for shooters like the other bottle!”
Courtesy of Culinaire Magazine