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Dec 1, 2001 12:44 AM

lunch at Esca?

  • i

Has anyone eaten there lately? Is it a mostly corporate crowd? Are the prices as high as dinner? Any prix fixe?

Thanks for any help!

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  1. I ate there for dinner on Sunday, so I can't comment on lunch. I didn't notice a prix fixe for dinner. Our food was okay, not great. The whole experience was much more boring than I expected. One of the two sea urchins in my date's appetizer tasted very wrong. The only discernable flavor in my grilled baby octupus was salt. My roasted cod was as bland as the dining room. The tagliatelle with crabmeat, however, was simple and good. For dessert, we had a chocolate cake topped with creme fraiche "sorbet". We thought it was the most appealing sounding item on the dessert menu, but it just tasted adequate. Not horrible, but I don't have an urge to revisit.

    4 Replies
    1. re: l'il dragon

      I went for lunch about 2 or 3 months ago, and I totally agree with the previous poster. Nothing was bad, but it was a fairly pedestrian meal. I had a seafood stew-type thing, and frankly, besides the seafood being fresh, there was nothing good about it.

      The crowd is mixed -- I wouldn't call it particularly businessy.

      1. re: Dan

        Thanks for all of the tips. It sounds like my first experience there was pretty indicative of a typical meal there. Thanks to your feedback I think we're going to try to get into the Tavern at Gramercy as it's a proven winner with the parents.

        Thanks again!

        1. re: iron frank
          silver queen

          For what it's worth, I think Esca is one of the very best seafood restaurants in the country, with an astonishing list of Italian whites. It may sound obnoxious, but the thing to do here is to get Pasternack to come over to your table and tell you about the local stuff that's come in - - he practically knows every fish by its Christian name. If you treat him as you would a great sushi chef, and follow his suggestions, you will have a fine meal. (Oh man, the bluefish tartare with fresh jalapenos!)

          Tuna, seabass and sword may always be on the menu, because people come in and want to see familiar things, but it's always better to play it by ear at Esca than to come in hungry for something specific.

          1. re: silver queen
            Pat Goldberg

            We had dinner there a couple of nights ago, and i agree it is a fine fish restaurant. The sea urchin were briny fresh (but with a tad too much lemon for my taste) and the quickly seared monkfish liver was amazing. Our other dishes (Buccatini with octopus, diver scallops and sturgeon) were equally good. The service was attentive and well paced. We were not particularly impressed in the Dolcetta di Dogliani we ordered, but it is not surprising that Esca's reds do not match their whites.

            One word of warning: Esca does a BIG pre-theatre business, so it is important to reserve for 8 or later if you don't want to be caught in that mad rush.

    2. k
      kirk wallace

      i go there a fair amount (in fact i went today after reading your question), so take it as a given that i am biased; the prices at lunch are a bit less than dinner, but the choices are fewer, e.g., the great raw fish crudo is only a 3 piece sampler at lunch, whereas at dinner you have more options (i am sure if you wanted the dinner style crudo you could have it).

      i think the key here is (as mentioned by a prior post in passing) that the fish is very fresh; the chef, david pasternak, is passionate about his ingredients and lets them shine: simple grilled or salt baked fish and relatively "simple" but luminous pastas dishes. very interesting wide ranging (all italian) wine list. Try the buccatini with spicy octopus or the linguine with mahagony clams and red chile pepper (just the garlic and parsley alone in that dish, and the quality of the olive oil, make it simple perfection; the super sweet little clams set-off against the bite of the dried peppers and bits of chewy, smokey pancetta just raise to a slightly higher level, with loss of focus).

      service is not always what it should be, but most of the waiters are at least well meaning (there always seems to be one or two (different ones from time to time, which is a good sign, once the problem ones reveal themselves, they do seem to leave or be fired after 2 or 3 months), however, who don't get the idea of gracious, intelligent service. At any event, lunch is less busy than dinner, so you will do better on the service score anyway.

      and to me, priciness is relative. for places in that general neighborhood, I think its head and shoulders the best price/value mix. (compare it to db "bistro moderne")