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May 11, 2007 05:09 PM


My 16 year old daughter has been taking singing lessons in the Film Center Building for about 4 months now, and while she sings, I wander around reading menus. We usually end up having dinner somewhere cheap before heading back to the Jersey shore. Yesterday, I discovered that Esca was practically next door.I like the looks of the menu, but I've since read online reviews, which were certainly mixed. But, I think I want to try it anyway.

So, here's the deal: She'll be out of school for the summer in June, and we'll be scheduling earlier lessons. I'm thinking lunch, either for both of us or for just me. She's an adventurous eater when it come to fish, particularly raw, so her sophistication level isn't a problem. But my own sophistication level isn't all that high, in terms of what to expect. Specifically, we don't have huge appetites, and I think we'd be satisfied with just an appetizer and one other course. What are the portions like (I've already heard that the crudo is a small portion)?If I wind up going solo, will I be better at the bar or a table? Some reviewers have complained about rudeness, and I'm no stranger to dining alone, but I am looking to enjoy myself, not do battle. I would like wine, but of course I'd be drinking alone.We (or just I) will probably go during the week at an odd, probably slow time.

What do you think? Would this be a pleasant afternoon?


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  1. I suggest that for lunch you wallk diectly across the street from Esca and into Le Madeleine. Charming and perfect for what you are asking.

    1. I am one of those who is not an Esca fan since the one and only time we had dinner there, it was far from pleasing in every aspect. I found the food disappointing and the service, while not actually rude, was certainly extremely indifferent. It did not help that we were at the far end of a banquette where the table next to us was so close that I was practically sitting in the lap of the very nice lady to my right. This was pre-theater, and the place was packed. But I've never felt that should excuse any of these blemishes because we've been to many other restaurants pre-theater where, despite the scene being rather hectic, the food's been delicious, and service has been cordial, as well as efficient. I hold to the motto that a restaurant has only one chance to make a first impression. Obviously, in my case, Esca failed miserably to make a good one.

      idia's Le Madeleine suggestion is a good one. I would also recommend you try Marseille, on the corner of 9th & 44th. The French/Mediterranean cuisine is excellent, and the brasserie setting has very attractive decor. We've always received very good service. I've seen solo diners seated at tables, and it looked to me as though that was holding true for them. But you can, if you prefer, dine at the bar.

      3 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        I'm with you: Esca is one of the most overpriced, overrated restaurants in the city. I don't get it. I went last night, ordered the shark special. It was so heavily breaded and fried, it looked like something from the Gorton's Fisherman. The spaghettini with sea scallops was way too salty, perhaps to mask the fact that the scallops were slightly unfresh (were a bit metallic tasting and a smell, too, and not a good one), and the tuna carpaccio was tasteless. And their afogato (sp?) doesn't measure up to Al Di La in Brooklyn, not by a long shot. If I'm going to drop that kind of money on a fancy Italian restaurant, from now on I'm going to Babbo. I hate to say it, but that place lives up to the hype.

        1. re: kraw

          my experience at Esca was very tasty all around, but everyone in the business knows you NEVER order seafood on a Sunday or Monday. The fish is delivered on Friday. On Sat it's still fine, but if not Saturday, wait until Tuesday, when the next fresh fish is delivered.

          1. re: kraw

            I agree, Esca is a disappointment and overrated.

        2. esca is a terrific restaurant: the crudo flight and a pasta (spaghetti neri?) is a thrifty and tasty way to go. lunch is a wise call.
          michelin guide, new york times would agree. neither le madeleine nor marseille can claim that status.

          1. ...forgot to mention that the wine list is outstanding (bastianich and lynch would insist). the bar is teeny-tiny but you can eat there if you choose. i like to meet my wife at the bar, enjoy a drink or two, and move into the dining area when we feel like it. rude service? never.

            you should have a very pleasant afternoon.

            1. Le Madeleine all the way. Much better experience on many levels. I think you'll feel more welcomed there.