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Has Esca gone downhill?

foodie4life Jan 11, 2010 07:25 PM

Never been to Esca but it has been on the Wish List for awhile. My boyfriend and I love crudo so it seems a sin that we've never dined here. I wanted to make a reservation for Valentine's day but I've read some recent negative reviews of the service and some lackluster food (mostly items other than crudo though). Can anybody weigh in?

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  1. m
    mcoleman Jan 12, 2010 02:47 AM

    had a somewhat disappointing meal here last spring. the octopus starter w/fresh peas was delicious but my main course of fish soup was uninspired and a bit off-tasting if not FUNKY.

    starting w/crudo and proceeding to cooked whole fish us probably the way to go at Esca.

    1. jon Jan 12, 2010 07:15 AM

      my last meal there (in november) was spectacular, better than my previous visit about a year before. i highly recommend the branzino for two and the fettucini with king crab meat and tarragon.

      1. j
        jdg5005 Jan 12, 2010 07:30 AM

        I think I am qualified to answer as I was just there on Saturday. The meal was fantastic.
        We got the 6 course tasting menu, and I substituted the gnocci with the Guitar cut pasta with uni & crabmeat. This sub was the best meal of the tasting, and I highly recommend trying it.

        The Crudo's were good, but not excellent. The best one that we tried were the baby deep sea shrimp, but i was slightly disappointed that we did not get the razor clams, as i hear those are the best of the crudo menu.

        Food is great, service was excellent. If you are in the mood for seafood, its definitely a great meal.

        1. k
          karutt20 Jan 12, 2010 07:45 AM

          I went there with my family for the first time last winter before an off-Broadway play. This was the first and only time we dined at Esca. We had heard that it was one of the greatest places for seafood lovers in Manhattan.

          They started us off with some nice bread and delicious fresh olives and olive oil... Which ended up being our favorite part of the meal. The seafood entrees that were cooked for us were all extremely salty. My boyfriend (a non-seafood eater) got the only chicken item on the menu and also complained of too much salt. Also, I felt that service was a little slow and hurried at times for this type of restaurant.

          I will say that if you are going to Esca for the purpose of ordering crudo, I wouldn't hesitate to make a reservation. We had a small sampler tray as an appetizer and it did not disappoint. Definitely fresh and definitely delicious.

          Personally, I would stay away from all other items on the menu. Cheers!

          4 Replies
          1. re: karutt20
            Wilfrid Jan 12, 2010 07:48 AM

            In my experience, salt and oil are the main flavors on the crudo offerings too. I've had some very poor food here, not least the branzino for two, supposedly a signature dish - limp white fish swimming in oil. On my last visit, service was eager while we ordered and absent for the rest of the evening.

            1. re: Wilfrid
              foodie4life Jan 12, 2010 08:31 AM

              Hmm it sounds like some of you all are confirming my suspicions. We would order mainly crudo and possibly the fish for two. We actually have some food limitations so shellfish is off limits but they seem to offer plenty for us regardless. If service is bad, that's important though. I'm pretty big on service.

              1. re: foodie4life
                _emilie_ Jan 12, 2010 01:16 PM

                I have to say I agree -- we did a tasting menu there and the only thing we liked -- and can even remember -- was the crudo. It was excellent. I would get that and stop there while you're ahead.

                Their sommelier was great though, so that's a plus on the service side.

              2. re: Wilfrid
                c
                Cpalms Jan 12, 2010 12:13 PM

                I couldn't disagree more with Wilfrid, having eaten at Esca once or twice a year for many years - I find it to be one of the most underrated places in the city. The whole fishes are simple, same way they are in campania - don't expect fireworks because that not what these dishes are about- they are about subtlety. For what is worth, if I would skip anything at Esca it would probably be the crudo's - the fish is always perfect but these dishes are quite simple and kind of boring after a while - what I would not skip is the pastas - they are not to be missed - especially the lobster pasta and machheroni w. sea urchin.

            2. e
              edwardspk Jan 12, 2010 08:36 AM

              Esca has been and remains one of my favorite restaurants for years. I'm generally there at least once a month and have not seen any slip in food or service. The crudo is fantastic (although very small), as are the pastas (especially the lobster spaghetti) and the fish dishes. As someone mentioned, chicken should not be ordered. Esca is a seafood restaurant, and truly the chicken is a throwaway dish. Otherwise, I've been quite pleased with all my meals there. I encourage you to give it a try.

              1. j
                Julz124 Jan 12, 2010 12:56 PM

                I have been to ESCA twice in the last six months (most recently last month). It has not gone downhill. The Crudo's are superb (yes there is meant to be salt on the Crudo) and chef Pasternack creates and brings out the flavor of the fish through different salts and olive oils. All the pasta dishes are flavorful and devine. You can't go wrong with the wholefish either. I will say that last time I had a bad waiter, however I told this to the maitre de and he send over someone else who completed our meal and was wonderful.

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