HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


what to eat at Esca?

I couldn't find any recent posts on Esca. So, is it a mistake to order the pasta there? in looking at their tasting menu, they do not offer pasta. Makes me think it is not what you order at Esca. I do like the pasta at Babbo, if that means anything.
The last time I was at Esca was when they first opened. I didn't like it much, but I want to give it another try. My last visit there, I had a fish dish. The menu had many "middle Eastern" flavors i.e. cumin, , fava, more
The menu looks completely different now.
Aside from my pasta question, any recommendations would be welcomed.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was just there at Esca.

    We did not have the pasta. Was told the Branzino was the way to go, and so we did. But we shouldn't have. It tasted just fine, but was way too expensive for what we got. Nice presentation and all, but at the end of the day we felt it was just fish.

    The crudo tasting, however, was very good.

    I would pass on the desserts.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I always felt crudos are the best part of Esca.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I see simple grilled Branzino dish in many popular restaurants but I never ordered them because my husband grills those branzino perfectly on our outdoor grill. We buy them from local H mart for about $7 per pound. They are so good..with lots of sea salt and lemon. yummm..taste so much better than $30 plus at a restaurant.

        1. re: Monica

          The branzino at Esca is baked in a complete crust of sea salt if I remember correctly.

          1. re: Monica

            Monica, we do the same just about once a month and got pretty good at it over the years. But unlike you we actually make the mistake and order it quite often

        2. The spaghetti with lobster at Esca is delicious.

          1. I haven't been back in a few years either, but the menu looks pretty much the same. I always felt that the crudo and pastas were the strong points of Esca, especially the squid ink pasta and the sea urchin pasta.

            Their gnocchi is excellent too, although you can have that at other places, just like I favored their branzino for two until a superior one arrived at Marea.

            1. You want the linguini with clams. A recent meal there of that dish (from a friend we trust) was excellent.


              1. Ditto these responses. We went in February and Esca was one of our splurges. I got salmon and my wife one of the pastas. Although the salmon was perfectly cooked, it was not a knockout tastewise while my wife's pasta was special. Don't get the fish for an appetizer either. I recall that the wine that I had by the glass was very tasty as was the Negroni. Also I was surprised at how casual some people were dressed. Since we were from way out of town (Maine), I had a tie and jacket but certainly didn't need to be that spiffed up.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mainahs

                  "Also I was surprised at how casual some people were dressed. Since we were from way out of town (Maine), I had a tie and jacket but certainly didn't need to be that spiffed up."

                  It's like that at many places in NYC these days. But if you feel comfortable wearing a tie and jacket, please do so. I wish more people would. We went out to eat after a special mass at church this evening so we were both wearing suits. The restaurant was on a par with Esca. I was sitting next to a guy wearing shorts. While I feel he was underdressed, I realize we were at the other end of the spectrum and may have been overdressed. Still, I think my husband and I looked much nicer. :)

                2. Thank you CH'ers for your help. Three of us went to Esca tonite. My descriptions will be weak, because I'm tired and too lazy to look at menu pages for accurate detailed descriptions. But I attached photos of some of the dishes.
                  Firstly, everyone was very dressed up. I was even wearing a suit and tie. Staff was very nice. Service was excellent. Sommelier was knowledgeable and pleasant. I picked out a Super Tuscan that was very good and reasonably priced.
                  Started with East Coast oysters which were good although the accompanying mignonette was not very good.
                  Crudo: Fluke crudo was cut too thick, was chewy and flavorless.
                  Porgy crudo was same as fluke , cut too thick , chewy and flavorless.
                  Razor clam crudo/ceviche was excellent.
                  Pasta: uni and crab meat and guitar cut maccherroni was tasty and cooked perfectly.
                  The squid ink pasta with squid I thought was very tasty, a bit spicy. Others thought it was too salty.
                  Appetizers : Baked vongole were excellent. Crispy on top, tasty , A very good dish
                  Pumpkin flowers stuffed with ricotta and accompanied with spaghetti squash and pumpkin seeds was OK. Too cheesy a taste for me. But not greasy and cooked nicely. Spaghetti squash was good.
                  Scallops were decent. They looked really good but I didn't think they were anything to write home about.
                  Arctic Char ( on menu in Italian said Salmon) had a nice crispy skin. The presentation was pretty terrible. The fish was tasteless. It was accompanied by an okra and olive dish. I wouldn't order that dish again.
                  Desserts: Prosecco zabaglione with peaches was good.
                  Pannacotta with corn and berries was very good.
                  Coffees were very good.
                  Overall I'd stick with the pastas and appetizers. Maybe try some different ones next time.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Looks like a mixed bag with some decent highs.

                    They do a good job of adding spiciness to some of the pasta dishes. The squid ink pasta does a good job of it, and I remember one time they had baby eels (rare import, expensive!) and also spiced it up with pasta really well.

                    1. Seafood pastas are Esca's speciality

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AubWah

                        yeah, it seemed the seafood pastas and the baked clams were the best things there

                      2. We had a good meal at Esca last night. Great service, not too loud, just a nice buzz to the atmosphere. My husband's Negroni was off balance, with way too much gin.

                        We shared 3 crudos. Raw Cape Cod Bay Scallops with chervil were very good--fresh & sweet. I only wish the chervil was cut a little smaller. Also while it wasn't listed on the menu, it tasted like there was lemon in there as well. The Seared Toro served "Au poivre" was good as well. My husband's favorite dish of the night! However, I thought it could have been fattier and more flavorful, though. Serving it "au poivre" was interesting, I thought, but I think I prefer a tuna tartare or nigiri or poke if I'm eating raw tuna, as a personal preference.

                        Razor Clams in a two minute ceviche with chilis, scallion and mint looked great, but was very hard to eat. They chop up the raw clams and make a ceviche and put it back into the shell, on a bed of crushed ice. The pile of ceviche on each shell was precarious -- very difficult to spear some ceviche without getting it everywhere. Would have been better in a simple bowl. I did like the dish, though.

                        We also shared three altro dishes. Baked (broiled really) Jonah crab with fennel and lemon served in its shell was highly recommended by our server. However, the fennel and lemon peel overshadowed the delicate, sweet crab flesh. The crab itself was excellent, so I tried to eat around the fennel & lemon peel after a while.

                        The raw porcinis and grilled matsutake mushrooms with Parmesan vinaigrette were amazing -- porcinis sliced very, very thin. Almost a mushroom carpaccio, with a general helping of parmesan. Fabulous, meaty, flavorful. We also loved the grilled Portuguese white anchovies with pickled green beans, local greens and house cured green olive tapenade. Great dish. Lots of nice char on the anchovies. The combination of grilled anchovy with green olives seemed both classic and inspired. I'd come back just to eat these two dishes!

                        Our main was OK. Whole pan roasted flounder with pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and figs. Needed a bit more salt. Was filleted into 2 portions for us a little sloppily as well. As stated elsewhere on CH, their mains are not always their strong point.

                        Finished with an Americano. Didn't touch the petit fours (cookie plate).

                        Overall, I think Esca is a solid restaurant conveniently located to the theatre district (they get you in and out with time to spare) but the menu has some duds so you need to navigate it carefully.