Esca, NYC 2

March 7, 2009

Esca is an Italian seafood restaurant in the southwest corner of the theater district. We had not been to Esca for some time until we dined there with Kristin before going to a revival of Guys and Dolls nearby on February 26, 2009. esb
We were seated at a nice table and asked for the wine list. We ordered the first of two bottles of 2007 Bruno Giacosa Arneis, which is always good. There is an excellent looking tasting menu at $75, or $120 with wine pairings, but we did not have time for that and ordered from the large à la carte menu. They must have a big turnover to be able to stock so much fresh fish, but then that is what everyone orders.

There was a nice little antipasto of beans on toast.
The beans had picked up a lot of good flavor from whatever they had been cooked in.

Kristin started with
Branzino Crudo
with cracklings

She thought that the raw sea bass with what seemed to be flecks of its crisped skin and olive oil was very good.

Linda’s first course was
Uova di Pollo
Sunnyside up farmhouse egg with house cured tuna bacon.

Under the egg is a small piece of tuna that did not seem like bacon, but made a satisfying dish with the egg and mâche.

My starter was
Fegato di Pescatrice
Seared monkfish liver with a compote of dried fruit and cracked wheat.

It is surprising that a fish would have such a large liver. It had a rich flavor, somewhat like a smoother, stronger shad roe. The crusty seared outside was good. The garnishes were fine, but it could have used some citrus to cut its unctuousness.

Kristin went on to
Grilled American red snapper with romanesco cauliflower roasted with capers, raisins and pinenuts.

She thought this was good.

Linda’s second course was
Maccheroni alla Chittara
House made guitar cut spaghetti with crabmeat and sea urchin

This was sensational. There was plenty of sea urchin flavor on top of a crab base. Bravo.

My main course was
with mussels, clams, fresh chick peas and red dandelion greens.

This was quite good and different from most seafood pastas in that the very al dente orecciette were chewy and earthy. The chick peas were also earthy and, like the pasta, had absorbed the mussel and clam broth so the whole dish gave the impression of a wet, cold winter day at the shore rather than the sunny seaside effect one gets from a spaghetti alle vongole. They must have run out of the dandelions.

I was the only one to have dessert
Affogato di cafe
caramel gelato drowned in espresso

The hot espresso was poured on at the table. I was instructed to start eating right away with the spoon and to switch to the straw when the caramel ice cream had melted. Very good.

Finally there were biscotti.

A good crispy finish.

The meal was very good. We have only been to Esca before the theater. It would be interesting to come back and have the excellent looking tasting menu later in the evening. Unfortunately, the music is very loud in Esca. One of the owners is the celebrity chef Mario Batali. Loud music is one of his signatures. Esca is a small space. The fine young dining room staff has to manoeuver around each other when serving and then strain to hear the customers. It would be hard to have a relaxing meal, alas.

We went on to the Guys and Dolls revival, which might have been produced by Mario Batali with heavy overmiking ruining the singing.

To see our post on Esca from over a year before click here.




TASTING MENU with wine pairings
(from the website)

A selection from today’s raw seafood
 Prosecco, Carpene Malvolti


Grilled portuguese anchovies with thyme and shallot vinaigrette
Veltliner, Cantina Valle Isarco 2006 Alto Adige 

House made guitar cut spaghetti with crabmeat and sea urchin
Insolia “Erice”, Fazio 2006 Sicilia 

Local longfin tuna with brussel sprouts roasted with pancetta
Rosato, Bastianich 2007 Friuli

Sicilian style mako shark with yellow cauliflower stewed with capers, raisins and pinenuts
Barbaresco “cichin”, ada Nada 2001 Piemonte

A tasting of our favorite desserts
Moscato D’Asti, La Spinetta, 2007, Piemonte

$75.00 per person 
$120.00 per person with selected wines

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