Fish lovers rejoice! Esca has reopened, and with Chef David Pasternak steering the ship, diners can enjoy a menu that brings back some favorites with many new dishes.
Esca’s interior has been refreshed, with design work by partner Victor Rallo. Although the decor looks lighter, with white walls, little was done to reduce the sound. Because of its location, the restaurant is a popular stop before the theater. Arriving for our 7:30 reservation, we found every table and bar seat taken. The cacophony was overwhelming. Once the theatergoers departed, the noise level dropped and we could enjoy our conversation without having to shout. In the future, we will book after eight.
Under the previous owners, the Batali & Bastianich Group, Esca always stood out for the professionalism of its staff. That hasn’t changed. Everyone is helpful, courteous and efficient without seeming brusque. During the evening Pasternak made several visits to the dining room stopping at different tables to chat with guests.
After enjoying drinks at the bar, we were seated in the front room. We began our meal with latterini, crispy local rainbow smelts, rosemary and lemon jam. This dish was the only one that disappointed, the heavy breading overpowering the flavor of the fish.
For a pasta, we opted for the malfalde, crinkle cut pasta with tuna Bolognese. One of our favorite dishes, this version, a various on the traditional ragu, was perfect. The pasta was tender and the sauce nearly as rich as one made from meat.
For our entrees, we considered the branzino al sale, salt baked Mediterranean Sea bass for more than one person, a mainstay on the original Esca menu. But we were eager to try new dishes. We chose the pescatore, monkfish with peperonata, oil cured olives, and cous cous. Our second dish was orata Americana, grilled local porgy marinated in blood orange and Meyer lemon. In both cases, the fish was perfectly cooked, flaky and flavorful.
Dessert was a tre formaggi cheesecake garnished with apple slices and sugared walnuts. The cheesecake was light and the additions added sweetness.
With our meal we enjoyed a white wine from Sicily, Murga Etna Bianco, which paired well with our seafood. This wine is influenced by Sicily’s micro-climate and the volcanic soils of the area surrounding Mt. Etna where the grapes are grown. The perfect accompaniment to a near perfect meal.
402 West 43rd Street