212 564 7272
43rd Street off 9th Avenue
THE KALEBERG REVIEW
Ever since Follonico closed some years
back, we've been looking for a new absolute favorite Italian
restaurant. We like I Truli, and we like Po, but we loved Follonico.
There is excellent Italian food, and there is excellent, imaginative,
personal Italian food. Esca has excellent, imaginative, personal
The first thing you hear in a review of Esca is "crudo". There is a
mystique to raw fish, perhaps because bad raw fish can be rather awful.
We love our ahi sushi, and now we love our raw tuna carpaccio, pressed
flat, drenched in olive oil, and seasoned with fat crystals of salt. We
also loved the raw fluke, and the king fish with mandarin orange. We
started with crudo, and we were impressed. At least now, we understand
those reviews better.
Then we discovered the pastas. Esca makes its own pastas and clearly
uses hard flour, for the texture was thick and chewy, and the pasta
flavors outstanding. We have not had pasta like this since the golden
days of Laghi in San Francisco. Our hands down favorite was the squid
ink pasta with chunks of cuttlefish and jalapeno peppers. We ordered
this one twice. We also went for the bigoli, a whole wheat spaghetti
with mackerel and walnuts. This was hearty fare, as was the whole wheat
pasta with sea urchin and crab meat. All of the pasta dishes were
wonderful, though some were more subtle.
Did we mention that Esca is an Italian fish restaurant? Well, it is.
The only concession to land grubbers was a lone chicken dish, so we
dined on a superbly crisp, perfectly fried frito misti, with
cuttlefish, clams, oysters and prawns. We had a pair of lightly floured
and fried butterfish that melted in the mouth. We had the whole black
bass, expertly filleted, with caperberries and olives, and the turbot
with nectarine. Now we know why the Roman emperors loved their turbot.
We had three meals at Esca, dinner twice and one lunch, and every dish
was truly wonderful, in the old fashioned sense of inducing wonder. The
fish was fresh and full of flavor, and the preparations hearty and
delightful. We had our fish deep fried, sauteed, roasted, seared and
grilled, and, of course, raw.
The lunch menu at Esca was as good as the dinner menu, so now we have a
truly great Italian restaurant in New York, and it gives us an excuse
to wander the 9th Avenue food strip that has developed north of 42nd
Street. Unfortunately, we are not all that likely to try any of those
Afghan, Cajun, Thai, American or French restaurants we pass. We're
going to Esca.