Monday, July 7, 2008


Esca was the one Batali-Bastianich restaurant that Abby and I had not eaten at yet. After a weekend of heavy eating, we were both in the mood for something a little lighter, so it was the perfect time to try out this Hell's Kitchen seafood restaurant. It was awesome. Esca is famous for popularizing crudo - basically, Italian-style sashimi - in the United States. In fact, the claim is that one of the restaurant's investors, Joe Bastianich, coined the term crudo for these raw fish preparations when he, Mario Batali, and Chef Dave Pasternak were traveling around Italy doing research before opening Esca. If you go here, you absolutely have to order the crudo tasting.

The crudo tasting comes in two flights of three. Each flight is served in a tri-sectioned plate on a bed of crushed ice. This keeps everything cool and makes for a great presentation. The first flight we received had a distinct Pacific Northwest feel, which, of course, I really liked. Going from top to bottom, we had an oyster - I don't know the origin, but it would make sense if it was from somewhere in the Puget Sound/Olympic Peninsula region - followed by geoduck with cherries, and wild salmon with pink peppercorns. These were all very good, but I liked the geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck, also referred to as giant clam) the most. Geoducks are native to Western Washington, and you'll see people digging them up almost anytime you go to a beach around the Puget sound. Cherries are another local fruit, and the combination evokes summer in the Pacific Northwest, which is about as good as it gets.

The next flight of crudo included seared yellowtail tuna
Kingfish with caviar (This was also awesome. I'm not sure which one I liked more, this or the geoduck), and razor clam with some hot chiles.
After the crudo, we ordered an appetizer that was lightly scrambled eggs loaded with sweet corn and lump crab meat. This is something that I'll have to make at home. The sweetness of the corn and crab are ideal complements, and the still runny scrambled egg perfectly tied them together.

Next, we split an order of hand cut spaghetti with crab and sea urchin roe. Sea urchin in pasta is something I never would have thought of, but it worked really well. This was a very unique and surprisingly good dish.
Finally, we had pan roasted red snapper with arugula, olives and hearts of palm. The snapper was perfectly cooked. A great dish.
After trying all the Batali-Bastianich restaurants, this one ranks right near the top. Esca lacks the fame and formality of Babbo and Del Posto, but I think I actually enjoyed the food here more. More than anything, this probably has more to do with the fact that they were serving seafood than any other factor. With seafood, you can really tell when someone uses high quality ingredients and treats it just right. This clearly comes through at Esca. It was worth every penny.

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