THE TOP TEN Seafood Restaurants in New York City
Nothing is more disappointing than going to an oceanfront restaurant, only to discover that the bland fish you're eating was frozen between being caught and being served to you. The best seafood is fresh, and prepared in such a way as to accent the natural flavors of the sea without overwhelming them. Presented in alphabetical order, here are the top ten seafood restaurants in New York. For more bounty from the deep blue sea, check out our complete lists of the Best Seafood Restaurants in your area.
Nothing is more disappointing than going to an oceanfront restaurant, only to discover that the bland fish you're eating was frozen between being caught and ... more
210 Spring St., New York, NY 10012 / 212-274-0505
Exceptionally fresh seafood is served in this pastel hued dining room on a pleasant SoHo corner that feels like an update of a seaside restaurant (we love the tacky but somehow appropriate shell-covered light fixtures). Appetizers include a luscious warm octopus salad, supernal abalone sashimi with spicy eggplant and an ever-changing selection of fresh Atlantic and Pacific coast oysters. Pay attention to executive chef-owner Jeremy Marshall's specialties, especially the grilled Atlantic salmon with a falafel crust and the plump seared sea scallops with crabmeat polenta; the kitchen's version of bouillabaisse is among the best this side of Paris. If you don't appreciate exotic preparations (or you're on a diet), you can order just about anything grilled, poached or roasted. Desserts are rich and frivolous.
21 W. 17th St., New York, NY 10011 / 212-691-8888
Laurent Tourondel took New York by storm when he opened BLT Steak, refining the American steakhouse with Gallic finesse, and there hasn't been an empty seat since. He followed up with BLT Fish, which is actually two restaurants in one. Downstairs is a Fish Shack seating 45 and serving the kind of seafood you'd readily find up and down the New England coast---platters of shellfish and clam chowder, lobster rolls and fried calamari. Upstairs is a more serious seafood dining room with a striking see-through ceiling, suede walls and gray leather banquettes. Start with the kampachi, green olive tapenade and pickled cucumber before moving on to the sea salt-crusted New Zealand pink snapper. Sides include stuffed artichoke gratin or bok choy shoots with garlic chips. The wine list is divided into aromatic and stylistic categories, and there are good bottles under $50. The prices of entrées here are based on the pound. The whole fish average two to three pounds, so ordering one for two people is the only sensible way to go. These may be had with any of a variety of sauces, or simply grilled and graced with olive oil. Desserts, by Shawn Glenn, are scrumptious, including the chocolate Amaretto icebox cake with milk chocolate ice cream. BLT Fish is a serious restaurant, but it's not so serious that you won't have a grand time.
W New York---Times Square, 1567 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 / 212-918-1400
Don't be misled by the big Times Square production of this seafood extravaganza; Stephen Hanson broke away from his popular but mediocre-for-the-masses fish formula (Atlantic Grill, Blue Water Grill, Ocean Grill) when he opened this shiny and sleek bi-level water world. Avoid the street-level bar and ascend to the upstairs dining room, where a jazz combo grooves and the giant faux-tortoiseshell walls soothe (but the room is loud---you've been warned). Rarely does a do-it-all spot succeed at everything, but Blue Fin does. Sushi, raw bar offerings, well prepared, contemporary fish dishes---it's all good. Sushi chef Hiroshi Takaishi prepares topnotch, traditional sushi and sashimi as well as sweet, colorful rolls. He knows how to choose and handle his fish. In the kitchen, Eric Woods turns out well-composed plates. For an appetizer, try the yellowtail ceviche, with jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, mango and plantain chips, and then move on to one of the entrées like the sautéed East Coast halibut with lemon herb gnocchi, chanterelle mushrooms, and jumbo lump crab. The saké list is thorough and the wine list gargantuan. There’s no question: Blue Fin is reeling them in hook, line and sinker.
402 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036 / 212-564-7272
Mario Batali's foray into seafood has succeeded swimmingly with David Pasternack heading the kitchen. In the almost-tropical room of pastel walls, stone-tiled floor and urns spilling over with plants, the menu is all Southern Italian seafood. The crudo section is for food that's as fresh as it gets: slices of raw fish are served with little more than a slick of olive oil and some spices that bring out every ounce of flavor. Octopus is grilled and served with rosemary-flecked Corona beans and light risotto comes flecked with crab and zucchini flowers. If Babbo serves food that calls for a cold winter night, Esca is Batali's homage to summer.
125 W. 55th St., New York, NY 10019 / 212-245-7400
The look of this Greek seafood restaurant (an outpost of the original Montreal branch) is high-tech-meets-theatrical: blond woods, high ceilings, gauzy white curtains and a raised dining area. All of the food is simple and true to its Greek roots, and you can't go wrong with traditional Greek salad, char-grilled octopus or fried eggplant. The star of the show is fresh seafood---which is displayed glistening atop mounds of crushed ice in the dining room---done simply, everything from Moroccan pageot to wild North Carolina sea bass, or whatever other exotic wildlife from the sea the chef can manage to get his hands on. All of it is well-prepared and charged for by the pound, which sounds reasonable until you see the bill. End your meal with a dish of refreshing homemade yogurt topped with a drizz
The Equitable Building, 155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019 / 212-489-1515
The verdict is in. After more than 20 years of beguiling boulevardiers and becs fins with things that swim, Le Bernardin can claim to be the best fish restaurant in New York, America and arguably, even the world. The high-ceilinged teak-toned dining room with marine-themed paintings feels like a luxury liner, with Eric Ripert at the culinary helm. The acclaimed chef has a light, fastidious touch. If you've never eaten skate prepared at Le Bernardin or even fried calamari there, you have no benchmark or frame of reference to judge all the other pretenders to Le Bernardin's crown. To experience Ripert's repertoire at its best, order one of his tasting menus, which start at $135. A minimalist dinner might offer among other refinements thinly sliced conch marinated Peruvian style and barely cooked wild Alaskan salmon. A mousse-like sea urchin “custard” plays up the lushness of the spiny sea creature. Ripert even works his Neptune-like charms with beef in a pairing of buttery Kobe with a citrus and kimchi-shocked escolar. A milk chocolate pot de crème with caramel foam, maple syrup and sea salt offers a sensual ending. Since the talented brother-and-sister team of the late Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze opened the restaurant in 1986, Le Bernardin has been a highlight of the New York dining scene---both enlightening and seducing diners with what was then a revolutionary approach to seafood. Service is proper and reserved. Co-owner Maguy has insured smooth sailing at the front-of-the-house for the last two decades. This is not a place for the faint-of-wallet. The attention to detail, the stability and the quest for perfection for almost a quarter of a century have made this a restaurant that is as good as it gets.
142 Mercer St., New York, NY 10012 / 212-431-7676
Temptations of a voyage aboard a cruise ship in SoHo may lure you into a below-ground fish bar. Armed with saké and Bellini martinis, this yacht-like cabin with gleaming floors and leather furnishings helps cruise through a seafood journey captained by Josh Capon. Mirrors advertise American oysters and the sushi master resides in his pagoda, wooing appetites with artic char and kampachi (Japanese yellowtail). Golden heaps of lobster ride on crispy, garlic sourdough croutons and zesty calamari drown in a smoky lemon juice with a chili fish sauce. Steamed branzino is dressed pungently in a green coriander-basil pesto to travel gracefully with oyster mushrooms. Desserts are simple, such as the warm chocolate cake and apple crumble. Be warned that the stomach may not cooperate with unadorned tastes after the heady experience of zest, spice, citrus and tart flavors. Chef Capon teaches taste buds to sail through complex contrasts just as a ship masterfully traverses choppy waters.
55 E. 54th St., New York, NY 10022 / 212-759-5941
Don’t let this Midtown seafood restaurant fool you: the interior design made to look like the inside of a ship’s cabin may be on the corny side, but the daily catches are first rate. Chef Ben Pollinger chooses pristine ingredients from the sea that are so fresh, you’ll swear the room is slowly rocking back and forth. First-rate starters include the pan-roasted baby octopus, slow cooked in cranberry beans, and laden with flavor; the Florida stone crab claws taste like they were just pulled from the sea along the Sunshine State. For entrées, the juicy sumac-dusted Scottish salmon, buttery orange-flavored Nova Scotia lobster, and the almond-encrusted snapper will make you hope the ship never docks.
Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Grand Central Terminal, Lower level, 42nd St., New York, NY 10017 / 212-490-6650
Though Grand Central Terminal's refurbishment brings tourists to the station in droves to gaze at the exquisite ceiling, dine at one of the glitzy restaurants and shop at the chichi market, the Oyster Bar & Restaurant remains the best reason to miss your train. The vaulted ceiling is lined with Guastavino tiles and the huge room is noisy and bustling. The daily menu reflects the day's catch, and usually includes about 30 types of seafood, from grouper to wolf fish. We prefer the fresh oysters and like the fish cooked simply---grilled, fried or meunière---as the more adventurous sounding dishes invariably disappoint. Consider the broiled extra-large Maine sea scallops, a good pan roast or bouillabaisse. The desserts include apple pies, cheesecake and rice pudding, though, since they are not distinguished, you are probably better off saving the calories. The all-American list of 150 wines offers plenty of nicely priced choices, and there are a dozen beers on draught. As odd as it may sound for a place of this size, reservations are a necessity for lunch.
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St., New York, NY 10014 / 212-691-8211
When this diminutive homage to seafood first opened, there was but one table and 20 or so seats at the cheery marble dining bar. Overwhelmingly popular, it has since expanded into the storefront next door. For those who crave an excursion to Cape Cod but cannot leave the city limits, a Pearl lobster roll or a metal bucket of steamers provides a mini-vacation. All of the food from chef Rebecca Charles is equally recommended from the fried clams to the clam chowder to the market-fresh fish. Service is charmingly casual. The chef may bring dishes to the tables---rather than letting them get cold on the pass---if the server is busy.
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