December 27, 2007
Esca is a focused restaurant. If you do not want fish or seafood cooked in an Italian style, go somewhere else. Even the wine list is all Italian. Linda and I went for lunch on Saturday, December 22, 2007, as Esca’s location at 43rd Street and Ninth Avenue is convenient to the theater district.
We ordered a bottle of 2006 Aimone Vermentino d’Albenga, a wine we know well as Albenga is an hour east of our house in France. The Vermentino and Pigato wines of this Ligurian region go well with seafood.
An excellent antipasto of Canelli beans and mackerel bruschetta on freshly grilled bread rounds arrived along with a bowl of black olives.
Linda’s first course was Fegato di Pescatrice; seared monkfish liver with blood orange and caramelized Seckle pears.
The liver of the monkfish was surprisingly large. It was crisp on the outside with a nice subtle flavor and texture flavor inside. The fruit and greens with it were a good offset.
My starter was Puntarelle; wild Italian chicory with anchovy vinaigrette.
I have never been in Rome for the puntarelle season and so have never had the real thing, but I thought that this might be as close as I could get. It seemed to fit the description I have heard and was very enjoyable. There was a definite anchovy flavor in the vinaigrette as well as the three fresh anchovies on top.
Linda went on to a good typical Fritto Misto Amalfitano:
Crispy Shrimp, Calamari and fish.
My main course was the Polipo: Grilled Octopus with Giant Corona Beans, Preserved Sorrento Lemons and Rosemary Vinaigrette.
The octopus was beautifully charred on the outside and tender on the inside, but the bean and sliced potato base was still cold from the refrigerator and was oversized in relation to the octopus.
Since we were going to the theater, we finished with espresso, which was rich and thick in the real Italian style.
The meal had been very enjoyable. The portions are quite large. The service was friendly, but a bit clumsy. The noise level at Esca is a problem. They play music; the airconditioning system keeps cutting in; people talk loudly; the surfaces are glass or smooth paint. Mario Battali is a part owner and he likes restaurants to be very loud. Fortunately, David Pasternak, the chef at Esca believes in providing good food rather than being a celebrity like Battali.
Kevin Kline was terrific as Cyrano de Bergerac.