- scene: Pseudo rustic Italian seaside in the Theater District with casual elegance; touristas and well-heeled NYC'ers who make the trek
- sip: BBBBBBBBarola; BBBBBBarbaresco
- savor: Baked clams; Pastas; Fresh Grilled Fish
- sit: With anyone pre-theater; with Food Network aficionados who want to see what this Batali is all about; anyone who might have to drive back to NJ after dinner, it is close to the Lincoln Tunnel
- spend: $$$
- address: 402 West 43rd Street (off of 10th Ave)
- phone number: (212) 564-7272
- website: www.esca-nyc.com
Bradley, if you still work at a Esca and you are reading this, I think that you suck. You are a mediocre manager, a “stiff” as my father would say, lacking in graciousness and any sense of service recovery. When you serve someone cold salmon, and the waiter has acknowledged an unusual wait time between the appetizers and the entrees, you do not try to go back and forth with the customer about exactly how much time it has lasped. You also do NOT charge the customer for the stone cold salmon and offer no concillatory remarks. You suck.
Just had to get that out of the way. As much as I love Batali in any form, my last service experiences at his higher-end places, namely Babbo and Esca, have left me unimpressed. Confusion and chaos are acceptable at the train station Otto, but not at birthday (Babbo) and Father’s Day dinners (Esca). There seems to be a lack of common sense and warmness to any upper management at Esca and Babbo. At Babbo we barely had a server, and the one “suit” that came over to us was haughty and jerky. If you are playing your IPOD in your restuarants, you do not have the right to have such snotty waiters. Make people feel as good as the food does, that is our suggestion.
So, let’s talk about that food at Esca, because that left a much more pleasant taste in our mouths than the dumb-ass manager did. The crudos were a bit of a let down- we had amazing sushi just two nights before, so when we were presented with these too cold, barely flavored hunks of fish, we were a little disappointed. More exciting were the fried steamers, which were like the most moist amazing fried clams you have ever had, even in Jersey. We could have used a few more of them for sure. The baked clams were good as well, but not quite as garlicky and gooey as at some more lowbrow Italian joints, namely our beloved Don Pepe’s, the yardstick for all baked clams.
Our main courses contained three big hits and one epic fail. It should be noted that we legitimately waited about 40 minutes in between courses, and our waiter kept telling us he was checking on our food. Anyway, my pasta with clam sauce was absolutely perfect- salty, spicy and perfectly al dente, with just the right amount of clams. I would return for this dish. Sister’s pasta with lobster was similarly pleasing, with a lot of kick to it and lots of lobster. It is really hard not to like Batali pastas when they are done right. Father’s whole branzino was just what one would expect, with a light herb sauce and flakey texture. Which brings us to Mom’s salmon, that was so promising and just so cold. The issue with this is that my mother and I sometimes hate to send back a dish we waited an eternity to receive, because it will mess up the pace of the entire meal. I always like to let the server know that the dish is cold, even if I don’t wish to send it back, because they should know, and tell the kitchen. I do not like to argue with the manager about the dish- he should apologize and offer some sort of recourse, even if we do not wish to send the dish back. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and the service stunk more than cold salmon. Meow!
For dessert we had fresh strawberries with zabaglione sauce that was obviously homemade, refreshing and delicate. The sweetness of the dessert slightly helped our shock when the bill came, with absolutely no amendment made for one of our dishes being un-edible. We were not looking for a freebie, but rather just some sort of recognition regarding the sub-par service and food. The waiter actually said that Bradley didn’t think he should do anything, but thankfully he went to speak to him again, and the bill was modified. A heartfelt apology from Bradley was simply too much to ask for. At this seafood restaurant it is more complicated than simply sink or swim, but the service was all wet.