Mon-Thu, 4pm-10pm; Fri, 4pm-11pm; Sat, 3pm-11pm; Sun, 3pm-9pm
4, 5, 6 at 59th St.
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David Burke is a virtuoso chef with a distinct, razzle-dazzle style, and at Fishtail he seeks to impose it on the delicate, dwindling world of seafood. The menu is a predictably dramatic document (fishtail by david burke is its headline), with many sections (eight, by my count) and a multitude of dishes with theatrical, forced-sounding names (monkfish “paella,” calamari mac and cheese, “Dry-Roasted Angry Mussels”). Some of these creations taste forced, too, and a few of them do not. The circumspect downtowners enjoyed Burke’s “Rice Crispy crab cake,” which is covered in crackly puffed rice, fried until golden, and portaged to the table on a block of glass. The baroque seafood tacos were palatable (try the ones stuffed with sweet blue crab or chunks of lemony hamachi dressed with avocado), although a mad Burkian pasta creation called “soft-shell snails” (shell-less escargots, plus gummy pasta shells, plus too much garlic) was barely edible, even after I removed the slippery black snails.
“More is better” has always been one of Burke’s credos, but with fish, where the emphasis is on freshness and simplicity, this can be a dangerous game. The “Angry Mussels” at Fishtail (steamed Nova Scotia mussels drizzled, ineffectually, with chile oil, among other things) are a tired parody of Burke’s famous Angry Lobster, which you can taste at the chef’s non-seafood restaurant around the corner. The “Fussy Fish” section of the menu includes a labored version of Dover sole bombed, inexplicably, with candied grapefruit, and an overwrought creation called swordfish-steak “Rossini” stuck with baby carrots, a block of polenta, and a flap of sautéed foie gras. The calamari mac and cheese turned out to be a goopy mash of squid rings and oversauced pasta, although my helping of “Maine-lobster carbonara” was a decent facsimile of spaghetti carbonara, provided you ignored the lobster, the silly caviar garnish, and the $35 sticker price.
If you avoid these strained attempts at innovation, however, it’s possible to have a decent, even festive dinner at Fishtail. The pieces of halibut and snapper I ordered off the “Simple Fish” section of the menu were fresh and expertly cooked, and so was the seared salmon, which is served on a semi-nutritious bed of stewed black lentils. For an extra $7.50, you can slather your fish with a selection of “Top Hat” garnishes (garlicky clams and chorizo, shrimp-and-leek fondue), but if you’re wise, you’ll stick to the simple caper-and-herb vinaigrette.Note
Fishtail is a “sustainable-friendly” restaurant, which means roughly 80 percent of the seafood comes from sustainable sources.Ideal Meal
Seafood tacos, roasted snapper or halibut, banana tart.