6 at Astor Pl.; N, R at 8th St.-NYU; F at Second Ave.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Delancey St. to 16th St., FDR Dr. to Fifth Ave.
This venue is closed.
Pearl Oyster Bar's Rebecca Charles may have invented the modern Manhattan clam shack—not to mention the English-muffin crouton—but when it comes to simply grilled whole fish, Orhan Yegen is your man. The passionate, ponytailed chef’s restaurant, Sea Salt, opened in the East Village, and although he does not dispute that God or a higher being other than himself created the finny things, he stands firm on the question of who first seasoned them with salt, tossed them on the grill, and served them whole with lemon. “I opened my fish restaurant Deniz in 1994, before this Milos or this Avra,” he explains with a sigh. Unfortunately, “people did not order whole fish back then because of the bones,” he says. “Now, everybody does it; now, they are ready for me.” Besides himself, what they are ready for, according to Yegen, is a splashy–for–Second Avenue setting (fish-scale wall, atmospheric black-and-white seascapes) and seafood that, unlike the competition’s, is not “incredibly expensive” or “horribly burnt.” The menu reads like a newfangled hybrid of an Atlantic Seaboard fish shack and a tavern along the Bosporus, with stuffed lobster and fish cakes offered alongside mussel dolmas and spinach böreks. Large parties can order whole striped bass or red snapper crusted with salt and baked in the oven, a signature cooking method that Yegen reluctantly admits he did not invent, but he might as well have: “Mine is so perfect it looks like a statue; you don’t want to eat it."