If you’re one of those people who’ve had their fill of precious, exorbitantly priced servings of crudo, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. The movement’s new high priest is Scott Conant, who’s taken time out from his labors at the fine Italian restaurant L’Impero to open Bar Tonno, a diminutive, stylish bar and restaurant off Lafayette Street. The menu is devoted entirely to the cult of what the chef reverently calls “Italian sashimi.” On the evenings I visited, the crudo hounds sat at the long, elegant bar in contemplative silence, taking finicky bites of bay scallops touched with olive oil, pink slices of red orata (sea bream), and mounds of admittedly fine Maine lobster painted with a thick Sicilian tomato sauce. If this doesn’t sound like much food, do what I did and just keep ordering. The entire menu costs roughly as much as a single (very good) ticket to the opera.
The crudo craze has spread all the way up to 79th Street, on the gastronomically challenged Upper West Side, where raw meze items (uni and beets, scallops with yogurt and anise) have insinuated themselves into the big, jumbled menu at the ambitious new Greek restaurant called Onera. Raw fish is also featured at Lure Fish Bar, the swank new nautically appointed fish palace in Soho. With its polished-teak walls and beamy white leather banquettes, the place looks like some billionaires’ boat club in Cap Ferrat. The crudi I sampled were perfectly okay, particularly the arctic char and the lobster, served on buttery squares of garlic bread. There are also oddly successful skewers of Hamachi, foie gras, and grilled pineapple and a whole range of simple, surprisingly fine fish dishes, particularly the Dourade (marinated in country herbs) and a fresh, perfectly grilled piece of red snapper balanced on a pile of spinach with a wedge of lemon on the side.
Curried-eggplant-and-lobster soup and something called a “Crispy Cod Dog” (deep-fried cod, served with a lemon-caper rémoulade) are just a few of the tasty new dishes at The Mermaid Inn. From a pure price-to-pleasure ratio, the best piece of fish I had anywhere last year was a whole orata, doused with a mixture of citrus, olive oil, and herbs, and baked in a brick oven, at August, in the West Village. Among the regal midtown fish parlors, the fancy Mexican seafood at Pampano is still almost as good as the fat shrimp burritos and spicy fish tacos sold at the restaurant’s tiny taqueria out back. rm seems to be going strong despite the momentary absence of Rick Moonen (who’s opening a new restaurant in Las Vegas), and at Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert continues his ethereal seafood experiments with dishes like “Hamachi Tandoori” (lightly seared yellowtail rolled in tandoori spices) and something called “Lobster Choucroute,” poached lobster and bits of bacon folded in a delicate net of champagne-braised sauerkraut.