402 W. 43rd St., New York, NY, 10036
at Ninth Ave.
By colingittens on 11/12/2014
We had reservations for 8:30 on a Monday and all guests arrived about 10 minutes before that. We were invited to wait at the bar, an inconvenient, infinitesimal space (maybe 6 stools?) to the right of entrance. The kitchen is situated further to the right, and waiters are constantly bustling between there and the main dining room, traversing a very narrow space. There is also a table whereon dishes are decamped and plated before going out to the dining rooms, and wine is uncorked. In addition, several tables are jammed in the corner beyond the bar, further adding to the Penn Station at 5:30 ambience. Not a relaxing start to the evening. Overall, what struck me was the service was not particularly good for a restaurant whose price point would seem to indicate that excellent service is a given. There was a vibe of aggressive efficiency married with standoffishness. I'm not a fan of waiters who are obsequious spectres, startling you as they appear next to you to silently remove your salad fork, but the gusto with which the staff changed out silverware made me think of a truckload of Marines falling out, establishing a perimeter, and proceeding to kick in some doors. The server refilling water glasses skidded up to the table and shot out his arm with the pitcher, no matter where on the table your glass was. It was startling every time. The food was OK, but I was expecting more/better given the prices.
By LJ200 on 8/31/2013
Here are the salient bits. It's expensive--very expensive--which wouldn't be a problem if the place weren't so solidly average. "Welcome to Esca," says a man in an ill-fitting suit. Welcome, that is, to a profoundly unstylish and boring dining room. Fine. How's the food? Decidedly mediocre. The famed crudo? Meh. And at $30.00 for six tiny pieces it should be more than meh. Grilled octopus? Again, fine, but I've had similar at middle-of-the-road tapas joints at half the cost. Vegetable sides? Did these come from a can? And why is the kale I ordered actually collard greens? "We're famous for the branzino." That's odd, because it's nothing special, and at over $70.00 for two people, it should probably be the tastiest branzino on earth. "Would you like dessert?" Yes, and an espresso for me and a cappuccino for her. I would, though, not like the espresso to come out first, followed by the dessert 5 minutes later, followed by the cappuccino 4 minutes after that. Kind of messes up the course, you know? But oh well. And the sommelier? After completing her kindergarten checklist she recommends a bottle a full $20.00 more than the price ceiling she requested and I supplied. Her suit: also ill-fitting. Bottom line: way too much money for a bland, mediocre, ordinary seafood place passing itself off as extraordinary for theatre-going out-of-towners. Isn't Pasternack some sort of fish whisperer? Methinks he long ago stopped paying attention to the goings-on at Esca.
By forhak on 6/29/2013
We had high expectations and ordered the tasting menu incl wine. We were very disappointed as neither the food; the wine or the service was what you can expect of a high class restaurant. Some of the dishes didnâ€™t taste anything and some tasted awful. The waiter was not interested if we liked the food or not.
By mainahs on 2/24/2013
Came to NYC for several days and ESCA was one of our splurge dinners. For people like my wife and I, who don't go to high end restaurants much, I think that it is important to have realistic expectations of what you are going to experience. Now that we've been to a few such places, I have a better idea of what these reataurants do and what I like. My wife understood what we would be experiencing better than I. She could tell by looking at the menu while I needed to experience it first hand. I think one goes to places like Esca when one has disposable income and a desire to try something out of the ordinary. Kind of like, "OK, I've got $150 to spend on myself for experimenting with several different unusually prepared fish dishes and a couple of glasses of wine let's see what Esca is like." If I had gone here in that frame of mind, I would have been OK but I went expecting to be wowed with everything I tasted. So, I learned that eating an anchovy with dried tomatoe and bottarga with greens just won't do that for me. Eating a piece of swordfish perfectly cooked won't either. On the other hand, my wife had gnocchi with tomatoe sauce and it was delicious. As the NYmag.com reviewer points out, the pastas are often over looked but should not be. I have to add that the service was great. Everyone from the busboys to the sommelier was friendly, knowledgable and helpful. My 7 rating for food was due to my preferences not the preparation.
By laurajeank on 9/14/2012
I had lunch at Esca today and I could not even eat the highly praised ( 10 years ago? ) entree of lobster and pasta â€¦. the sauce was burnt and the pasta was like shoe leather â€¦ it was 30 dollars at lunch!!!!!!!!!!!!! My meals here 5 years ago were extraordinary but it is OVER. The place wreaked of smelly fish â€¦ I usually walk out when a restaurant or even fish monger has that smell. STAY AWAY! I even told the waiter ( who told me the kitchen was waiting on my order and yet took the guys order in front of me 10 minutes later!) SO SO DISAPPOINTED - no offer to refund my money either â€¦ I had two bites.
By kalagirl on 9/4/2012
On Sat Sept 1, we had dinner for the first time at ESCA. We had guests visiting from Canada and wanted to visit the highly rated ESCA. We are fans of Mario Bataliâ€™s cuisines and absolutely love Babbo and Del Posto. Unfortunately we were extremely disappointed. Although the food was excellent, the service was terrible especially considering the excellent service at Del Posto and Babbo. No one ever came to remove the breadcrumbs on the table after the bread was served and prior to the first course. Most of us got pasta for the second course. No one brought us fresh silverware. Myself and one of our guests had only a fork and was missing the spoon and knife. I have to flag someone down to ask for silverware. We had ordered 2 bottles of the same wine. Once the first bottle was finished, the waiter took our glasses away and never bothered to ask or bring fresh glasses. When the sommelier came to pour the second bottle we had no wine glasses. I can imagine these things happening at a casual restaurant. But for a high end restaurant like ESCA, one would expect well trained staff. I must add that the most professional person there was the Sommelier. She was professional, attentive and had a wealth of knowledge on the wines. I am sorry to say we will never return to ESCA nor recommend it to anyone.
By marilynringwood on 5/29/2012
We were so excited to actually get a table on short notice this past weekend (Memorial Day). We were seated in the garden and then promptly forgotten! It took at least 20 minutes to get someone over to the table to take a drink order and then another 30 minutes before our dinner orders were taken! The waiter was condescending, and told us we MUST order at least two appetizers or an entree per person in order to be served. It was restaurant policy he stated. We should have walked out at that point but didn't. Our food choices were as mediocre as the service. We ordered the stuffed clams appetizer - mostly breadcrumbs; the arugula salad with white asparagus and fava beans - overdressed; ricotta gnocchi - cut into cubes not the usual shape - too soft consistency and too few on the plate for 27.00; and lobster pasta - pasta did not taste like it was made inhouse. I have eaten in many restaurants in piazzas throughout Italy. I was expecting this experience to be as wonderful as those were. It was not. The place is over-hyped. We will never return.
By lucyppppppp on 5/7/2012
Went to this restaurant as our friends booked it on May 4 2012. First worrying signs: It is off Times Square (where I would never eat), it is in the bottom of an ugly apartment block, and they play motown classics very loudly so it's like being in Hard Rock Cafe. Our server was a perfectly nice girl however it's exactly like being at TGI Fridays or similar, with endlessly cheerful explanation of the menu, and constant interruptions to ask what your favourite thing is that you've eaten so far. The tasting menu (our friends made us eat it) is possibly the worst food I have ever eaten in NY. Veering from impossibly bland (the 'sashimi', the 'blowfish tails') to completely disgusting and inedible (the pasta, the desserts). I complained vehemently to the manager, who looked surprised but was completely ineffectual. Nothing was taken off our bill. I am writing to Mario Batali's 'people' as I was so disgusted. I seriously doubt anything will happen, but I would think seriously and hard about booking here. Then go anywhere else.
By Newgothic on 3/28/2012
A friend invited me there for my birthday. I did some research before I went and found the reviews were 50-50. Either people loved it or hated it. There was no middle ground. Because of this, I was a little apprehensive but I went. My experience ended up being charming and delightful. The food and service was fantastic. We ordered the Baked Clams for an appetizer and they were excellent and then ordered the Salmone Selvaggio for me, and the Spaghetti Neri for my friend. Both dishes were magnificent. We topped off the meal by sharing the Budino Di Banana dessert. I so canâ€™t wait to go back!
By Britishfoodie on 3/19/2012
overpriced and overrated. The food was well presented but incredibly bland to the point of being tasteless. I had the fish stew which tasted overwhelmingly of tomato puree and not much else. The staff were pleasant but appeared stressed and out of their depth. Maybe I went on a bad night but I won't be returning.