Where else but in New York can you find oysters and caviar at a Michelin-starred restaurant then grab a dirty water dog for dessert just outside? Where else can you have a glass of Château D’Yquem two blocks from a bar offering $3 Cosmos to ladies every Tuesday night? Where else can you find nuanced, innovative seafood dishes with the potential to become checklist items? Nowhere. So here are five seafood dishes as interesting as the city that produced them.
Diver Scallops, Celery Root, Black Truffles, Bone Marrow, Thyme
Who thinks to combine scallops, truffles, and bone marrow? Chef Michael White. He's on the money with Mare e Monte at Ai Fiori. Scallops, usually buttery, seem meaty next to the unctuous marrow. Black truffles are deep and heady, and the underlying celery root purée soaks up the well-conceived mix of flavors. (Photo: Sarah Spigelman)
Swordfish, Duck Liver, Red Pepper Polenta, Baby Romaine
Another seafood dish that features a remarkable pairing with meat can be found at David Burke Kitchen: swordfish with duck liver, red pepper polenta, and baby romaine. There's a thick fillet — juicy and tender, but not falling apart. It tastes mild and clean — of the ocean. Then there's the mineral, fatty, umami of the foie gras — seared and crunchy without, silken and creamy within. Braised baby Romaine is tender, but not soft, almost like escarole, but herbaceous. This dish makes liver and fish accessible to those who don't like either. (Photo: Sarah Spigelman)
Pike Quenelles Jean-Louis Dumonet-Style
Quenelles (dumplings made of creamed fish, herbs, and eggs) once seemed to be on menus at every haute restaurant. They're now harder to find. But Millesime’s classic version brings them to life with a vengeance. A slightly crisp top gives way to a warm, velvety, pillowy interior. It tastes like the world's best hot crab dip, but without cheese and more wine. It's a sweet, rich, decadence void of any fishiness. Quenelles arrive luxuriating in a creamy, liquor-y, shellfish-flavored sauce. There's the slight saltiness of the ocean mixed with the slightly sweet cream. (Photo: Sarah Spigelman)
If you haven't been to Takashi, it's a Japanese meat-centric restaurant — not a place known for seafood. But that's exactly what stands out most. The uni is briny, slightly salted, fresh, and creamy. It stands in crisp, assertive contrast to the delicate, fattiness of the beef. The soft uni, the slight chew of the beef, there's a great contrast of texture. Crisp, nutty nori completes the dish. (Photo: Sarah Spigelman)
Crispy Poached Eggs, Caviar, and Vodka Crème Fraîche
Seafood is not the overarching flavor of this dish at Perry St, but rather one that works with other tastes and textures to produce a multi-layered, transporting effect. The egg's crisp golden exterior conceals a perfect runny yolk. The moment the fork breaks through, that buttery, comforting yolk spills out. It blends with the salinity of the caviar and the crisp, clean flavor the vodka lends to the cream. Tiny black caviar pearls are salty and slightly bitter against the egg, making the caviar seem even more of the sea. Warm, cool, crunchy, creamy — it's a harmonious, special dish.
There you have it… five of New York City's unique seafood dishes. You could list many more: the lardo laden uni crostini at Marea, the delicate live lobster sashimi at Jewel Bako, and the pastrami-cured salmon at Russ and Daughters. But then that’s the thing about New York, there are so many innovative restaurants doing interesting things, you just can’t put them all in one article.
Read more from Sarah Spigelman at Fritos and Foie Gras.