Seafood is as integral to New York’s culinary history as the steak, pastrami sandwich or hot dog. And while many of the city’s top places for fish now look abroad for ideas, you can still find traces of our local nautical bounty on their briny menus.
1 Le Bernardin
With impressive accolades and some of the freshest seafood dishes in the world (yes, the world) Le Bernadin is New York City's hautest spot for a seafood soiree. Originating in France in 1972, Le Bernadin opened its doors to New York in 1986 under Chef Gilbert le Coze. Le Coze died in 1994, and since then Chef Erip Ripert has been at the helm. From their warm lobster Carpaccio with snow peas and shiitake, to their delectable desserts, Le Bernadin offers the most expertly prepared seafood dishes in the city. It is one of only seven restaurants in New York to hold a three star Michelin rating and has held four stars from the New York Times since it opened. In 2009, Le Bernadin was voted the 11th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine.
With a wide variety of savory seafood dishes to choose from, Marea's menu reads more like an oceanography textbook than a fine-dining affair. Marea (meaning "tide" in Italian) offers cuisine from all over Italy's coastline. Chef Michael White prepares some of the best shellfish and pasta dishes in town, while guests enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and expert service at the Central Park South location. Marea isn't just a haute spot for food. Beverage Director Francesco Grosso ensures that each guest has the perfect wine to complement their expertly prepared dish. Nearly half of the wine list is dedicated to Eurpoean white wines that set off the unique flavors of fresh seafood dishes perfectly. With two Michelin stars, and a Zagat rating of 28/30, Marea is one of our favorites.
This trendy Asian fusion spot keeps the dishes and the scene fresh. The crowd is as young and hip as the restaurant itself (only being opened in October 2011). The dining experience is city-centric, and more fluid than orchestrated. Guests are encouraged to share dishes, thus keeping the experience relaxed and social. Top Chef winner Hung Huynh serves delectable dishes like whole red snapper, Dungeness Crab Tagliatelli and Flying Fish Roe and Scallion Tomato sauce. With a decor that is unmistakeably New York modern (think exposed brick and modern and copper detailing), Catch is a spot to see and be seen while enjoying some amazing seafood.
Mario Batali (of Babbo and Lupa fame) hits another home run with Esca. With a focus on southern Italian seafood, Esca offers fresh crudo (Italian sashimi) and high quality pastas at a beautifully understated Hell's Kitchen location that's convenient to the Theater District and ideal for a pre-curtain call meal. Whether you are in the mood for spaghetti with chiles or a whole fish cooked in sea salt, make sure to come with your appetite. Esca is a dream for any true Italian fisherman.
5 Pearl Oyster Bar
While the rest of the entries on this list pay homage to Europe and Asia, the homey Pearl Oyster Bar and its chef Rebecca Charles look to nearby New England for inspiration. The Maine-via-West Village eatery has attracted mobs for years, but it's worth the wait to enjoy unpretentious comfort food staples like New England Clam Chowder and hefty Lobster Rolls (whose popularity Pearl's helped revive) in the airy interior.