Sunday, March 9, 2014

Top seafood on both sides of the Hudson: Esca and Hiura

Two of the first-course lunch selections at Esca in Manhattan on Friday were crudo or raw white tuna, with black pepper and extra-virgin olive oil, above, and crispy calamari with parsley and radish sticks, below.


A short and problem-plagued New York City Restaurant Week is over, but I'm already looking forward to summer discounts on lunches and dinners at some of the city's best spots.

I finally managed to get to Esca Restaurant on Friday -- the last day of the annual winter promotion -- for a three-course seafood lunch that cost only $25, plus tax and tip, the price of an entree at other times.

The natural follow-up on Saturday night was a dinner of high quality raw and cooked seafood at Hiura, a family run Japanese restaurant in Fort Lee.

Winter Restaurant Week usually falls in January, but it was postponed this year until after the Super Bowl game in North Jersey on Feb. 2, and shortened to three weeks from four.

I had to cancel two other Esca reservations because of bad weather.

Esca transformed an entree of inexpensive whiting by pan frying and crisping the fillets and serving them with cauliflower, which, unfortunately, was overcooked and mushy. All the hot, flaky fish needed was a spritz of fresh lemon juice.
Esca's $25 Restaurant Week menu allows no substitutes. I broke my diet and indulged in a sinful panna cotta with citrus, including blood orange, and fresh and candied lemon.
White-bean crostini, above, and olives, below, were complimentary. The crust of the sliced Italian bread served at Esca shattered and tasted as if it was baked in a coal oven. Esca, Italian for "bait," describes itself as a southern Italian trattoria "devoted to celebrating the fruits of the sea." 

Tables off of Esca's main room and a small bar.

All set for dinner

At Hiura in Fort Lee, I was delighted to see the father-and-son team of Noboru and Shoji Hiura working side by side behind the sushi bar, where I sat down for dinner. 

I have been fed well by the Hiuras for nearly three decades, and Saturday night was no exception.

I ordered the Dinner Set, a beautifully composed box of raw and cooked seafood, and tempura with soup, rice, pickles, hot green tea and dessert.

Hiura's Dinner Set includes fat slices of raw bluefin and medium-fatty tuna, left front; juicy Chilean sea bass marinated in sake and sweet miso paste, right front, and perfectly fried shrimp and vegetable tempura, right rear ($32).
Raw seafood in the sushi bar's refrigerated compartment at Hiura.
Miso soup, above; radish pickles, below, and a bowl of white rice are part of the Dinner Set.

I chose a slice of sweet melon instead of ice cream for dessert.


Esca, 402 W. 43rd St., New York, N.Y.; 1-212-564-7272. Web site: A trattoria dedicated to seafood

Hiura Restaurant, 400B Main St., Fort Lee; 201-346-0110. BYO, closed Wednesdays. Valet parking at dinner.

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