News and Reviews
The Journal News - June 4, 2012
There are plenty of fine restaurants that specialize in seafood, but usually, a good portion of offerings are still dedicated to pleasing the meat-eaters in the crowd.
Not so at Eastchester Fish Gourmet, affectionately called EFG by its regulars. Here, except for a single high-quality steak, the entire menu is devoted to fruits of the sea.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a place serving fresher scallops, oysters, clams or fish either, and no wonder: Either owner Rick Ross or his retail store’s manager — EFG also operates an acclaimed fish market, just four doors away — are at New Fulton Fish Market before dawn as many as five days a week.
That means nothing at EFG is previously frozen, and dishes change often to reflect the best catches. So right now, soft-shell crabs, John Dory and Dover sole are among the many choices, with striped bass expected to come in next month. And there are always oysters, though they’re from different regions at different times of the year; the mollusks are so popular that at the restaurant’s Thursday night raw bar special — when all oysters and clams are $1 each — staffers can expect to shuck up to 1,000 by hand.
My husband and I stopped by on a weeknight recently, and I’ll admit that I was worried about him as my dinner companion. He’s a finicky eater, who’ll only eat certain shellfish prepared a particular way, and he flat-out refuses to take a bite of anything with fins or gills. Yet we had a delightful meal from beginning to end, owing just as much to the excellent service and lovely setting as the tasty fare.
Our waiter was attentive but didn’t hover, and he was quick with great tips, noting that any whole fish could also be served as a fillet, for those who loathe struggling with the bones. And the décor manages to be elegantly nautical, not kitschy, highlighted by wood beams, a few hanging boat lanterns, hand-painted porcelain oyster platters and round glass sconces that resemble portholes.
I opted for the grilled calamari for my first dish, which came prepared much like a stew. Mixed with crispy roasted potatoes, French green beans and a basil tomato pesto sauce, it was a wonderfully savory starter, and hearty, too, a welcome treat on a rainy evening. And though the grilled branzino looked enticing, served Mediterranean-style with capers, tomatoes and olive oil, the herb tagliatelle with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams and crushed tomatoes won out as my entrée.
As for my husband, he does enjoy scallops, so that was the clear choice for his appetizer. They arrived perfectly pan-seared, resting atop a creamy carrot puree with a few dollops of herb oil. That sent up red flags for Picky Hubby, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that the slightly sweet carrot paired perfectly with the buttery scallops.
He followed that up with the restaurant’s lone concession to landlubbers: the New York shell steak, which was tender and flavorful, whimsically garnished with three tiny cippolini onions. From DeBragga and Spitler, the famed Manhattan meat purveyors, the beef was topped with a delicious port wine sauce and would have pleased diners at the very best steakhouse.
We finished by sharing two desserts, which are also legendary among EFG loyalists. The signature chocolate soufflé was billowy and remained moist, not soggy, after a server briskly broke the top and spooned in a warm chocolate sauce. And the old-fashioned sundae was to die for, featuring flavors from Jane’s Hudson Valley Ice Cream.
EFG gained its reputation with its fish market, which opened in 1981, and expanded to include a restaurant six years later. It did so well that, in 1997, Ross moved it down the block to its current space. It’s now a neighborhood institution, one that draws newcomers as well as locals who’ve been buying their fish here for 30 years. But it’s well worth the trip for those who don’t live close by — even if you’re bringing along a meat-eater.