PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er (& Esca Chef) “David Pasternack”… PLUS another book giveaway!

Every Tuesday I turn over Midtown Lunch to a random worker, for their favorite places to eat lunch in Midtown. Today, I am totally honored to turn the site over to David Pasternack, Chef of Esca, and co-author of the new cookbook “The Young Man & the Sea” (w/ Midtown Lunch friend and Serious Eats grand poobah, Ed Levine).  Esca is one of the best seafood restaurants, not just in Midtown- but in the entire city… and is a must try if you love Italian food, and fresh fish.  (It also helps if you have a corporate account.)  Esca is on 9th Ave. & 43rd St., so here are Dave’s picks for lunching in that area- plus I have 5 signed copies of his cookbook to give away the end of the post.

Name: Dave



Where in Midtown do you Work?:
9th Ave. & 43rd St.

Favorite Kind of Food:
I mean, i like everything- but my favorite is ethnic food. I find it more intriguing. I’ve worked in fancy restaurants for 25 years, but my favorite foods are still Chinese, Thai, Indian… pretty much everything.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
Pakistani Restaurant on 38th & 9th. Cheap and interesting food with really good flavors and great homemade naan.  I also really love Grand Sichuan, but the one near Esca is closed now. The smoked tea duck and dried green beans were two of my favorites. They would also make this fresh killed chicken dish, with bamboo shoots & szechuan pepper. It was fucking hot, but one of the most tender dishes you’ll ever eat. I also love korean bbq but I haven’t been in awhile. I think the place I used to go to is Han Bat (35th btw. 5+6th). The kimchee is killer and the spicy fish soup is perfect for when you have a cold. Comes with this egg custard on the side. Finally, there’s a neapolitan pizza place on 46th btw. 8+9th. called Trumonte Tramonti.  It’s great, and the real deal.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: Usually we’ll eat lunch here at the restaurant. Or I’ll send someone over to Shorty’s (9th Ave. btw. 41+42nd). It used to be Tony Luke’s but the owner couldn’t afford to keep the name, so he dropped it. The food is still exactly the same.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Right where I am.  New York is the food mecca of the world right now.  There are different places you can travel to… like I was in Tokyo a few years ago, which was really interesting.  But after all my traveling, I realize how many great ingredients we have compared to the rest of the country.

Esca is expensive, and the fish is the best quality. Do you have any favorite cheap seafood dishes in Midtown you could recommend?  There’s no such thing as good cheap seafood.


Touche.  I should have known better than to ask that question.  That being said, I still enjoy the fried shrimp from the Halal & Seafood Cart, and the $3.50 Fried Fish Sandwich at Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart.  Of course, anything fried tastes good (and it masks how cheap the fish is!)  That being said, given the choice between the Grilled Octopus & Giant Beans with Preserved Lemon I had at Esca, and the fried calamari sandwich at Tuscan Square- I think it’s pretty safe to say, I’d go with Esca. 

What’s your favorite seafood dish in Midtown?  Cheap, expensive… it doesn’t matter.  Post it as a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of David Pasternack’s new cookbook ”The Young Man & the Sea”.  Don’t have a favorite in Midtown?  Post something that proves you deserve the book.

Don’t like seafood?  Then you probably don’t need the cook book… although, the book is so beautiful, it might convert you.  And the recipes are so easy to make, even I can do it.  The Linguine w/ Pancetta & Clams that I made last night, from “The Young Man & the Sea”, after the jump…



As always, if you have any news, suggestions, or you want to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er- email me at


  • minar on 46th makes fish curry. fried pieces of a white fish in curry sauce, great with rice. of course the curry really masks the “cheapness” of the fish, but it’s a great inexpensive midtown option for seafood!

  • Well, if we can expand midtown for Esca, I am going to expand midtown for my choice for the best seafood dish in the area. Hells kitchen (the restaurant on 9th Ave. btw. 46+47th) has a halibut dish that is phenominal. It is quite possibly the best halibut i have ever had. It’s pretty reasonably priced as well.

  • The Miso Cod @ Nobu 57 is truly out of this world! Of course, so are the prices there. Without an expense account, it’s totally off limits.

  • The Royal Dorado at Akdeniz (46th btwn 5th/6th). Pretty expensive for lunch ($20) but if you like eating whole fish then this is for you

  • The oyster flight at Aquavit. That’s cheating, though.

  • Arctic Char @ Mary’s Fish Camp. It’s like the butter of the sea.

  • It’s pretty cool to have Chef Dave profiled (free advertising for Esca to boot!) Pakistani Restaurant sounds great but it’s so far from me. Reminds of Babu’s diner on Seinfeld.

  • The Octopus Salad at Margon is hard to catch but always good

  • hmm.. more my side of midtown, but Ethos on 33rd / 3rd does a wicked good greek grilled octopus. Combine with a big greek salad and share, and its little more than 10$ a person. Simple, a little charred, and very tender.

    I…uh… have also been know to hit Arthur Treachers… but lets not talk about that right now…

  • If we’re heading into Hell’s Kitchen territory, I am a big fan of the shrimp po’boy at Delta Grill.

  • In the category of expensive (though “free”) fish, I’m totally crazy about the seafood salad at Le Bernardin that they give you with their bread basket. Crazy good.

  • the red snapper at le bernardin – pricey and fantastic!

    crab cakes at del friscos are not bad either!

  • A good fish curry in Midtown would be nice to find, whether it’s hilsa fish in mustard sauce or just the basic stuff. I miss Mom’s cooking and the classic Bengali fish curry she makes. The closest I’ve found was Shipa Kasturi somewhere around 29th and Lex, but I swear the place up and vanished because I haven’t found it again. It was a little sketchy anyway (they microwaved the food you picked out of the steam trays), but it tasted just like home made!

  • Good call about Han Bat! Love that place!

    Favorite seafood in midtown? Probably salad with rare tuna from Chiyoda.

  • Zach quietly reveals the depths of his study… ancient wisdom: fresh seafood is superb, but there is one thing that is better. Fresh seafood with PORK.

    Clams with pancetta? Right on. Or, how about… Chanpon at Menchanko-Tei. Shrimp, squid, pork, noodles.

  • The sea urchin/crab meat pasta at Esca, is one of my favorite seafood dishes.

  • Loch Fyne Prawns and Scallops with lemon oil @ Seafood restaurant ,Padstow, Cornwall.

    Bit far for lunch :)

  • interesting how easily we all shift from the intended purpose of this blog — cheap (tasty) midtown eats — to the high end stuff (Esca, Nobu, la bernardin, etc.) once the opportunity arises. is it time for a companion site:

  • The Crabcake Sandwich at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central is a great lunch meal. Close, not too expensive, but really tasty.

    Also glad to see Dave on here. I read the article of him in the New Yorker a few years ago and tried out Esca right after. Been twice, and was blown away each time. Definitely the best overall restaurant experience I’ve had in New York.

  • Hey Mala – I think this is your place

    Shipa Kasturi Pavilion [Gramercy]
    83 Lexington Avenue (between E. 26th and 27th streets), Manhattan

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