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


  • Thanks, Zap! I think it has a cloaking device, because I have walked up and down Lex a couple of times the past few weeknds and keep missing it.

  • Avra Grilled Fish on 48th & Lex is a good choice.

    I really want to try the clam pie at Don Giovanni’s after reading this post though

    it’s on my to do list…

  • I like to laugh!

    Fresh seafood, like good steak, doesn’t require a restaurant. As long as don’t over cook it, it’ll taste delicious with almost no seasoning or prep. To that end, the farmer’s market in mccarren park is fantastic. they catch early morning and set up with that day’s prize.

    now give me my book.

  • I’m a late convert to seafood – have only become open to fish and shellfish over the past few years. Two of the dishes that truly converted me were at high end places – the Goan sea bass curry at Tabla’s Bread Bar and the grilled squid at Babbo. My mouth starts to water just thinking about them! My mother still can’t believe I eat squid now.

    Is there anywhere in midtown to get good steamed fish? Maybe with some lime and cilantro? I’m sure there are places over on 9th, but I haven’t had the time to explore.

  • She did look like liv tyler ya’know.

  • I vote for the Crabcakes at Del Frisco, or the lobster at Francisco Centro Vasco, and pretty much all fish at Nice Matin

  • The freshly grilled salmon sandwich on the house roll at Global Kitchen is a great lunchtime deal. Its definitely the differentiating aspect of this otherwise generic midtown deli. It takes them about 20 minutes to cook it, so I recommend ordering online first and then going to pick it up later.

  • Wow, that looks fantastic!!! I want a copy! Hmm… favorite seafood dish in midtown… I rarely order seafood out cuz I prefer making it at home… hmmm. And as you know I don’t work in midtown…. so there are two very good reasons I deserve the book :)

  • While I’m sure, well, actually positive, the seafood at Esca is outstanding, I still can’t afford it. What’s worse; I live across the street. It’s all so cruel. That being said, I’m a food fanatic for the area and offer a couple of suggestions. Unfortunately, David is correct about good and cheap — doesn’t exist. However, if you’re willing to roll the dice as the restaurant is hit or miss, if all the stars align and someone on that magnificent grill is paying attention any, ANY, fish grilled at Uncle Nick’s can be transforming. Always lightly seasoned, great grill marks for flavor and a tiny drizzle. Plus, very reasonably priced. This luck runs about 10 percent. When it’s off, it’s like eating your shoe. Very nice sweatbreads there, too. Best seafood deal is ordering off the sandwich menu, which you have to ask for, at the Oyster Bar counter in Grand Central. For God’s sake whatever you do don’t have dinner there — you’d be better off at Red Lobster in Times Square. But, the oyster po’ boy sandwich is pure bliss. Huge, extremely juicy, very fresh, lightly breaded and barely fried to a slight tan oysters on a french bread roll with a little lettuce and a homemade mayo. Bliss, I tell you, for 8 bucks. Out of the 17 Thai restaurants in the area there is only, and I mean only, Pam’s Real Thai on both 47th and 49th. All the others have adopted that cloying Americanizing everything into sweet. In addition to just dropping poached chicken into hot coconut milk. Yawn. Pam is in the kichen on 49th and her son runs the 47th branch out. Their whole snapper is wonderful, if you ask for a fresh one and not one prefried. The Som Tum, papaya salad in lime, is an incredible summer starter. And, oh, David, could this area use a good Korean BBQ, or what? Talk to me, I have an idea about that. But, the best all around great deal in the area is a restaurant that includes a hefty poured, well priced drink, a very laid back neighborhood crowd, excellent, friendly waitstaff; outstanding and very fair priced food (the fries that come with the Steak Frites are the absolute best in NY); a homemade decadent golden raisin chutney that comes with a cheese plate and Amy’s bread; daily specials that every now and then include rabbit or a magnificent swordfish (they used to do an incredible pork shoulder medalion, but don’t anymore); and giant portioned from scratch deserts. Lots of other little finds, too. The only thing is, I’m not telling anyone where it is. It’s a jewel right now. And, anyone who goes there is desperately trying to keep it that way. Put me in the running for the book and I’ll spill the beans. (I have lots of food stories of the area, too.)


  • Why ruin the fish with cooking? I’ll take sushi any day! I love the lunch special at Shimizu (51st between 8th and 9th); though for the quality I think it’s a good deal at $15, it doesn’t fit the Midtown Lunch parameters :(

    Though I do love me some grilled octopus… haven’t tried Ethos but similarly-named Anthos (52nd between 5th and 6th) does it quite well.

  • Cosi’s Lobster Roll/Sandwich – yummy!

  • The spicy shrimp tempura onigiri at Cafe Zaiya. $1.50 each.

  • Brad is talking about Market Cafe @ 496 9th Ave- Btwn 37th & 38th St. It’s very bad form to hoard food secrets on this site, especially since someone is likely to come along and “spill your beans.” BUSTED!

  • Why can’t NYC get a decent fish fry place? They have one on every corner in upstate NY – but nobody can seem to get it straight down here. And the ones in upstate are awesome! I guess there has to be some benefit about living in Syracuse…. especially since there is now a Dinosaur BBQ in NYC

  • The fried fish nibblets at Ho Yip (now Sun Yip) from the buffet table. Even after 2:15 when you can get the discount, the fish is still oh so fresh. Plus, you get to choose what sides you want. No haughty chef telling you that chicken with cashews does not count as a side.

  • I know you recommended the whiting, but I think the flounder at Kim’s Aunt Kitchen is worth that extra buck!

  • DDR, next time you’re at your parents house, dig out your old report cards and see how many times you can find written on them, “does not play well with others.”

  • Has anyone here been to Trumonte? Worth the trip?

  • My favorite seafood dishes are actually two of the pastas from Esca – the one with sea urchin and the one with squid ink. or maybe i like the razor clam crudo best…
    I dont get any of them often but if my husband and I have a special occasion to celebrate which can justify the splurge Esca is our first choice. hope its not off limits to list Esca as the fave but it really is true.

  • You must try liv tyler sashimi with aniston wasabi.

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