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


  • Favorite seafood dish in midtown is the razor clams @ wu liang ye on 48th street near rock center. This place should be reviewed here ASAP, some of the best chinese in the entire city, let alone midtown! Sichuan, yum.

  • best seafood is always going to come out of a chinese restaurant. steamed fish with ginger, scallion and sweet soy; salt and pepper crab or shrimp; giant clam sashimi (for real); sichuan style fish stew…mmm

  • Comment from Brad
    Time: August 21, 2007, 1:19 pm
    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.”

    Brad – What do I do after I tally them? I’m sorry for sharing information about an eatery on a food blog. What was I thinking? Don’t hate the player; hate the game!

    Favorite seafood dish in Midtown: Morrell’s Wine Bar has an egg-sellent sweet pea risotto with Ecuadorian prawns. This may be a summer special.

    Also – agree with Brian about Wu Liang Ye.

  • octopus salad at metrazur is good.
    however, i believe it is even better when someone else is paying the bill.

  • this is easy – 2 dozen oysters and a pint of pilsner at Grand Central Oyster Bar.

  • Love love love Market Cafe. I work in the area so I’ve been going there for years. What is the Pakistani restaurant that’s around there that David mentioned? I can’t picture it for the life of me.

  • i can do a trick with loaves and fishes

  • Since no one here seemed to have been to the Neapolitan pizza place mentioned in the article I decided to investigate myself and try the pizza. And I almost succeeded. First off, the name of the place is Tramonti. It’s an actual restaurant, so depending on how much you can eat it might be too expensive for a midtown lunch. If you are, say, an overweight blogger looking to spend more than 10 dollars I’d suggest heading across the street to Becco and its never ending pasta (it’s like heaven’s Olive garden).

    If you’re not a huge eater, though, Tramonti would probably be a good place to take a co-worker who is also looking for mditown pizza that doesn’t suck. I say probably because I didn’t eat the pizza. Instead I was tempted into ordering the calzone which comes stuffed with mozzarella and robiola and topped with tomato sauce and a layer of prosciutto. It was definitely worth the trip and I know I won’t be sharing my leftovers with my co-workers who were too scared of the rain to walk 3 whole blocks with me.

  • Best seafood for the midtown lunch crowd – Oyster Bar TAKE OUT WINDOW in Grand Central. Don’t even have to take a seat inside at the counter its right before you enter the Oyster bar on the ramp leading down to the foodcourt entrance.

    Great affordable sandwiches and slightly over priced soup. Best sandwich there is the Grilled and Sliced Tuna w/ Tomato Salsa. Excellent and very filling. I’ve also done the most of the poboys there (fried popcorn shrimp, oyster, and clam). Best soup is the rock shrimp bisque.

  • Mala and Zap — real hilsa or the American (and essentially tasteless) equivalent? For fried hilsa with rice and mustard oil, I’d be willing to work for them for free . . .

  • Zach’s lucky to get 5-10 replies to a post………then theres a free book on offer……….50+

    You cheap bastards.I mean that ina loving way.


  • that Pakistani place on 9th is delicious and the portions are really generous. hike over there and check it out.
    I’ve never eaten fish in midtown, but my favorite fish-related dining experience is by far what we used to do when I was a kid living outside Boston — there was a little takeout fish shack not too far from where I lived, and we would go there, pick up huge servings of fish & chips wrapped in newspaper, and head across the street to the beach for a picnic……

  • Totally agree with Brian re: Wu Liang Ye…the best!

  • The lobster at Francisco’s Centro Vasco on W 23rd between 6th and 7th, get it broiled, absolutely fantastic. I often go with a friend and we’ll split a 3-4lb lobster, order of paella, shrimp ajillo, and a pitcher or 2 of sangria, perhaps my favorite meal in NY.

  • Would the real hermione granger please step forward.

  • toast skagen at Good World

  • oh, sorry. it’s supposed to be in midtown… i’d go for sushi then. the chirashi lunch special at Fukumatsu is a great deal.

  • 30RockDenizen – I haven’t found real hilsa anywhere yet! I’m pretty sure it’s the American knockoff anywhere you can get it, though. Unless you go straight to the Bangladeshi stores that import it on ice. The fish I had at Shipa Kasturi was what we call “rui” in Bengal, not hilsa.

    Damn, now my mouth is watering.

  • Mala — There’s got to be a market for real Bengali food. I’m told there are even Bengali restaurants in Calcutta now! You could even go high concept and have a courtyard with a shil nora as its centerpiece. If there’s Uighur food in Queens, this can’t be that obscure.

  • Well, I love seafood more than anything, and I love to cook. So this book giveaway contest is going to be hard for me to pass up. Especially for this book! Pasternack is an excellent cook. I looked up the table of contents on, and there are so many dishes that I would love to make. Zach, boy, that linguine looks good! Damn!

    Ok, here we go: Chowsue’s Top Ten Midtown Seafood:
    (with some minor smearing of Zach’s boundaries of what constitutes midtown. It seems many of my picks have been mentioned already, but that is because they really are good!)

    10. grilled octopus at Uncle Nick’s
    9. camarones ceviche at Rincon del Sabor
    8. yellowtail with jalapeno and cilantro & cod with miso at Nobu
    7. whole deep fried fish with tamarind at Pam’s Thai on 49th
    6. Pla Jien at Wondee’s- steamed snapper with shitake, ginger, scallion
    5. any sushi/sashimi at Sushiya (big rollers) or Monster Sushi
    4. any seafood dish at Blue Fin
    3. tuna ceviche at Kobe Club
    2. octopus salad at Margon
    1. glass of chardonnay and a dozen raw oysters at the Grand Central Oyster Bar- classic NYC

    And as an added incentive to win this contest, I offer to make Zach his choice of 1. a dish from the book or 2. my version of the famous Thai fish dish with tamarind sauce (I learned from my Thai’s husband’s family) or 3. my Tod Mun (Thai fish cakes). This offer comes with 3 catches: 1. it would have to be reheated in the microwave at work and your coworkers will hate you for making the office smell like fish, 2. it won’t be AS fresh as cooked the night before, 3. we are renovating the kitchen, so it may be 2 months or more until I can cook again! But I won’t forget. :)

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