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


  • RE: wu liang ye – it’s been commented here that the place is expensive. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t been reviewed yet. And it is a bit more expensive vs. typical chinese prices – BUT, for dinner. They have about 25 lunch specials that come with enough food to feed two, for $7.50 – comes with a pint of plain or fried rice, the entree, and a spring roll. I usually can’t eat it all…

  • Kudos for mentioning that Pakistani joint on 38th & 9th! I used to eat there all the time before I left Midtown. They have prayers there during the day. Its a cool scene to be scarfing down some delicious Pakistani food when all of a sudden most of the restaurant, and people from the neighborhood, kneel on the floor to pray.

  • Dave, we live in Montauk, have your book and eat in your restaurant – love it all. we particularly enjoyed the 3 tuna crudo appetizer we had at the restaurant. i’ve made crudo here using your book – and enjoyed it a lot. one issue: we can’t find any locally available albacore and that’s the only one whose recipe is included in the book. how do we get the recipe for the non-albacore crudo varieties?

  • Tried Market Cafe based on Brian’s semi-secret recommendation (above).

    Short version: it sucked, isn’t really inexpensive, and was definitely not worth a trip to No Man’s Land (aka “lower Hell’s Kitchen) on a Friday night. And based on the total emptiness of the restaurant, I don’t think anyone cares if this “secret” is out.

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