Seafood restaurant

Hi, everyone. I’ve been away for a long time and do have information to post, but right now, I have a question: My girlfriend’s birthday is this Friday, Feb. 24. She says she’d like to go to a seafood restaurant that’s not too expensive and didn’t specify the cuisine, but I suppose she probably prefers American seafood or some kind of European cuisine. She likes many cuisines (including Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, Japanese, Korean) and would be happy to settle for whatever I can get in the end (my first choice would be Chinese seafood, as it’s good and usually not expensive, but I don’t think that’s her first choice for her birthday). Keeping in mind that Friday dinner reservations might be well-nigh impossible by now, though we’re willing to go early, do you have any ideas for a place with entrees that cluster around the low to mid 20s at most (bonus for apps $12 or under, which are increasingly rare) that serves very fresh-tasting seafood that’s tasty? We’d be quite willing to go anywhere in Manhattan, and I’d consider nearby neighborhoods in Queens (she lives in the West 50s). I live in the East Village, so quite a few parts of Brooklyn are fine for me but might be a stretch for her. We could end up at Congee Village or someplace like that, but I’d still be interested in reading your recommendations.

I’ve read about Red & Gold Boil in the East Village and Black Crescent and Norman’s Cay on the LES, but have not been to any of them. Of the ones I have been to, I can recommend Esca, Kyo Ya, and Yopparai, but they are probably out of your price range. How about Zadie’s Oyster Room?

I haven’t been to Seamore’s yet, but I think it meets all of your criteria.

It’s closed, tragically. The Boil on Chrystie is still around, but there’s always a long wait there and the food isn’t that good.

Thanks for the update.

I’ll also throw Grey Lady into the mix, which is a little more expensive.

Great to see you again, Pan! Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar might work for you. It’s the restaurant connected to The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market. We’ve not eater there, but I’ve heard positive things about it.

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Great to see you, RGR!

Thanks, everyone. Yeah, Cull & Pistol might be interesting. I’ll check their prices. My girlfriend actually suggested Kefi, which we’ve always liked, and they do have some fish and seafood.

Kyo Ya is definitely way beyond my price range at this point. I took my girlfriend there in I think 2010, we had the 10-course kaiseki, it was one of the best meals both of us ever had, and it cost me $300 and change including tip for the two of us - definitely a fair value, but I had to swallow hard. And while I gave a 20% tip, our service was so good and gracious, I probably should have tipped higher.

I liked Cull & Pistol’s menu, so I got reservations there. Actually, I’ve passed by them a bunch of times on trips to Chelsea Market and have been intrigued with their menu, so this should be fun.

One thing that’s cool is I asked the reservationist at Cull & Pistol where they’re getting their shrimp from, and she said they’re wild shrimp caught off the coast of Ecuador. I’ve been avoiding shrimp because of the pervasive problems with slave labor used in the production of fish meal, used to feed farmed shrimp (see http://www.cbsnews.com/news/shrimp-sold-at-walmart-costco-tied-to-slave-labor/ for one of many stories about this abuse), but I like shrimp very much, so I’m happy that it sounds like I will be able to eat it in good conscience at this place.

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I just wanted to check in and thank RGR, who recommended Cull & Pistol. The short version is: This is a great restaurant. Nothing was disappointing and I could critique only one dish, and even then, it’s a high-level critique. The ingredients were fresh and the seasoning was delicious. Great service, too!

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We await the long version …

OK, this is what we ordered (we shared everything):

Pistols on Horseback, $6 (Chesapeake fried oysters, jamon serrano, herb crepes, pickled pearl onion, smoked aioli)

Black Truffle Chawanmushi, $7 (Japanese egg custard, uni, celery root, green apple)

Lobster Bisque (no longer on menu for description, but we got the large portion for $13, as I recall)

Market Fish Fillet, $24 (striped bass, braised French lentils, glazed baby carrots, vadouvan curry, orange-carrot dal)

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, aged balsamic ($5)

new bay fries ($5)

And to accompany it all, we ordered a bottle of Sancerre for $56 after consulting with our waitress and being given tries of that wine (which was also offered for the glass) and the Riesling they sold by the glass, which was dry and good but lacked the subtle minerality we liked in the Sancerre (we agreed that it had more character). I asked the waitress about any wine that she thought might be even more interesting in that price range and she mentioned some but ultimately said that we were probably best off getting that Sancerre. It went well with everything.

The standouts among the items we ordered were the Pistols on Horseback, the Lobster Bisque and the Market Fish Fillet - essentially, most of the meal. We loved the terrific fresh taste of the fried oysters, and the Serrano ham went well with them. The lobster bisque was really fantastic, and it contained a delicious small green herb we struggled to identify. I don’t think it was just chives, because it had an aromatic quality to it. The fish filet was a wonderful French-style curry with just a little kick to it. The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked, and so were the carrots.

The Black Truffle Chawanmushi was something we sort of had to get, because we love great uni, having had fantastic uni as part of a 10-course kaiseki dinner for a previous birthday of my girlfriend several years ago. That was Hokkaido uni and this was Santa Barbara uni. It was excellent, totally fresh uni, and the little dish was quite good. My only criticism is that the amount of crunchy dices of celery root detracted somewhat from the custardy quality I like in chawanmushi.

The sides were both perfectly fine. My girlfriend loves brussels sprouts, so it’s almost inevitable that when we see it on the menu, we order it. These were quite pleasant and again pretty much perfectly cooked. The fries, since they were topped with Old Bay Seasoning and paprika, were pretty salty, but there was otherwise nothing to complain about.

We had knowledgeable, gracious service throughout, and the manager came by a couple of times and was very nice, though of course it helps when you are an appreciative customer.

I had mentioned to the reservationist that this was my girlfriend’s birthday, so the restaurant brought out a slice of key lime pie for dessert and put a little candle in it. It was terrific key lime pie - sour as we like it, with a delicious graham crust. We were comped the pie.

I of course tipped based on the pre-tax amount including the pie and then added several dollars on top, to show appreciation for the restaurant’s generosity and great performance in all aspects.

I definitely plan on returning.

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Thanks. Nice report, as always.

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You’re welcome, Pan! And thanks for your excellent, detailed review! I’m very pleased you and your girlfriend enjoyed Cull & Pistol. It’s particularly gratifying because I’m always a bit leery about recommending a place I’ve never been to. It’s great to have confirmation that the good things I’ve heard about it are true. I hope to get there in the not-too-distant future.

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I realized I left out one remark about the chawanmushi. I didn’t notice any powerful black truffle taste. I think the truffles merely blended into a good overall taste. I was not disappointed by that, though I love black truffles.

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