During the past couple of months I have heard quite a bit of hype about one of Midtown’s newcomers, Crave Fishbar. After reading about the place and hearing reviews from friends I decided it was time to make the trip and check out Crave for myself. A friend and I ventured over there this past weekend for a low key Sunday dinner and here’s what we decided about the new seafood joint.
Midtown East can sometimes feel flooded by restaurants designed for over-the-top business dinners that run a big tab, so when a new place pops up that goes against the grain (and actually serves good food) I am always inclined to check it out. Crave is the neighborhood’s latest attempt – in my mind the first since the Smith opened its Midtown location – to spruce up the East 50s and add some flair to the dining selection. For those familiar with Second Avenue in the lower 50s you may agree with me when I say that there are not many restaurant fronts that pull you inside and truly appear as quality establishments. It can be very easy to walk down these blocks and not take notice of a single place because nothing really looks all that interesting. But now when you pass by the West side of 50th Street on Second Avenue it is hard to not stop and notice the new gem next to Starbucks.
Crave may appear small but the exterior draws you in with its floor-to-ceiling open glass windows and warm pale green exterior. As previously mentioned, the restaurant definitely stands out on the block. The wood-paneled walls, dimmed lighting and plaid-print banquets give the dining room a rustic, laid back feel. The bar area is the most intriguing and well-designed aspect of the restaurant. The expansive marble bar is great for those who want to eat solo or a group of two looking to have a more casual experience. It’s also great for a couple cocktails! On this Sunday excursion the bar was not “hopping” but on a busy weekend night I can imagine it being a lively scene. The glass encased wine display adds to the aesthetics as well. Parallel to the bar there are a number of high-top tables that also allow for another alternative seating option (Note: if you sit in the bar room take notice of the fixtures on the wall. These large rotund mirrors above each high-top table will make you feel like you’re inside a ship on the sea or something of that sort. … Just trying to set the mood!). The back dining room is small and intimate, which is where we were seated.
Even though I may have set the mood for a kicked back and casual dining experience the presentation of the food reminds you that you are not just at some small-town seafood joint. The detailed preparation and presentation of the food gives as much thought to the selection of the garnish as to the dish’s main attractions. The menu consists of offerings from fish, seafood, meat and pasta varieties. The menu changes from day-to-day so if you are regular it’s probably refreshing to have new options each Crave visit. On the other hand, the transitional menu could lead to some disappointment when that great dish someone enjoyed the last time is no longer on the menu. Being my first time at Crave I did not run into such a dilemma, but if they take away the Fresh Florida Crab I may have a bone to pick with the owner!
After surveying the menu thoroughly and gauging my level of hunger at the time (which unfortunately was not very high) I decided on two appetizers and a side for my dinner – Fresh Florida Crab, Prawns and Beets topped with Manchego Cheese. As you may have noticed earlier. … I very much enjoyed the crab. The dainty starter featured lump crab meat on top of a cylindrical medley of garbanzo, corn, squash and zucchini. I was most impressed by the fact that the chef was able to place all these ingredients together in a way that the entire thing did not topple over. Where the crab was light the prawns were rich. The two jumbo prawns were prepared with a decadent, buttery foam and served with root vegetables that seemed appropriate for the season. They were good, but the rich flavors were too overwhelming to eat all the time. I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the quality of their side dishes. Steakhouses usually do this right, but I have a great appreciation for restaurants that come up with inventive ways so spice up a main dish with an additional vegetable or starch. Crave’s beets were a simple but just the kind of side dish I am talking about. These were not your typical large, deep purple root vegetable but rather these beets were small, pink and succulent. Really good and even though I was hesitant about the Manchego cheese this addition enhanced the flavor and did not hurt the fresh vegetable’s taste. Aside from the meal I just described my friend chose the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna which looked awesome. The fish was cooked to her liking and the vegetable choice of brussel sprouts and baby carrots appeared to be freshly picked from the garden (and tasted that way too). That’s all for the main meal, but if you all have not gotten the joke yet from previous posts. … I can very rarely pass up dessert. Since we were feeling the Fall vibe with the seasonal menu the pumpkin cupcake with cream-cheese frosting and homemade sprinkles was the most obvious choice. I should have asked about this at the time, but I am still so curious about the homemade sprinkles. Not typically a “food” item I hear being hand-crafted, but sounded impressive on the menu nonetheless. Dessert was awesome and the cupcake was jumbo-sized – the festive pumpkin cake was perfectly moist and the icing done just how I like it. Yummy!
After experiencing Crave Fishbar for myself I would agree with those who have said that it is one of the new City restaurants to feel good about. Todd Mitgang provides inspired and diverse menu offerings complete with fresh ingredients and culinary innovation. It is a great addition to the neighborhood and creates an environment that is lively while laid back and offers quality food. I would caution the masters behind Crave to be wary with changing the menu too much on a day-to-day basis. Figure out what the classics should be and stick to them. My second piece of advice would be to expand the raw bar offerings. I know plenty of people who go googly-eyed when they see an extensive raw bar selection. No need to go all out with three-tiered seafood towers, but a few more options would not hurt. Other than that, think Crave is off to a solid start and am excited to see what they have in store for me the next time I pop in!
Crave Fishbar, 945 Second Avenue, NY, NY, 10022.
When to Book: Crave accepts reservations on OpenTable. You should be pretty safe booking a few days in advance for prime weekend time slots.