Chef Ed Brown has created a prix-fixe 5-course seafood dinner being served, by reservation only, on Tuesday evenings this summer. Priced at $55 per person, there is an option of a $40 per person wine pairing with each dish.
Although our prior experience with Ed's Chowder House was undistinguished: his raw bar and chowders are fine, but no better than many other seafood places and certainly more expensive, we enjoyed his Back Room dinner and think it is one of Manhattan's best bargains this summer.
Guests are seated, communally, at four tables of 8-10 in a private back room. Upon arrival, a complementary glass of prosecco is poured and two amuses were delivered: a minced squid toast (seconds and even thirds were gladly offered) and an oyster with green apple and habanero paired with a refreshing watermelon juice.
We opted for the wine pairings. Here is what we got (menu appears to change week-to-week, according to what's in the market):
--poached wild king salmon with soy bean puree and tomato mint salad (Rose, St. Roch, from Provence)
--sea scallop ravioli with a yellow wine sauce (wine was a jura-region white used in this sauce) and chervil (Stone Street "Broken Road" Alexander Valley Chardonnay)
--crispy soft shell crab served over green papaya and honey mustard (Kreydenweis Gewurztraminer)
--pepper crusted tuna with foie gras, fresh corn, smoked bacon and tarragon (Stags' Leap Napa Valley Petite Sirah)
--Lemon Tart with pistachio shortbread and black raspberry sorbet (Ch. Roumieu-Lacoste Sauternes)
The quality of the ingredients were top-notch, serving sizes were generous, the wines were poured in 4-ounce pours. Our favorite dish was the Scallop ravioli, which was fragrant and supple. Our least favorite was the pepper-crusted tuna, a preparation I thought went out in the mid-90s. Although the tuna appeared sushi-grade and was seared nicely, it was simply overpowered by the pepper.
The soft-shell was a generously-sized one and was breaded, perhaps with panko flakes or similar coarse breading.
Of the wines, the Rose was our favorite, although the sauternes was a nice touch with dessert. The Chardonnay was remarkably burgundy-like: thankfully, not another heavily oaked Cali chardonnay. The Petite Sirah offered should be reconsidered: it was undistinguished, lacking any depth. A grenache would have worked better.
Chef Brown made two appearances to talk about the menu and interact with diners.
There appear to have been a few regulars and/or friends of the chef present. Executive chef John Miele and the pastry chef also made brief appearances.
Service was outstanding: Brown's staff were well-dressed, polite and helpful. His maitre d' assisted servers and was both friendly and professional. Being seated with guests we did not know turned out to be a nice touch: by the end of the dinner, numbers and email addresses were exchanged and new friends were made.
I don't know if seats remain for subsequent Tuesdays, but this event is a bargain by any standard and a very pleasant summer evening.
Ed's Chowder House
44 W 63rd St, New York, NY 10023