I went to Esca last night per a friend's recommendation (I was limited to midtown west). It was one of the worst experiences I've ever had. We asked the waiter what pasta he would recommend and he suggested the lobster slipper pasta, so we decided to go with that. When the dish arrived the pasta was crunchy. Seriously, crunchy. Now, I definitely like al dente pasta, but this tasted straight out of a box and uncooked. My mother and I looked at eachother with wonder, unsure of if there was anyway this could be intentional; after one more bite each, we were sure it was a mistake, as we could barely eat it it was so awful.
We apologized to the waiter (as we hate to return things) but explained the pasta was crunchy, as my mother said "it took al dente to a new level" -- the waiter said the pasta was supposed to be served al dente, but he would ask them to cook it some more.
20 minutes later the pasta was returned to us, tasting just the same as before we sent it back (i.e. crunchy), to the point where neither of us could even begin to eat it. we left almost the entire dish on our plates.
we ordered the bass to share. while it was fine, it was nothing special. certainly not worth the price. the thing that was outstanding was the vegetables. they did an amazing job with both the vegetables that came with the fish, as well as the seperate sides of vegetables that we ordered.
additionally, we got a dessert (gellato in a crepe with berries) that was fine. outrageously priced though, given the size of it.
all in all, it was one of the worst dining experiences i've had in nyc. we shared a pasta, a fish, a dessert -- no alcohol. and it was about $90. totally ridiculous given the quality.
after leaving, i called my italian friends just to check that this wasn't a traditional dish or something that my mom and i were unaware of -- and all of my italian friends said that pasta is never, ever meant to be crunchy, and that clearly it was bad.
you'd expect more from esca.