This past Saturday I went to Essex Restaurant with three of my girlfriends (who aren't big foodies) for dinner. I had called several days before to make a reservation - we had wanted to eat around 8:30 because we had plans to meet up with some of our other friends for drinks afterwards- but the only time they had available was 7:30. Upon arrival, we were told we couldn't be seated until all of our party was there. After about fifteen minutes we were still missing one and the hostess came over and told us that we "had to sit down and start ordering", which wasn't exactly polite. However, we had just started to order drinks when our fourth arrived so it wasn't a huge deal - just surprising that she told us to sit down so harshly.
Our drinks were overall pretty good - one had a raspberry mojito which was delicious; I had red wine Sangria which was good ( I like big chunks of oranges and limes etc. in my sangria and this only had strawberries and blueberries); the other two had margaritas - one blood orange (delicious!) and the other had a raspberry (also pretty good).
Bread Plate was decently sized - like most, we would have preferred it to be warm. Our appetizers were great. Two of my friends went for the ever-so-reliable goat cheese salad (only thing they were unhappy about was the presence of beets); my other friend had the "banitzas" which were basically the equivalent of little spanikopita with queso blanco instead of feta - but she adored them; I had one of the Essex "famous potato pancakes" with onions and applesauce, which I loved. It was well cooked and not soggy - just crispy enough! The sauteed onions were delicious.
Our entrees arrived an appropriate 10 minutes after our appetizers were taken away. I had the grilled half chicken with porcini mashed potatoes which were very good! I ate every single bite of the potatoes. And my chicken was good - nothing special. My one friend ordered the blackened catfish over the shrimp/potato/scallion hash which was unbelievable! The fish was perfectly cooked and the hash was crazy good. I would recommend this dish over all of the others. My other friend had the goat cheese stuffed chicken breast which was good - chicken was breaded and tender. The accompanying sides - asparagus and roasted potatoes - were sort of blah but the main dish was pretty good. My last friend had the manchego macaroni and cheese which was intense - very good! The accompanying edamame salad was nice and light.
We were almost too full for dessert but once I heard the daily sorbet specials - white pear, and blood orange - it was too good to resist. Both were amazing - very creamy (but no dairy!!) and tasted like i just picked the blood orange/pear off the corresponding green thing. Also, my friend had the apple tart which was yummy!
Overall, we had a very delightful dining experience. The building was particularly cool - the tennis balls on the walls were a cute touch. And the cocktails were great! But if you are looking for a quiet place to eat - don't choose here. The music is very loud and the sort that most people in their twenties would listen to before a big night out on the town!
My friends and I are already talking about going there again before we cruise the LES bar scene again.