Man, I love graduating. I should do it more often.
No, seriously. The last two weeks have totally rocked. I’ve gotten loving letters from my family, the occasional much-appreciated check, a giant bag-o-gifts (many of them wonderful food-nerd gifts: lemon wrappers, my favorite cookbook, a teensy food processor, and a series of nifty utensils including rubber basting brushes, all themed in red), two Broadway shows…and three exquisitely fancy meals at three restaurants I don’t anticipate my personal budget accommodating for about a decade.
I think each of these oases of gastronomical ecstasy deserves its own post, so today we’re going to start with that summit of seafood where I went on the eve of my graduation: Aquagrill.
We’re a seafood-eating family, and my dad’s a big oyster fan, so when I asked around about the best seafood in Manhattan, this is where I was told, by both peers and reviewers, to go. Apparently the oysters are second only to Grand Central Oyster Bar (in Grand Central Station), but that place isn’t reputed to have very good food-that-isn’t-oysters, so Aquagrill became our destination.
I’m not going to keep you in suspense: the oysters were fantastic. Dad and I shared a sampler that had one of each of the thirty-five or forty kinds they had on ice that night. They were arranged in a spiral on the platter, in the order of an accompanying list, so we could follow along and decide which ones were the best. They were all so different! Some were little and sweet, some were plump and briny; there were flavors of oak, melon, cucumber, berries in there. I felt incredibly decadent and pleasantly graduated.
The rest of dinner was quite good, though not nearly so extraordinary as the oysters. Of note were the seared diver sea scallops with peekytoe crabmeat risotto and the grilled Atlantic salmon with falafel crust and lemon coriander vinaigrette (which was also served with buttery hummus). We finished with a not-too-sweet blackberry crumble. Overall and oysters aside, I’d say that the meal was high-quality, but not tremendously innovative, in terms of flavor combinations or presentations. I had hoped to be bowled over and was instead just pleasantly sated (except, of course, with regard to the oysters). Another irksome thing about the already-spare menu was that they were out of tuna and “low on lobster,” meaning that there wasn’t any in the bouillabaisse. Low on lobster?! I could hear my mother’s heart sinking from all the way across the table. On the other hand, the service was exceptional—our hyper-charismatic waiter was attentive and knowledgeable—and the wine list was excellent.
So I’ll make this recommendation: graduates, if Mom and Dad are in town for the Big Day…make them take you to Aquagrill for oysters and a glass of wine.
210 Spring St., New York 10012 (at 6th Ave.)