Within the firmament of New York's restaurant establishment, the city's elite seafood restaurants occupy a special place. Refined, rarefied, and typically very expensive, they represent the highest levels of skill and the most painstaking worldwide sourcing. Anybody can make a great steak, or shave alba truffles into risotto. But poaching a turbot flown in that day from the Baltic sea requires a special level of commitment.
The final word in Greek seafood, or maybe even just seafood, in New York, Milos is a restaurant dedicated to the noblest of culinary goals: taking the best product that can possibly be had and doing as little to it as possible. Milos takes this to an extreme, serving impeccable seafood jetted in that day with just some lemon and salt, if that. It's an ultra-clean, ultra-light, ultra-delicious experience -- and ultra-expensive.
For all its asian inflections and supremely elegant simplicity, the food at Le Bernardin is potent to the point of richness -- a testament to chef Eric Ripert's vision and balance. Service is impeccable and the sommelier, Aldo Sohm, the best in the country.
There may be better seafood restaurants in New York (though not many, surely) but it's for sure that none have a better view, especially in winter, when you can look out and see people skating on the famous ice rink in Rockefeller Center. Newly-installed chef Yuhi Fujinaga has a deft hand with seafood, and brings some much-needed creativity to what had become somewhat staid.
A very fine seafood restaurant in midtown, Oceana largely caters to corporate clients, but it's worth a special trip at night. The room is not exactly bewitching but the place is usually full, and the reason is that it's a kind of Le Bernardin lite, an extremely refined kitchen that spares no expense in sourcing fish from around the world. You can usually get a seat at the bar.
Although not as widely known, or loved, as some of the city's big-name sushi restaurants, Toshio Suzuki's Sushi Zen is a true purist's palace, as its nearly all-Japanese clientele will testify. You won't get dragon rolls, and you won't get away cheap, but what you will get is great sushi.
There are basically three great seafood restaurants in New York: Marea, Le Bernardin, and Esca, and the latter is by far the most comfortable and casual of the three -- not to mention the cheapest. Chef David Pasternack's relationship with local fishermen is legendary, and he has mastered the art of getting out of the way. There is no simpler, or better, seafood anywhere.
This is gourmet Chinese banquet food at its best, or at least the best you're likely to find in Manhattan. (Ping has an even better restaurant in Queens.) A rare chef-driven Chinatown restaurant, Ping's serves very fresh, very exotic, and very expensive dishes to discerning customers. Winter melon, fresh abalone, seafood stuffed shrimp, flounder two ways: you can find a lot to love at Ping's. Don't bother with the dim sum. It's good but no better than many other places, and the seafood here is nonpareil.
Say this for New York's sushi king -- he is at work behind the bar every day, and when you splurge on his omakase menu, it is the master himself who hands you each piece of magic.
Known, rightly, as the city's most admired Italian restaurant, the secret of Marea is that Michael White's pastas, and not the restaurant's fish entrees. How could they not be anti-climactic after the "Sultan of Spaghetti's" signature dishes?