The formula at BLT Fish seems to be a sure thing: Marry Laurent Tourondel’s proven fishmonger skills with BLT Steak’s smart approach (quality ingredients, myriad sauces, à la carte sides) and a hot downtown address, and you’ve got a successful restaurant. Of course, the X factor is always the execution, and Tourondel misses nary a beat—as if the passionate poissonier has been planning all along, or at least since Cello closed, to return to his true love: seafood. (In fact, Tourondel took your vote in the 2005 Eat Out Awards for “Best comeback.”) Casual oyster bar and chowder house on the ground floor, and, above the fray, a slightly dressier venue for slightly dressier fare. Designer Michael Bagley set the tone by leaving AZ’s distinct glass elevator and skylights but overhauling everything else, ripping out booths, opening the kitchen and dimming the lights for the chef’s great return. While the first-floor menu will leave you sufficiently stuffed on heaps of fried calamari and big buckets of mussels, the upper half of the restaurant offers the superlative seafood experience. Tourondel doesn’t try anything out of the ordinary. He serves almost exclusively standard catches like tuna, snapper and loup de mer, yet the food is anything but standard. It’s the fresh fish, stupid, and the menu tells you why it’s that much better, listing snooty talking points about diver harvests, line catches and same-day butchering. Eat, don’t read, and see for yourself. Tourondel knows when to get out of the way—a Dungeness crab starter is served almost naked—and when to add a complementary flavor or two, such as a Nantucket scallop appetizer with port-soaked figs, cheese and walnuts. You could say he overwhelms with subtlety, right through to the entrées, many of which arrive simply as a whole grilled or fried fish with a light sauce. While the choose-your-own-sauce shtick works brilliantly at BLT Steak, the concept is a stretch here. Every entrée comes with one or two obvious, suggested pairings, and any diner who chooses to override a lemon caper brown-butter sauce on Dover sole with, say, veal jus deserves what he gets. Also, as at the red-meat cousin, the starch and vegetable sides come as à la carte items, often adding more to the bill than to the meal itself. Nothing here comes cheap, in fact. Entrées run around $30, without sides, as does each pound of whole fish. Fortunately, desserts prove unnecessary: A tuft of crack-addictive homespun cotton candy comes with the check.
|Venue name:||BLT Fish||Contact:|
21 W 17th St
|Cross street:||between Fifth and Sixth Aves|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Thu 5:30–11pm; Fri, Sat 5:30–11:30pm; Sun 5–10pm|
|Transport:||Subway: F to 14th St; L to Sixth Ave|
|Price:||Average main course: $18 (downstairs); $30 (upstairs). AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V|