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Le Gratin
Photograph: Courtesy of Bill Milne

8 top-tier seafood towers to feast on in NYC

Behold these beautiful stacks of sea fare!

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako
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A seafood tower is a culinary expression of celebration. It is the ingestible equivalent of flinging confetti into the air, but instead of bits of glitter, shredded paper or varied plastics, oysters, clams, shrimp and lobster land elegantly arranged on darling tiered trays. The tiers are key; anything else and it is but a platter, a plate or sometimes a basket, though plateau is also acceptable parlance and a fishbowl concept could be interesting. But a seafood tower, per se, promises abundance and signals joy. You’ll seldom be offered a seafood tower while waiting for the subway or at the reading of a will, but you can find them at a smattering of waterside restaurants, nautically inclined bars and even landlocked spots that simply embrace and promote splendor.  

They’re also a delight to behold, a soothing glimpse of form and function at their most agreeable. Even just an image is an aesthetic break from the chaos of the day, a window to a daydream. You are sipping Sancerre at a sidewalk cafe. You’ve acquired comfortable wealth. We are on a boat right now. Of course they’d be even better to eat, and these are the top tier of seafood towers for a peek and a treat in NYC. 

NYC seafood towers

  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Brooklyn

If a music box ballerina gained sentience and hungered for the nourishment of food you can crack and a bracing martini after so many spins and springs, never untethered from a single fixed place, beautiful, gilded Gage and Tollner would be her destination; the seafood platter, her feast. G&Ts two titular options include a half Maine lobster, oysters, clams and shrimp cocktail for $105, and doubles it all and adds adds fluke crudo for $198, or $270 with a caviar add-on. 

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Imagine three of us are on a ship. One is the captain, one is the mermaid queen and one is unknown; unclear, yet, if friend or foe. The stakes are as high as the surrounding seas, but then, so are our spirits, at least for the moment. Seafood towers, like those at recently opened Holywater, unite us. The inland Tribeca restaurant and bar serves two tower levels: The American ($75), with four varieties of oysters and clams, and the La Tour ($135), which adds shrimp cocktail and a half Maine lobster to the bival-vacious mix. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Boerum Hill
  • price 2 of 4

Solitude is the most complex state of being a person can assume—more complicated than infatuation and its attendant swoons, or the acid taste of envy, or invigorating anticipation. Anyway, if you saw a person enjoying a seafood tower alone at a restaurant, you would certainly think, “wow, that person is pretty cool.” And, while Grand Army’s “Lowbrow” option ($60) would be fair to share, one could also likely conquer its oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail and fluke ceviche on their own.  

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Financial District

If you were at the edge of Manhattan—your love across the glittering river on the brink of Brooklyn, would you take the plunge? Also it is a perfume commercial in that scenario, but back on land at The Fulton, nearly all modes of passage are in stunning view: the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, commuter ferries, pleasure crafts and even the occasional kayak in the distance. Let them come to you and celebrate the myriad transportation opportunities with towers that range from petite ($33) to royale ($174), which is overflowing with all the expected hits and luxe goods like caviar.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Financial District

The tank has been spiked, but just enough to render everyone elevated, never inebriated; drifting through a satin expanse, carefree as a radiant jellyfish who embraces to slake, never to sting. Glide toward the bounty, immortal, and assume Le Gratin’s plateau and each of its oyster, shrimp, crab and mussel bits for $175, or $55 more with a whole lobster. 

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Nolita

Like the endless space beyond the stars above, the things that are known about the deepest reaches of the ocean to those of us atop terra firma are few. We may never know what—or who—dances across its floor. Or why. Seafood’s easier to pin down, and the Suvannamaccha's Offering ($89) at Thai Diner presents oysters, shrimp, mussels, crab legs, scallops and salads of octopus and squid with regal appeal. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Midtown East
  • price 4 of 4

“Permission to come aboard?” A voice approaches the bow, but it may as well be calling from a dream a thousand knots away. You have everything to grant but time, which slips ever faster through the hourglass while you decide whether to share your cabin or your grand bouquet feast ($148) of oysters, clams, shrimp, crab and lobster. 

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Midtown West

Fire and water. Famously linked. And Famously at odds. Each can be devastating, like a “market price” reveal, which is the listed cost of the bespoke Smoking Shellfish Tower at national ‘boyfriend’s dad’ chain Ocean Prime. The customizable tower, which marries those ancient elements, might be a little easier to figure if you add up the individual costs of options like oysters, crab, shrimp and lobster. Nothing’s actually alight to achieve the visual trick, but try to do the math after a couple of drinks and you may as well be playing with . . . you know. 

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