Michael Chernow has a knack for turning the unfashionable into white-hot hits. In 2010, with cofounder Daniel Holzman, Chernow launched the Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side, a quirky counter peddling the Sunday night nonna staple to an adversely well-heeled downtown clientele. Five years, six locations and legions of disciples later, the Meatball Shop has become a gentrification marker that your neighborhood dining has gone full-steam basic.
And what Chernow did for ground-beef spheres, he aims to replicate with Seamore’s, a white-washed, pastel-trimmed Nolita remake of old Montauk fish shacks, spotlighting underutilized species (monkfish, tilefish) from east-end outfits Dock to Dish and Sea to Table.
That’s a well and noble cause— if you could actually decipher what catch you’re eating. Stuffed into tough, leathery corn tortillas, spicy squid ($13) arrives aggressively sauced and accessorized—kale and apples and corn nuts, oh my!—dulling any traces of the mollusk’s delicate sweetness. It’s fried-fish cousin ($15), built recently with spiny dogfish, is similarly overcast, obscured by excessive battering and squiggles of guacamole and chipotle mayo. A ceviche of scallops ($13) smacks so hard of vinegary Tabasco and fried garlic it’s damn-near stomach turning.
The bulk of the menu is devoted to the Reel Deal ($21), a do-it-yourself spread of that day’s catch (porgy, hake), choice of sauce (red curry, a viscous miso brown butter) and sides such as salad-bar sesame soba noodles and wilted Chinese broccoli. But the simple, seared preparation of the fish here just makes a case for the rest of the menu’s zealous saucing—underseasoned and overcooked, squeaking harshly against tooth. Better stick to those meatballs.