A Big Fish Lands in Chelsea

Esca's Dave Pasternack opens a new seafood spot, Barchetta

When Dave Pasternack isn't in the kitchen, he's usually out catching fish.

The Long Island-born chef and fisherman made a name for himself at Esca, where he introduced this city to very fine, Italian-style bites of raw fish. In fact, that's how the crudo era began in New York and it's also how you should start your dinner at Barchetta, his new, more casual spot in Chelsea.

Pasternack is serving beautiful little slivers of porgy, pink snapper and golden spotted bass in little more than olive oil and lemon juice. He doesn't like to overdo it: The kingfish is garnished with a single fried caper, blown open like a flower. The black bass gets just a tiny, almost minty dot of pine bud syrup.

Maybe because the chef is from Long Island, he's also found some room in the crudo department for raw Littleneck clams from Montauk and local bluefish with slivers of pickled jalapeño. After six of these bites, it's time to move on to the antipasti–prawns with their heads on and lemony aioli for dipping ($22), razor clams loaded with thickly cut chiles and garlic chives ($16).

The crudo spread | Chef Dave Pasternack

On a recent night, every man in the dining room was wearing a pale blue collared shirt without a tie and most of them were on dates–women with straight, shiny hair and large golden accessories who pulled lobster meat out of the shell with tiny forks.

The lobster was a variation on Pasternack's dish at Esca, here with butter-soaked fettuccine hiding fresh, starchy little sweet peas, cracked claws and tails ($28). The whole fish were popular, too–sardines from Monterey Bay with raisins and pine nuts ($26) and an extremely delicious grandma-style flounder under a blanket of crisp breadcrumbs seasoned with oregano ($26).

At these prices, you might wish for a touch more finesse. The razor clams could be lovelier if they were carefully sliced and returned to their long, beautiful shells instead of whole, shot through with a thread of grit.

But by the time the rhubarb crostada ($14) arrives, cooked to a crisp dark brown, filled with a hot, sweet and sour jam, you won't feel like complaining.