Out to Sea

Anchor down at one of these restaurants for Manhattan’s best seafood

lobster

With the summer heat descending upon the concrete blocks of Manhattan, the ocean may feel far away—but the fruits of the ocean are not. From SoHo to Central Park, summer dining comes no more fresh and refreshing than at these four seafood specialists.

A reading of the menu at David Burke Fishtail is a lesson in the celebrity chef’s talent for dressing up locavore foods (nearly 80 percent of the seafood here comes from sustainable sources) with artsy flair. Beige walls and lamps hanging over the long bar where an early crowd gathers for raw fare and a martini are decked with eye-catchingly colored fish paintings, but even those can’t detract from the vibrancy of the generously portioned dishes. There’s a spicy, Spanish-style spaghetti dish with crab and rock shrimp; fluke crusted with brioche and served with black truffles, oyster mushrooms, and brown butter mousseline; pretzel-crusted crab cakes; and, of course, Burke’s famous Angry Lobster. (62nd St. at Lexington Ave.)

In Manhattan’s increasingly cross-bred food scene where fish tacos and lobster rolls are found on menus of all genres, thank goodness there’s still Marea, a resplendent restaurant on Central Park South that’s a temple to classical, fine-dining seafood. Opened in 2008 by restaurateur-chef Michael White, the restaurant cuts no corners, from its design of lacquered rosewood walls to its 34-page wine list. The menu offers no surprises, just every type of seafood at its finest, often imported from other parts of the world. Sharing is best, given the extensive offerings: sliced raw fish, oysters, four types of caviar, seasonal fishes prepared simply with vegetables and herbs, and whole fishes seared, sautéed, baked, or roasted with a sauce of choice. (Central Park South nr. Broadway)

Aside from Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, lying off the east coast of Canada, is known for one thing: its mussels. Originally opened on the island, Flex Mussels crossed the border and came south and now has two Manhattan locations, in the West Village and on the Upper East Side, both charmingly rustic and hung with art from the island. P.E.I. mussels are prepared in 23 different styles from around the world—who knew mussels could be so versatile? They’re steeped Thai-style in an aromatically spiced coconut curry broth; reminiscent of Mexico with chipotle, chorizo, and calamari; given the flavors of the South with Dijon, country ham, corn, and bourbon. Their other options are seemingly just compulsory—appetizers, salads, and fish and chips—but save room for dessert, particularly the deep-fried whoopee pie or 11 kinds of homemade donuts (82nd St. nr. Third Ave.; 13th St. nr. Seventh Ave.)

Despite its locale in the middle of SoHo’s touristic bustle, Lure Fishbar is a world away. With lacquered wood interiors, low ceilings, white leather banquettes, and brass details, the restaurant could just as easily be the dining parlor of a glorious vessel at sail on the seas, an intoxicatingly far-off environment that keeps its uber-cool clientele lingering for hours over a menu that reads like a history of food trends: caviar-topped deviled eggs, Hamachi crudo, lobster ravioli, miso-glazed salmon, branzino à la plancha. Nods to Japan come to a head on the drink menu, which includes an extensive sake section—a nice surprise for a seafood restaurant—and cocktails such as the vodka-based Green Tea Party with citrus and shiso, or the Silk Road, which sweetly mixes sake and pisco with flavors of elderflower, lychee, and yuzu. (Mercer St. at Prince St.)