*** – Three Stars
Address: 308-310 Bleecker St., at Grove St.
Cuisine: Chesapeake seafood
Vibe: Refined neighborhood joint
Occasion: Oyster binge; Casual date; Group dinner.
Seven days a week. Dinner, Sun-Wed, 5:30p.m.-12a.m., Thu-Sat, 5:30p.m.-2a.m.
Miss Dish: Arctic Char; Fried chicken; Bay leaf sorbet.
Price: Appetizers, $10 ; Entrees, $20; Dessert, $7.
Capsule: Fine fish shack fare & terrific fried chicken in the West Village
used to have to wait patiently for summer to arrive to get your fix of
crab chowder, peel ‘n eat shrimp, and Old Bay seasoned fries. Not
anymore. It may be February and freezing, but fish shack fare is in
fashion right now. Choptank, located in the West Village, is the latest in a string of newcomers. If you wanted a lobster roll a few years ago, you had Pearl Oyster Bar, Grand Central, & Mary’s Fish Camp. That’s it. Now, there’s plenty of respectable lobster rolls, including Ed’s, Luke’s, Mermaid Inn, & Ditch Plains.
Choptank doesn’t have a lobster roll on the menu. It’s New York’s first Maryland fish shack. That translates to
crab chowder, crab claws, and Chesapeake Bay oysters. The kitchen
also turns out an excellent crab cake with lots of fresh crabmeat and
and almost no breading. Maryland is famous for its blue crab. When
blue crab season begins in June, Choptank will also have lots
of blue crab and an outdoor patio to enjoy it on. Choptank is a little
less laidback, more of an urbane fish shack, minus the plastic bibs,
and handiwipes. The dining room is outfitted with dark wood floors and
tables, white marble bartops, and light fixtures cloaked in burlap fish
netting. There’s a large oyster bar with plenty of seats if you want
to spend the evening sampling oysters and tables in the main dining
room. There’s a concise, but good selection of West and East coast
oysters (My favorites were the Chesapeake Bay variety.)
One of the best things on the menu is actually the fried chicken. The first time I had the chef’s fried chicken was at Bussaco in Park Slope, Brooklyn. There, Matthew Schaefer served it with waffles and an apple-onion butter. Here, he serves it alongside an intriguing black pepper honey and sauteed collard greens. Schaefer, who trained at Le Bernardin,
also brought over his fancy version of crab chowder, which tastes like
a creamy crab consomme bacon and chives. Other than that, this is a
new menu for the chef and it isn’t just seafood. There’s a house
burger, bistro steak, Polish sausage and a pretzel, and bone marrow
with winter lettuces and onion marmalade.
favorite dish is the braised octopus with paprika and potatoes. It’s
not easy to make good octopus because you often have to make
sacrifices. You either take a crispy exterior for a dry interior or
vice versa, but this one manages to crispy, yet moist, tossed with a
pepper confit with a nice kick.
I like the roasted wild mushrooms glossed with a warm, egg yolk and an
excellent arctic char, cooked medium rare, and poised over lentils with
everything is perfect. I’d skip over a snooze of a salad tossed with a
few pecans, apricots, and no detectable dressing. The fish tacos were
standard issue, but could’ve used more fried shrimp, and the brussel
sprouts were undercooked and underseasoned. But the pro’s definitely
outweigh the cons at Choptank. If you order right, you can
have a great meal and unique cocktails that go well with seafood, like
the Tempest made with prosecco, vodka, and prosecco or their version of
the classic British Shandy Das Shandy, made with German beer, bitter
lemon soda, and a lemon peel. The only worthwhile dessert was first
for me — an invigorating Bay Leaf sorbet that was like a fuller bodied