What took so long? That’s what I asked when I stepped foot into the revival of Crave Fishbar. If you’ll recall (or maybe it was so long ago you’ve forgotten already), Crave Ceviche Bar opened in midtown east in the summer of 2008. It was one of my first reviews for the New York Daily News and one of my favorite restaurant discoveries. The chef was Todd Mitgang and the menu was innovative, devoted almost entirely to innovative ceviches, like shrimp ceviche with chili-spiced popcorn, and kona kampachi mingled with curry-dusted chickpeas, yogurt and mint. As I wrote in my review, “There are those few precious restaurants you contemplate keeping to yourself. It is a selfish act, though not an unreasonable one, as a way to safeguard tiny haunts harboring gutsy chefs and even gutsier flavors. Crave Ceviche Bar is one of those rare finds in a part of town better known for its happy hours and expense-account dinners.”
Crave had such promise, but a terrible crane accident destroyed the building (and sadly some lives) in March 2008 and Crave was no more. You’d figure Todd Mitgang and his partner, Brian Owens, would either reopen or walk away altogether after a year or two, but they did neither. Instead, they headed out east to open a gussied up fish shack called South Edison and farther uptown to open Cascabel Taqueria. If you’re as patient as I am, you’ll be excited to discover Crave again. This time, they’ve called themself a “Fishbar” instead of a “Ceviche Bar,” which admittedly has a broader appeal. The new space is even more beachy, with rough wood planks along the walls, nautical accents, and an octopus mural on the ceiling overhead. Crave Fishbar is an even better version of the original, a Crave 2.0 if you will.
Case in point: Scallop Crudo with gossamer thin scallop petals, presented in the shell alongside king mushrooms, crunchy long beans and curry oil — delicate, and yet rich at the same. There’s plenty of excellent new dishes, including a buttery soft King Salmon Sashimi twirled around grapefruit segments and red shiso leaves, and plated with avocado puree and a white soy sauce. Surprisingly, one of my favorite dishes wasn’t a raw preparation. It was a luscious Dinosaur Kale and Clam Soup, uniquely flavored with black garlic and burnt lemon peel. It was light enough to be summery and still decadent. The best dish by far didn’t make the menu until my second visit a week later. (Yes, it’s good enough to require a return visit soon!)
It was an appetizer of Razor Clams cooked a la plancha just until they open and no more, so that they’re still incredibly moist and briny when they hit the plate. Then, these long, slender bivalves are topped with a crazily delicious relish, made with bits of hearts of palm, paprika, shallots, basil, capers, olive oil and a bright dose of aged sherry vinegar. The clams themselves are fresh and chewy, punched up by this addictive, acidic relish.
Address: 945 Second Ave., nr. 50th Street