Essex Pearl

We can’t help but feel like Stefon when we tell people that the downstairs at Essex Market (also known as The Market Line) is NYC’s hottest restaurant destination. With options like Gouie and Banchan By Sunny at People’s Wine, there are finally as many great sit-down places as there are typical food court-style vendors. The latest addition, seafood spot Essex Pearl, recently reopened with a Southeast Asian menu featuring basically everything from the ocean—and all of the food is well executed.

Sit at the long winding bar, and go for dishes like deep-fried, whole baby octopus in a spicy lemongrass curry, a generous portion of salmon sashimi bathing in nuoc cham, and a fried dorade that’s one of the best whole fishes we’ve had recently. It’s covered in herbs and a deeply savory and slightly spicy tamarind chile sauce, and it comes out super juicy with a ton of meat on the bones. Despite being in a glorified food hall, the dining area still feels busy but also slightly secluded—which makes it ideal for a date at the bar or a small group dinner where you can pick out a whole lobster or Dungeness crab from the tank and have a lively seafood feast.

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