NYCReview

photo credit: Kate Previte

The food a spread on the counter at Penny.
9.2

Penny

SeafoodWine Bar

East Village

$$$$Perfect For:First/Early in the Game DatesDate NightDrinking Good Wine

Included In

You'll hear a lot of "oh my gods" at Penny. Oh my god, that clam went down so smoothly! Oh my god, is that puff pastry on an oyster roast? Oh my god, this is the best shrimp cocktail ever—can we get another one? The quality of the seafood at this East Village wine bar is so exceptional, it inspires faith in the divine. Those cocktail shrimp? They’re a finger long, a little sweet, and cost $22 for five—and we placed a second order immediately after the first round.

The raw items at this 31-seat counter, situated right above sister restaurant Claud, are a teaser of the seafood to come. Behind the low, long white marble bar—the only seating here—it’s organized chaos, as a handful of chefs bring the short menu to life. They’re working with limited space, with just enough room to arrange shellfish on ice, pull loaves of brioche out of an oven, and herd restless live lobsters back onto shelves. A server squeezes by to procure bottles from a stocked-to-the-ceiling wine room behind you.

Plates of seafood and an ice box on a white marble counter.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The white marble counter inside Penny.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The counter inside Penny.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The entrance to Penny.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Plates of seafood and an ice box on a white marble counter.
The white marble counter inside Penny.
The counter inside Penny.
The entrance to Penny.

You can see everything being prepped from your incredibly plush stool, and still, each dish pulls off a nonchalant reveal: the soft tuna crumble inside your squid; the oysters in your oyster roast, hidden under a puffy pastry hat that disintegrates into the creamy shellfish sauce as soon as you crack it open. You don’t have much room to work with either, but the counter is deep, with enough surface area for a full dinner spread, should you choose to follow your small plates with a whole lobster or elegantly frenched dover sole. 

Penny makes the best case for the existence of Summer Fridays, and you should bring Summer Friday spirit no matter what day or time you manage to walk in. (They take limited reservations, but you can often find an early or late spot day-of.) And no matter how crowded it gets, when their ice cream sandwich appears—an actual miniature sandwich in scaled-down slices of brioche—you’ll hear it over the buzz of conversation and the Japanese city pop: the night’s final oh my god.

A hand holding an ice cream sandwich with a bite in it.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Food Rundown

The ice box at Penny.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Ice Box

Penny’s $36 Ice Box is the seafood tower’s cooler cousin. It comes with oysters, countneck clams, one split scallop, mussels, and Argentinian red shrimp—some of the best raw shrimp we’ve ever consumed in this city. The shrimp and garlic aioli combo is particularly swoonworthy. They also have a $98 Ice Box Plus with a rotating selection of fancier things like crab and periwinkles, but the original feels luxurious enough on its own. It’s totally worth it to come here for just the ice box and a glass of wine right after work.
A brioche loaf next to a pile of butter with two anchovies on top of the butter.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Steamed Brioche and Butter

The bread course is non-negotiable. The loaves are baked fresh in a convection oven behind the counter, with browned and salted tops. Chunks come off as easily as cotton candy, and it's served with some very good whipped butter. You can, and should, add Cantabrian anchovies for $6. You only get three filets, but we promise it’s worth it.
Club crackers, oyster confit, and creme fraiche on a white plate.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Oyster Confit

We didn’t expect to become so attached to this little snack. But the combination of seasoned oysters swimming in chicken fat, creme fraiche, and spiced Club crackers is inspired, and pairs well with any white wine.
A food spread on the counter at Penny.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The Wine

Speaking of wine, like everything else at Penny, there are hidden depths. You’ll find a short menu of excellent by-the-glass options (no filler here), and bottles, but if you want to see the complete list of around 1000 wines, largely from Europe, just ask.
Puff pastry on top of oysters in cream.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Oyster Pan Roast

Penny’s version comes with a crackly, browned puff pastry on top, creating a coastal pot pie situation that, like most things here, is both decadent and light. Underneath it, silky shucked oysters and seasonal vegetables sit in a velvet broth.
Two squid on a plate.

Stuffed Squid

With every new dish, Penny shows off their ability to make you ooh-and-ahh. Cut this stuffed squid open and you’ll find a gorgeous mix of swiss chard and tuna, with a smoky harissa-like sauce. Order it.
Dover sole on a white plate.

photo credit: Sonal Shah

Dover Sole + Bone Marrow

You’ll often encounter dover sole drowning in butter and lemon juice. In this restrained dish, the fish is stylishly deboned and frenched, and its flavor shines against the deeper umami of bone marrow, red wine, and shimeji mushrooms. Get this if you like seafood with subtle, layered flavors.

Cod + Clams

There’s nothing wrong with this cod dish—it’s just the least interesting dish on a menu that sets a high bar. Braised scallions pair well with the delicate fish and clams, and you should use that brioche to sop up the rest of the clean, clammy broth. Order this on your third or fourth visit.
A small ice cream sandwich on a plate.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Ice Cream Sandwich

When was the last time you felt truly happy? We won’t get too existential about it, because all it really took for us was this ice cream sandwich. Vanilla and balsamic strawberry ice cream, in between two slices of that salted sesame brioche from earlier. It’s perfect.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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