photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Saint Julivert Fisherie
When you’re young, you don’t have to think much about your decisions. You just know you shouldn’t attempt the deep end until you’ve graduated from floaties, and you know it’s not worth going to the Yachty Or Naughty party in college if you didn’t go to the pregame. But when you get older, those easy decisions are replaced with existential dread over questions like “Should we move in together?,” “Should I get bangs?,” or “Should I go to that place for dinner tonight?”
If “that place” is Saint Julivert Fisherie, we can make your decision easier. To enjoy a meal here, you should already love seafood, you should be interested in trying unusual wines, and you should be prepared to spend more money than you might expect in a place with exclusively backless stools.
Saint Julivert is the latest spot from the people behind El Quinto Pino, Txikito, and La Vara, the excellent Cobble Hill restaurant that happens to be right next door. The menu is mostly small-ish plates inspired by what you’d find in coastal areas around the world, ideally meant to be shared while working your way through the cocktail and wine list. If you’re already running low on vacation days for the year, this is a good opportunity to take a trip to Portugal, Spain, Mexico, and whatever landlocked state tuna casserole comes from, all in one dinner.
That casserole comes in a big cast iron pan, and tastes like the kind of comfort you forget you can find in New York City. There’s also whipped mackerel, which turns out to be an extremely good thing to spread on grilled bread, ceviche that comes with fried saltines for scooping, and an excellent steak sandwich that you can opt to stuff with fried oysters. All of these dishes are examples of Saint Julivert at its best: when it’s a low-key place to eat unexpected but unfussy food. The wine menu is a tight list of esoteric options, categorized by the ocean closest to each vineyard, and at first it reads like a pop quiz you didn’t study for. But your anxiety symptoms will go away once you start chatting with the wine guy, who will pour you tastes as he tells you about the work trips that inspired his choices of reds from the Duoro and Manzanillas from Cadiz. Everyone needs work trips like his work trips.
But Saint Julivert doesn’t always feel as relaxed as we wish it did. On visits when we couldn’t find a friendly server to give us wine recommendations, and we ordered too many of the daintier dishes, the place came across more like a minimalist bar serving expensive, austere food. The hamachi collar tastes good, but it comes out alarmingly charred, like it got blown up on its way from the ocean to your plate. The bowl of posole has a ton of flavor, but too few shrimp considering it’s $21. The raw scallops are excellent, but there are only three of them, each served in a tiny shiso leaf, so you eat them like tacos that made cameos in Honey I Shrunk The Kids. The bar and high tops are all shiny silver, the lighting is a little fluorescent, and sometimes there’s no music, so it’s not impossible to feel like you’re eating a $24 half-avocado filled with crab in a very trendy doctor’s office.
Those are the things you should be aware of before heading to Saint Julivert. You should also know that overall, we like this place a lot. If you’re looking for somewhere to catch up with your friend who would be excited about eating pickled wild shrimp and gooseneck barnacles, or you have an early-in-the-game date when you want to impress someone by casually ordering Spanish sherry, Saint Julivert is a great choice. You’ll have to decide for yourself about your bangs.
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We’d be more than happy to sit at the bar at Saint Julivert all night, drinking wine, ordering this whipped mackerel, spreading it on bread, and repeating as necessary.
Not pictured: the fried saltines that come with this ceviche. It’s a nice portion of super-fresh tasting fluke, and if you don’t feel the need to eat a fried saltine, you have different ways of experiencing joy than we do.
More fried things - this time they’re hushpuppies. And they’re very good.
Crab Avocado Spoon-Salad
Crab and avocado is a combination we will always be excited about. But the fact that this is served in a skin-on, halved avocado makes it both slightly less appealing to eat and also very difficult to share.
We would eat these raw scallops alone on the plate, but they come in tiny taco form, wrapped with shiso leaf and topped with pickled onion.
Not just an excellent octopus dish, but one you don’t see in many other places (besides their other restaurant, Txikito). Take advantage.
The flavor in this soup is great, but it’s light on the real substance - a.k.a. hominy and shrimp - that would make it feel worth its $21 pricetag.
If you’re with someone, or you are someone, just looking to eat a simple, nice piece of fish, here you go.
If at any point in your life you’ve eaten a casserole, this will be familiar. But the combination of tomato, turmeric, and curry makes it different from most casseroles you’ve probably encountered. It’s the biggest dish on the menu, and it’s where you should direct your attention if you come to Saint Julivert starving.
Portugal is home to both excellent seafood and excellent steak sandwiches. This version from Saint Julivert is the lone black sheep-meat on the menu. It’s earned its right to be there.