There’s nothing subtle about The Fulton. It’s from a French chef who has more than 35 restaurants around the world. This one is located on Pier 17, a development at the Seaport that has multiple places to eat, a cocktail bar, and a rooftop concert venue. The Fulton itself is massive, with two floors, hundreds of seats, a giant sea monster mural, and very good views of the Brooklyn Bridge. And the fact that they serve seafood in a nautically-themed indoor/outdoor space on the water next to what used to be a fish market is so on the nose that it’s a talking fish mascot away from parody.
If your tourist trap radar is going off, we can’t blame you. After all, a lot of people probably come here for the impressive views and the opportunity to say “Jean-Georges” out loud. But even if you think of yourself as a savvy New Yorker, The Fulton is impressive, and it’s where you’ll find some of the very best seafood in the city.
Despite the steady parade of seafood towers and the big windows overlooking the river, the Fulton doesn’t try to impress with formality. There are no white tablecloths, and rather than chandeliers, the lights hang from dock lines on the ceiling. The servers make jokes and high-five you for ordering another bottle of wine at lunch, and even though the wine list is overpriced and surprisingly limited, every bottle of Italian and Spanish white wine is under $60. That means you can drink plenty of seafood-friendly wine while focusing your spending and attention on the seafood itself.
The food here ranges from dishes that involve 10-minute tableside preparations, to others that entail little more than shepherding a high-quality piece of fish from some faraway dock to your plate. The end result of both is the same, and it’s perfectly prepared seafood worth weaving through cargo shorts and croakies to get to. Of the simply prepared options, which include seven types of crudos and seven types of seafood lightly cooked in olive oil, the best are the sea scallops. They come with a sweet charred crust on the outside, and the nearly raw meat at the center somehow tastes like butter from a very pampered cow.
On the other end of the spectrum are dishes that crank the dial way up on production value, and turn out equally excellent. The juicy soft shell crab looks like it’s wearing a flower crown of colorful shaved radishes. Chunks of lobster the size of golf balls come mixed in with the longevity noodles. Then there’s the whole black sea bass, the best and most over-the-top dish here. It’s deboned tableside, and served inside a pastry shell that looks like an ornamental wooden family heirloom dating back to Poseidon himself. With every bite, you’ll get flaky bread, meaty fish, and sauce as rich as anything on the dessert on the menu. It’s enough to feed four, and the only downside to ordering it for two (like the menu suggests) is that you’ll have to carry some phenomenal leftovers home.
Even the non-seafood options on the menu are prepared perfectly, like a burger topped with gruyere and dijon chili mayo that serves as a solid reminder why humans started domesticating farm animals 10,000 years ago.
It’d be easy for The Fulton to rely on its location to bring in crowds, and then serve overpriced food to people too focused on Jean-Georges’ name to notice. Feel free to take these preconceptions with you into a meal here. And if it somehow makes you feel like more of a New Yorker, feel free to ignore the unobstructed views of the bridge over the river, too. Because as soon as you take your first bite of a scallop, you’ll realize that even though there are tourists here, it’s not a tourist trap.
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Whether they have a vetting process for fisherman like NASA does for astronauts, or they just have good connections at the market, The Fulton uses really high-quality fish. This is clear in all of their seafood dishes, but especially with the “simply cooked” options and the crudos. The sea trout and oyster tartare crudo that comes with toasted black bread should be how you start your meal here.
The scallops are equal parts sweet and rich, and you need to get at least one order for your table. Just know that they’ll ruin all other scallops for you moving forward.
Mozzarella and braised octopus may not roll off the tongue quite like BEC and cold Gatorade, but they happen to go together just as well. The tender octopus and creamy mozzarella are served with coarse sea salt and lemon juice that help cut through the richness.
Soft Shell Crab
The fried shell on this crab reminds us of the batter at Popeyes (that’s a very good thing). It packs quite a bit of spice, but the juicy meat from the crab is still the main flavor. Order this.
Every bite of these chewy Chinese wheat noodles tastes like they’ve been pulled directly out of a bowl of gingery, not-too-salty chicken broth. We don’t know exactly how that’s possible considering there’s no visible chicken broth, but there’s plenty of visible lobster. Get one of the big hunks of meat on your fork along with some noodles, and it’ll be one of the best bites here.
This is the only dish on the menu that you’ll regret ordering. The big bowl of fish stew has a lot of seafood - including scallops, mussels, clams, halibut, sea bass, and a prawn - but the flavors are masked by the thick broth that tastes like an off-putting combination of lemon and licorice.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Seafood is clearly the main attraction at The Fulton, but you’ll also be very happy eating this burger. The crispy, juicy patty is topped with fried onions and salty gruyere, and if you’re not in the mood for seafood, it’s worth coming just for this.
Fish And Chips
Even if you usually eat fish and chips wearing a jersey at a sports bar, don’t overlook it here. The big slab of fish, either flounder or redfish, has a crunchy fried shell that provides a nice texture without adding too much salt. It’s also served with a saffron dipping sauce that’s good enough to turn Long John Silver’s into a destination restaurant.
Whole Black Sea Bass
The fish is presented in what looks like a Christmas ornament from Whoville. The shell is like a flattened brioche pastry crust, and if it were served in a bakery, we’d adjust our morning commute accordingly. The shell is removed and the fish is deboned tableside, and then it’s put back on top and served with rich bearnaise and tomato sauce on the side. The fish is as tender as sashimi, and that combined with the various herbs on the underside of the buttery pastry shell make this one of the best seafood dishes in New York City.
There are two things to keep in mind about this chocolate mousse. First, you should order it, and that’s because of the layers of peanut butter toffee brittle, caramel, and mousse, as well as sorbet and ice cream on the side. Second, you should share it, for the reasons stated above.