Ecco is, hands-down, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s date night, it’s special occasions, it’s a casual happy hour at the bar…it’s just one of those places you can go anytime.
Recently, I had the opportunity to dine there and sample the new summer menu. Because Ecco’s menu changes seasonally (and oftentimes, many times per season), you can be sure that the ingredients in the dishes you enjoy there are at their peak. Sometimes, they’re even from the roof (the rooftop garden, that is)!
One of my favorite things about dining at Ecco is that Executive Chef Craig Richards is often on hand to answer any questions we have about the food, and luckily he was there for our Saturday night visit to give us some insight into what we were enjoying.
We started with one of Ecco’s signature cocktails, Long Live the Queen – Bombay Sapphire Gin with hints of elderflowers, lemon, peach and mint, served up ($12). It’s a particular favorite of mine – so light and refreshing – and it’s no surprise that they highlight it for summer. Another new summer favorite, for those of you a little more inclined toward the sweet profile, is the Refreshed and Sustained – sweet pink peppercorns, thyme, lemon, and vodka ($9) – a light pink concoction guaranteed to “color your chakra.” Love boubon? I also highly recommend the Sticky Sweet, as deliciously naughty as the name suggests, it’s a light combination of sparkling wine, blackberry whiskey, and velvet falernum ($12). If you’re looking to stay on the “healthy” side of things, check out the Jack Lalanne – Mr. Organic, an homage to the fitness king himself, it features carrot cubes swimming in organic coconut water and Crusoe Organic Rum ($11).
Cocktails over…or at least, cocktails begun…we moved on to starters. I can make a meal out of appetizers, much like the Will and Grace episode (you know, the one where Will says, “Whenever my dad goes to a restaurant he always says the same thing. “God, I can make a meal just from the appetizers.” So, that’s what I’m making him: a meal of appetizers.”) – this is especially true at Ecco. A perennial favorite of ours is the Fried Goat Cheese (pictured above), which thankfully never gets booted from the menu. Deliciously gooey balls of goat cheese are lightly fried in a tempura batter and then sprinkled with coarsely ground black pepper and drizzled in honey. Sigh.
Competing for attention on the summer menu are also Chef Craig’s Stuffed Squash Blossoms – trust me, get them now before they’re no longer in season (Chef says only another week or so!). They’re coming right from Ecco’s rooftop garden, and they’re stuffed with housemade mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, anchovy, and chili flake, and come with a bit of basil emulsion and a gorgeous, delicate fried basil leaf on top ($9) – watch Chef Craig describe how his Stuffed Squash Blossoms are made on our video tour of the rooftop garden. They are heaven on a plate – a must-try this season!
The squid dish (which has replaced, for now at least, the squid-with-Harissa dish that we love) is a Piri Piri Squid, served on a bed of Castelvetrano olive puree with a sunny side egg and cilantro ($9) – if you’ve ever wondered if squid, fried egg and cilantro would work well together, wonder no more; it was a surprising combination, but we enjoyed every bite. We also sampled the Lamb Meatballs, served in a Tzatziki- like mixture of cucumbers, yogurt and cumin ($8).
Our main course was the Sea Trout a la plancha, with romesco, green tomatoes, cucumbers and mint ($26). After the smorgasboard of starters (which could, after all, have been our meal), the trout was a nice, light choice. We enjoyed our trout with a side of Local Beans, served with shaved torpedo onions, opal basil, mustard seed, and sesame oil ($6).
Just when you think you’re about to burst, it’s time for dessert, which is not to be missed. (Moral of the story: save room.) I fell in love with the Crema Catalan ($8), flavored with orange and cinnamon and served with almond cookies (to be honest, it was the almond cookies that originally sold me, but the Crema Catalan did not disappoint). As our waitress described, Crema Catalan is perfect for summer because it has less egg than a creme brûlée, making it lighter. My husband had a hankering for chocolate, so he chose the Chocolate Walnut Semifreddo, with caramel espresso ($8) – he proclaimed it a chocolate lover’s dream.
Since Ecco’s menus are always seasonal and can, therefore, change in the middle of a season, if you want to experience these dishes, you’d better get a move on, especially if you want to sample those amazing squash blossoms. Rest assured, however, if you miss out on a summer menu selection, they’ll be another one to try in its place…
Full disclosure: Ecco graciously hosted us for dinner and our bill was comped by the house. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.