Manhattan, NY

Mollusca: High-Quality Seafood in the Meatpacking District

Carlos L.

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Courtesy of Mollusca

Mollusca is a spirited and sophisticated seafood restaurant with influences from around the world, formed in partnership between Alpina Hospitality Group and Eric Agababayev. In March 2020, the Mollusca team and Eric began building the space in the Meatpacking District, working through the pandemic and construction delays.

Mollusca’s Brand Chef Gianmaria Sapia was born in Savona, Italy and began working in his family’s restaurant Da Nicola at the young age of six. His first job was cleaning fresh mussels and he worked through every station, learning his family’s cooking techniques and recipes. He became the head chef of the restaurant, developing his own recipes and cooking style that began to diverge from traditional Italian offerings. In 2018, he was tapped to open the first Mollusca concept in Moscow

Chef Sapia’s menu for New York showcases 35 unique varieties of mussel sauces including Cacio e Pepe; Salted Caramel and Popcorn; Peanut Butter; and Condensed milk and wasabi. The restaurant will also include a raw bar, Pasta and Risotto course— as a nod to Chef Gianmaria’s Italian heritage—and seafood-focused main courses, as well as a high-end cocktail bar and extensive wine and craft beer selections.

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Courtesy of Mollusca

The menu is actually quite extensive, featuring a raw bar showcasing Italian crudos: Tuna Crudo, tuna in salsa tonnato; Salmon Crudo, king salmon and fresh mango seasoned with salt and pepper in an Asian-inspired sauce.

Classic Rolls include Hamachi and Toro; and Chef Rolls, made with imaginative twists like Salmon marinated in caviar cream with a dash of pecorino, topped with salmon roe and tobiko; Appetizers include house signature Empanadas, stuffed with crab, shrimp, and artisanal cheese, served with house-made spicy tomato sauce Popcorn Shrimp; tempura shrimp tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce and garnished with katsobushi bonito flakes; and Gyoza, filled with crab and finished with a teriyaki glaze and fresh truffle.

The Pasta and Risotto menu features Spinach Cream Risotto, topped with with parmesan fondue, pan-seared shrimp, and black sesame seed butter made to order; and Il Grande Raviolo, a large raviolo filled with herb ricotta and egg yolk with royal black caviar and freshly shaved black truffles. Main courses consist of Grilled Octopus with a Greek salad, feta mousse, sous vide leeks, and leek purée; a surf and turf option consisting of Wagyu filet in cacio e pepe sauce with a lobster tail in lobster bisque, served with a cherry tomato salad; and Branzino, served in Chef Gianmaria’s take on all'acqua pazza with roasted tomatoes and jalapeño dressing.

The menu also includes several vegan options: Beet Spaghetti in a tofu emulsion; Trumpet mushroom scallops with butternut squash puree and pistachio vinaigrette; and Fried Tofu with edamame, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers. Desserts are equally impressive, Crème Brûlée with seasonal berries; Profiterole, cream puffs filled with pâtissier cream, condensed milk, and vanilla ice cream; and a classic Italian Tiramisu. Brunch options are available as well.

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Courtesy of Mollusca

When my guest and I arrived, we were fascinated at the elegance of Mollusca. The restaurant provides an intimate and upscale experience no matter where you are seated. Our seats felt like they were away from the other guests at the restaurant but at the same time, I can see everything going on.

We began our meal with drinks. I stayed in my comfort zone (sort of) with this one and got Normandie Club Old Fashioned 2.0 (Coconut Infused bourbon, pear brandy, spiced hazelnut demerara, walnut bitters) and my guest enjoyed a Tidal Wave. Not too sure what was in the Tidal Wave but it had a sweet yet bitter taste and resembled a wave hitting the shore in a glass (if that makes sense). Both drinks were excellent but I defiantly stuck to my old fashioned.

We wanted to get an good idea of what Mollusca was offering so we decided to start with some Ceviche. We settled on the Hamachi with a Green Serrano Chili Sauce. I think this was the perfect way to start the meal and gave us an idea of some of the perfectly cooked food and decadent flavors we were in for. We followed that up with appetizers; settling on the Fritto-Misto with Shrimp and Calamari over a little Gem Salad with an Aoli Dressing. This was amazing all around! The calamari and shrimp were both fresh and full of flavor and the Aoli dressing went well with more than just the salad. I tried some shrimp and calamari with the chili sauce from the ceviche that paired just as well.

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Courtesy of Mollusca

For our mains, I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara with Teriyaki Tuna Tartare Bontio Flakes and Parmesan Crisp. My guest wanted to have the Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Shishito Veloute, Carrot, Cucumber, Daikon, Leek Julienne. My dish was absolutely delicious and the portion was absolutely perfect (something you don’t see too often). Another thing I thought was pretty cool was how the bonito flakes were reacting to the heat; making it look like my dish was dancing or waving a me a bit (but I could’ve just been really hungry, lol). My date’s sea bass dish was a little too spicy for my tastes but she told me after that she thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

All in all, Mollusca absolutely offers a one-of-a-kind experience that I recommend partaking in at least once in your life. Although it might fall on the pricey side for most people, the quality of the food and the hospitality make a visit well worth it. If you find yourself in the meatpacking district, be sure to stop by Mollusca for an experience you won’t forget.

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Carlos is a New York City-based journalist with 10+ years of experience covering a wide array of topics such as music, art, fashion, entertainment and health and wellness. Carlos has also had cover stories in publications in the US and UK.

New York, NY
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