Thursday, June 11, 2009
Esca: worth getting a babysitter
It's official: being a grown-up is in.
Esca, the long-awaited wine bar at the corner of Washington & Main, ushers in a new level of sophisticated dining in Middletown.
At a family & friends opening party on Wednesday night, the new restaurant was packed with well-wishers who clustered around the bar or found a table and ordered dinner. I tried the sea salt crusted free-range chicken, which was terrific. I also heard raves about the sea bass and an interesting appetizer of grilled calamari and citrusy red cabbage.
Esca lives up to the "wine bar" label, with 199 choices and a special kind of breathable wine glass from Germany that will attract oenophiles from around the region. The lively atmosphere -- helped along at the opening party by the musical stylings of Tony Reali (we joined in on My Way) -- was especially enjoyable from our perch on the mezzanine. But we also table-hopped to sit with friends near the Main Street windows, and in the long banquettes. One couple noted that they got a babysitter so they could savor the evening at their table-for-two. And a group of at least a dozen sat family-style at a long table of their own. There's lots of variety here, and it's all good.
The restaurant opens to the general public on Thursday, but locals know to let a new kitchen find its feet before they rush in. Give Elisa Bramato and her restaurant some time to settle in. Esca looks to be worth the wait.