Downtown fish bar charges a premium price, but the fish is seafood is indeed fine.

A sense of good humor marked the menu at Escape Fish Bar with little snippets and jokes (“stalk us on Facebook!”). The staff, while perhaps a shade over-friendly on a quiet night, came off as nothing if not hospitable.

Spirits are a new addition there and, while I doubt it will become a cocktail destination, I was given a tasty whiskey sour garnished with a few slices of excellent pickled jicama. Give me more of that sweet, tangy acoutrement anytime!

There’s no doubt that Escape is on the pricey side. Plates of grilled fish run up to $25 and the bulk of the starters are over $10. I feel like I could have pushed dinner for two up over $100 without a small effort. Still, the prices were more or less deserved. Fish chowder, built with a dairy-free coconut base, had unexpected richness and a tangy, almost smoky bite. Topped with a needless (but delicious) filet of fried fish, I’d call it an excellent variation on chowder as we know it.

Crab cakes ($15) had plenty of delicate crab meat and, perhaps most importantly, a generous serving of that marvelous pickled jicama. Neither bready nor chewy, their texture and composition were spot on, although the liberal application of spicy tartar sauce overwhelmed the subtle crab flavor.

The most expensive dish on the menu, a $25 swordfish plate walked a fine line in terms of expense. The fish was of exceptional quality, finely seasoned and adroitly grilled, but I have a hard time saying it was really worth the price of entry. The portion was generous and the cilantro-lime rice was quite nice, but the simplicity of the plate demanded a more modest price tag in my eyes. While I enjoyed every bite of the masterfully grilled fish, I would have been more comfortable with paying marginally less since the preparation was so modest. For a lot of people, that’s a judgment call to be made one way or the other.

738 Fifth Avenue

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