Wild Edibles Seafood Market Oyster & Wine Bar
535 Third Avenue
New York, New York
If you’re easily aroused by ambiance, trust me, Wild Edibles’ Third Avenue hole-in-the-wall isn’t about to set off any bells or whistles in your psyche. On the other hand, if you have a fetish for pristinely fresh seafood, a visit to this tiny thalassic enclave, NYC’s finest fish market, is the absolute sine qua non of any sojourn to the Big Apple.
Wild Edibles made its debut in October 1992 with several ice chests and private vehicles utilized in the distribution of freshly caught, wild seafood to Manhattan’s top chefs and purveyors. To make a long story short, the business has since morphed into four retail outlets, with the Murray Hill location, 535 Third Avenue, opening in 2001. It remained a retail store until March 2007 when the company augmented the fish market with a seafood bistro and wine & oyster bar.
You enter the narrow space… to your left, a plethoric variety of fresh fish attractively displayed on glistening pillows of ice; to your right, eight (8) VERY closely spaced tables accommodating all of sixteen (16) diners – and you thought only incommodious Paris bistros required contortionistic convolutions! To the rear, a tiny (5 seat) wine bar and, just beyond that, the open kitchen. Oh… and bear in mind, should nature call in the midst of your chow-down, you must traverse the hazards of this tumultuous cookhouse to reach the restroom.
If you’re already thinking you’ll probably pass on this one, allow me to dissuade you. Wild Edibles pulsates with the very essence of New York’s culinary soul. Strip away the hype & hoopla surrounding many establishments, the often outrageous tariffs, and, of course, the hordes of maladroit tourists in search of the latest gastronomic thrill ride, and you have Manhattan dining in its purist form.
While some gullible day-tripper from the wilds of New Jersey is shelling out his first-born’s college tuition, enduring a snooty maitre d’, condescending sommelier, and phalanx of supercilious wait staff lackeys – all for the dubious privilege of hobnobbing with the rich & shameless at the latest au curant temple of haute cuisine – you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the real New York, roughing it with the locals, sliding down flights of impeccably fresh oysters & pours of white wine or draws of beer, indulging in the Big Apple’s freshest seafood, and saving a ton of your hard-earned long green along the way. Given the outstanding quality of the food, and the City’s ungodly overhead, Wild Edibles’ prices are incredibly reasonable.
Should raw oysters or clams not quite be your thing, there are numerous other options to start things off. Both the Manhattan (red) and New England (white) clam chowders make excellent preludes… as does the Clams Casino, the original 1917 recipe from Narragansett, Long Island. Then, of course, there is also the Oyster Tempura, plump bivalves deep fried in an ethereal batter and accompanied by seaweed salad and Old Bay dressing. And both the lump crab cake and crisp calamari rings constitute first-rate opening moves. The former is served up with a smoked pepper remoulade, the latter with a zippy chipotle aioli.
If you’re dropping by at lunch or for a light, casual bite in the evening, the sandwich offerings – Maine lobster roll, salmon burger, tuna burger, and tuna club all served up with Old Bay seasoned fries – have a great deal to recommend them. Among the entrées proper you have a benchmark fish & chips (prepared with pollock, a white-fleshed fish similar in taste and texture to cod); pan-roasted sea bream (a member of the perch family); crisp trout companioned by shaved apples, toasted walnuts & bacon; skillet-seared skate wing, lobster rigatoni, and a scrumptious seafood ravioli that is prepared fresh daily in house.
But there are several other interesting main course possibilities… If you enjoy Prince Edward Island mussels, for example, you may order them by the pound and then match them up with the broth of your choice. Recently sampled was the “Mediterranean,” a delectable combo of saffron, fennel, lemon, and olive oil. And these mussels are among the best my wife and I have sampled anywhere. They tantalize the taste buds with their rich, meaty countenance and then melt away to a succulent nothingness on the tongue. Some of the eleven (11) saucy match ups include: “Classic” (shallots, white wine, cream); “Thai” (green curry, coconut milk, lemon & lime; “Italian” (parmesan, tomato, leek, basil); and “South of the Border” (oregano, chorizo sausage, chipotle).
You may also create your own entrée from the seafood market. First, you choose a particular fish; then you pick one of five seasoning to embellish your selection. All fish are pan roasted and come with a gathering of field greens splashed with a seductive sherry wine & lemon vinaigrette. The tuna steak, for instance, will undoubtedly find a perfect match with the miso glaze, while the swordfish might pair very well with an assertive chipotle-orange. Most recently, my finny fare of choice was the filet of sole, which, because of its delicate taste & texture, benefited from the profound simplicities of fresh herbs & extra virgin olive oil.
After indulging in such pristinely fresh seafood, desserts may seem rather superfluous. However, should you have an incurably sweet tooth, the New York-style cheesecake is one denouement that – especially in the Big Apple – always seems appropriate. On the other hand, when it is available, the homemade bread pudding is not to be missed.
Given the bustling atmosphere and cramped quarters, Wild Edibles obviously isn’t for everyone. But if you crave impeccably fresh seafood, are gregarious of nature, and want – if only briefly – to immerse yourself in the fabulously frenetic warp & woof of New York City, this is a dining experience you will very much enjoy.
The Artful Diner
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Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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