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“Excellent food and service”

Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar
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Ranked #34 of 156 Restaurants in Middletown
Cuisines: Italian
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Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Bar scene
Dining options: Late Night, Dinner, Lunch, Reservations
Hartford
Level 6 Contributor
140 reviews
104 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 78 helpful votes
“Excellent food and service”
Reviewed November 7, 2010

I was surprised to read the reviews on Tripadvisor after we dined there last night. We started with a "small plate" of a fried mozzarella that had an eggplant sauce - very tasty. The main course of duck was outstanding - very tender and moist with a subtle sauce. I thought the pasta with crab and lobster was also excellent with lots of crab and lobster meat in a creamy sauce. The apple galette with creme fraiche was superb. Prices were high but not unreasonable. My only complaint was the high chair we sat on in the bar area was very uncomfortable for a person six feet tall.

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    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank gparch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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163 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Spanish first
  • Turkish first
  • Any
English first
Stamford, Connecticut
Level 4 Contributor
26 reviews
14 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Thought It Was Quite Good In Spite of the Other Reviews”
Reviewed July 27, 2010

I'm actually quite surprised to see the reviews listed on Esca as I have had 3 very enjoyable trips there to date. My first was last summer (July 2009) when it had first opened. We sat outside, which was actually quite nice despite being on the corner of 2 busy streets. It was a beuatiful day and we wanted to spend it outside. We had a variety of small plates and sangria. It was delicious. I was there with 2 other people, just for small bites and drinks, and the total bill only came to $50 for the three of us, granted we just grazed for a while. Waitress was attentive and very sweet. We came back 2 times in the fall and both times we had excellent food (my favorite is the short ribs, they are amazing!) and great drinks. I really can't think of anything wrong with the place. Perhaps it is pricier than other places near it, I'm honestly not sure, but I enjoyed everything I got and wouldn't hesitate to go back. In fact, we're hosting 2 parties in the upstairs private room so I look forward to sharing my comments on how that goes! For now I think the place is great, and it's nice to have a place like this on Main street.

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Helpful?
1 Thank schifjo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Southbury, Connecticut
Level 5 Contributor
97 reviews
73 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 94 helpful votes
“Maybe I need to diet, but that's not Esca's job."”
Reviewed June 7, 2010

I have been waiting for Esca to appear on the Trip Advisor site so that I could finally have a sense of closure and susbsequent vindication. We dined there in late October of 2009 and I just recently discovered that there is a spot for Esca to be reviewed on Trip Advisor.

First let me say what is good about Esca. They are flexible. We were late for our Saturday evening reservation because of a blinding rainstorm that night. Our table was held and waiting for us, despite a full house.

The décor is very nice although the restaurant itself is noisy. Fair enough; it does call itself a wine "bar" and bars are noisy. I do take issue however with a group of yuppies (all young women) seated in a nearby corner. They were very loud. They also seemed to enjoy dropping the f-bomb. I suppose no one from management heard them, but in a place like this, I would not expect to find such crudeness.

Service was fine and very helpful to my dining companion who opted to try a "wine flight."

So much for the good stuff. Each and every dish was consistently unremarkable and really overpriced. Now comes the "diet" part. I understand the concept of "continental portions" but this was ridiculous. I swear that they must have COUNTED the calamari rings in the appetizer (which we shared)! The execution of the dish itself was OK at best. I ordered the sea bass and what I got tasted OK but it was the size of a can of Fancy Feast. There was a "garnish" of crab meat and asparagus. This was probably the tastiest item on the plate but there was perhaps a tablespoon of it all together. At least this item had an excuse...it was after all, only the garnish.

It is at this point in my reviews, (you can check them) that I say that I just couldn't opt for dessert because I had found the appetizer and the entrée to be more than sufficient. Not at Esca! There was more than enough room to gamble on one final item that might justify its pricetag. When I spotted the crème brûlée, flavored with Tahitian vanilla, I thought that this might redeem an incredibly underwhelming dining experience up to now. The vanilla might as well have been from New Jersey. Again, the dish was adequate, but not even close to justifying its exorbitant pricing.

Dinner for two which included a shared appetizer, 2 entrées, one "wine flight" ($9), one dessert, tax and tip totaled over $110. This was by far the poorest dining value I have encountered in my travels. And to think that I have negociated some of the country's worst tourist traps only to ripped off like this a mere 20 miles from home.

How could it have been better? Simple. The restaurant cold have chosen fair prices or fair portions. If Esca had cost me one-half as much, or gave me double of what they did (which still would not have been all that much), I would not have an ax to grind. What I find amazing is that the place was full, but in this economy, particularly here in central Connecticut, I can't see this place maintaining this affectation for long. For the moment, it's new, it's trendy, and there is a certain downtown/ small city/ Main St. appeal about the place. But all this won't matter if there is not a sense of basic value ("getting what you paid for") for dining at Esca.

I have been burned, and I will not be back.

    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank REGT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Connecticut
Level 6 Contributor
119 reviews
101 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
“High end prices with unimpressive food”
Reviewed May 26, 2010

We made a last minute decision to dine out on a Friday night and chose Esca because we had heard about it from a friend. We called 30 minutes before for a reservation and was told no problem, just show up. We arrived at 6:15 to a mostly empty restaurant. There's a few tables along the sidewalk...why anyone would want to eat on the corner of Rt. 66 and Main St. is beyond me, but sure enough, their were people outside trying to enjoy a meal amidst the non-stop din of cars and trucks 10 feet away. We were greeted at the door and shown a nice table on the mezzanine overlooking the action. Service was prompt and friendly, and in a few moments we were sipping our drinks looking over a most interesting menu.

I chose the zuppa di mussels. The meat was overdone, not much flavor all in all, a few bits of tomatoes, pancetta that looked and tasted like american bacon. Rather lacking in taste and somewhat disappointing. My wife ordered the antipasto misto which was a small plate of prosciutto slices, olives, mushrooms, a small stuffed pepper, and some camponata. I have eaten plenty camponata to die for, and this was lousy in comparison. The rest of the plate was barely ok, but certainly didn't live up to its billing.

My main course was the grilled halibut in a tomato reduction special. It consisted of about a six ounce piece of very fresh meat cooked to perfection although almost no seasoning that I could taste, sitting on a very ordinary risotto, garnished with arugula (I think), with the most delicious sauce all around. The sauce made the dish although I would have preferred a little more seasoning on the grilling and a garnish with more taste. Our other meal was the crispy chilean sea bass. Rather than get into the details, lets just summarize, lacking flavor and not worth ordering. Desert was a creme brulee made with made with "tahitian vanilla" that was yet another half-hearted attempt at good marketing, plus a decaf coffee that was undrinkable.

Dinner for two, including appetizer, one drink each, main course, dessert and tip was over $140. A little pricey for the quality and we left a little disappointed. Having said that, service was excellent, the seating was comfortable, and the ambience was good. I would like to go back and try some of the meat dishes at some point, but there are lots of other restaurants around that look more interesting.

    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank JoshuaMConnecticut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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