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El Fish Marisqueria

Christine Drinan, Founder

El Fish Upper West Side

It happens maybe once a year, but now there’s another reason to eat on the Upper West Side. El Fish Marisqueria, created by the team behind Toloache, has a new venture that’s arguably more exciting than the original. This one focuses on Mexican-inspired seafood that’s authentic and nouveau at the same time. I would go so far as to say that El Fish is not just where to eat on the Upper West Side, it’s worth a ride Uptown, no matter where you live. This is the review. 

Overview

I’ve been on the Upper West Side for 22 years. So, I feel that I have the agency to be frank about the tendency of my neighborhood to promote mediocrity in restaurants. Generally, there have been no foodie restaurant reasons to cross into the nether regions of the Upper West Side. For pretty much all of my time in the hood, where to eat on the Upper West Side meant places with average food and average crowd. In the past year, that’s started to change, and El Fish is on the short list of where to eat on the Upper West Side.

El Fish is the newest venture by Chef Julian Madina, who has also launched Toaloache and other Mexican-inspired restaurants in New York.  Toaloache is a favorite among friends who live on the Upper East Side so I’ve been there over the years. The food was more ground-breaking when it first opened more than 15 years ago. For example, at Toaloache they have 3 different variations of guacamole, including one with pomegranate on top, as well as at least five ceviches. This came at a time when there wasn’t great Mexican food in NYC. Today, it’s a lot less groundbreaking, but now you also have El Fish, which I think has picked up the torch from Toaloache.

Atmosphere

El Fish’s location was under construction for years and stalled during the pandemic. This past year though you would walk by and sense that something different was in the works. I’m not sure what was in the location before, but willing to bet it was either a dive diner or a random store. It was definitely not where to eat on the Upper West Side. Now that El Fish is in the neighborhood, it makes sense that there would be a good restaurant in this prime corner spot.

The interiors are beautifully done. They play off tones of caramel in the wood and a neutral palate of creams at tables that are spaced comfortably apart. You actually walk into the dining room, which is flanked at the far corners by the bar and separate oyster bar. It’s a comfortable level of lively where you can still hear your dinner companions. The crowd is typical though of the Upper West Side, where earlier dinner times are usually booked solid. Maybe the crowd will expand though, as the food and cocktails are worth the trip over.

Food

Where Toaloache was once inventive when it landed on the UES, El Fish takes it to a level never reached by its sister restaurant. The food is some of the best nouveau Mexican cuisine, without trying too hard. It’s not Cosme, which I’ve never been a big fan of, but instead where to eat on the Upper West Side when you just want a great imaginative comfort Mexican meal. It’s seafood-heavy, which is where they shine. A favorite is the lobster aguachile, which has notes of peanut butter and yuzu. The grilled oysters pick up on the Asian influence with yuzu soy and fuse it with a Mexican-inspired salsa.

The lobster Ensenada is a 2 lb or so lobster stuffed with Mexican fried rice. This dish clocks in at $45, which is a value, considering the same concept at Bad Roman up the street is a $95 dish. El Fish is where to eat on the Upper West Side when you want value for the dollar as well. That’s really what it boils down to, which I hope will make a good restaurant stick in my neighborhood. The team at El Fish knows their local customer, but also significantly elevates the generally accepted neighborhood food standard of mediocre.

Service

To build on the know your audience theme, El Fish’s service is tops. You can tell that they want to build their base of regulars, and the team puts a lot of genuine heart into the service. There is absolutely zero attitude, and beyond that, the servers and bartenders know the food and beverages inside out. In a short period of time, they’ve made El Fish the place to eat on the Upper West Side when you want a good experience, from start to finish.

Overall: 7.5/10

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FAQs

Q: Where is El Fish located?

A: 155 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023

Q: What are the hours of operation of El Fish?

A:

Sunday 5–10 PM
Monday 5–10 PM
Tuesday 5–10 PM
Wednesday 5–10 PM
Thursday 5–10 PM
Friday 5–11 PM
Saturday 5–11 PM

Q: Does El Fish deliver?

A: Currently they’re not delivering at El Fish, but we’re told that they have those plans in the future. However, you can do larger-scale catering from El Fish.

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