“But the lobster bisque!”
You don’t have to go through the rigamaroll Jerry Seinfeld went through to get a good bowl of seafood bisque in New York City–and you don’t have to go to The Original Soup Man (also known as the Soup Nazi!) to get it, either. (Leave Soup Man and Magnolia Bakery to the tourists!) There are so many places to get a fantastic bowl of seafood bisque for National Seafood Bisque Day! One of my favorite kinds of soup, a bisque is a creamy French soup that uses strained crustacean broth, giving the soup a deep flavor of the seafood you’ve used. Whether it be crabmeat, lobster, or shrimp, and if you include the meaty bits of the seafood or not–it’s all a bisque, so long as the seafood (or its shell!) has been stewed into a broth, strained, and cream has been added. And man, what flavor a bisque can have! They’re one of the more sought-after soups for its high-quality ingredients and creamy, substantial feel–clear broth soup, this is not. But get the wrong seafood bisque and you can find yourself with lots of artificial flavoring and salt–never something you want in your soup! (And something the Soup Man is unfortunately all-too guilty of.) So where are some of the best places in New York to get a great bowl of seafood bisque?
If you’re looking for anything even remotely related to lobster, from rolls to bisque and everything in between, your first stop has got to be Luke’s Lobster. One of the top seafood restaurants in Manhattan, Luke’s Lobster is New York’s answer to the New Englans seaside seafood shack, simple and beautiful in both its atmosphere and menu. The only thing you have to think about when you get into the restaurant is how you want your lobster to be served to you: whole, with a little bit of drawn butter to pull out the flavor as you smash that shell to pieces; in their world-famous lobster roll, filled to the brim with succulent lobster meat; or as their celebrated lobster bisque, served in a crusty bread bowl and made fresh every day. Luke’s prides itself on being the behemoth of lobster joints in Manhattan, and you can definitely tell with this bisque, that pulls no punches in the meat department: huge chunks of lobster meat reside within the creamy broth, so you know you’re getting a soup that’s worth its weight in seafood. When you have a menu that basically consists of three different variations of one ingredient, you get really damn good at it, and that can definitely be seen at Luke’s Lobster and in their bisque.
242 E 81st St (between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave)
“Luke Holden and Ben Conniff have expanded their popular East Village lobster roll joint to a third location on the Upper West Side. This outpost—decked out in buoys, lobster traps and nets—features the same Maine-style menu as the original, plus the bread-bowl soups (lobster bisque, clam chowder, crab bisque) available at the Upper East Side location. The pickup counter is modeled after a seaside shack, and a mural depicts Kettle Cove, ME, where Holden grew up.”–Time Out New York
“Of course, only a subversive anarchist would go to a place called Luke’s Lobster and then order corn chowder. So naturally, I tried their Lobster Bisque. If you’re used to a bisque that’s country club smooth, then you’ve got another thing coming with Luke’s version. This version is thick and gritty, and with so much lobster in the bisque that its just one step shy of being a lobster stew.”–Eatery Row
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The sample of lobster bisque was…awesome. I would definitely rate it as the best lobster bisque I’ve ever had! If I could order this soup by the gallon, I would. In fact, they should sell growlers of this soup.”–Phil J.
“Very fresh seafood! Low-key environment. A little pricey, but you get what you pay for, and that’s really good food! Lobster bisque was jam packed full of big chunks of lobster, and gritty in a good way, yet still smooth. Don’t ask me how it can be both gritty and smooth. It just is and it is good.”–Jane H.
Luke’s lobster bisque might be the darling of Manhattan, but off that island and onto another and you’ve found yourself in Queens…and Psari country. Many of the outer boroughs (unless you’re a locavore eatery in the Slope) are overlooked by the critics but have just as good, if not better and more authentic, dishes and restaurants as Manhattan. Take the Astoria gem Psari Seafood Restaurant, a Greek-style seafood eatery that’s all about freshness, variety, and tradition. A raw bar serves up fresh oysters and clams while the restaurant itself displays their catches of the day at the front of house on ice, so you can choose the fish you want to snack on most. But the neighborhood bloggers have gone nuts over their spicy shrimp bisque, seasoned with red pepper and filled with shrimp bits and flavor. It’s the perfect start to a great, authentic Greek meal stuffed with seafood–just the way I like it.
Psari Seafood Restaurant & Bar
3210 36th Ave, Astoria
“It’s all about the fish here, obviously, and the variety and freshness will keep diners coming back again and again. We started with their famous grilled octopus which is tender and juicy and nicely charred on the outside, thanks to its preparation on the charcoal grill. Maryland crab cakes are popular and deliciously seasoned, as are the baked clams topped with lots of breadcrumbs. A Greek specialty called “Atherina” is a tiny dish of smelts, fried until crisp and golden, just like fries. From the raw bar, choose briny fresh oysters or clams, sold by the half dozen and served with wedges of lemon and cocktail sauce. A bowl of creamy shrimp bisque or seafood soup is soulwarming during these lingering cold days.”–Queens Gazette
“As soon as you’re seating you get this yummy crispy garlic bread! The wine selection was amazing and some bottels were 22$! A great deal! Started with the shrimp bisque. It was creamy, rich, and so hearty! With chunks of shrimp and calamari it was spiced to perfection! I would go back just to get the soup!”–I’m Hungry Again
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“We had both the fish soup and the shrimp bisque. The fish soup was more like a clear vegetable soup with fish in it. It was heartier than I would have expected, with large chunks of fish accompanied by carrots and celery. However, the shrimp bisque was creamy, indulgent goodness. I swapped bowls with my boyfriend because it was just that good.”–Camille M.
“We had the shrimp bisque, mixed seafood soup, 1 broiled and 1 steamed lobster, lemon potatoes, mixed vegetables, and they even gave us a free dessert. The food was extremely delicious and the excellent service really just complimented a great dining experience.”–Chris N.
To round out the seafood bisques of the Crustacean Triumvirate–first lobster bisque, then shrimp–you’ve got to have a great crab bisque in New York City. If you’re lucky enough to have this brisk Friday off all day, the super-swanky River Cafe, set in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, has a wonderful brunch menu that will knock your socks off. Enjoy dishes like a Maine lobster omelette, Petrossian caviar, and duck steak with eggs while witnessing one of the best riverside views you’ll find in the city. And don’t forget to order their crab and coconut bisque: made using coconut milk instead of heavy cream, the coconut flavor gives the soup a milder, cooler taste than the other bisques mentioned in this post. Add the South Asian flavors of lemongrass and Thai basil to this soup and it’s a refined, amazing taste all its own. You definitely won’t find a crab chowder like this anywhere in New England. It’s a bit to splurge on for a Friday morning brunch, but hey, if you can’t shell out the clams for National Seafood Bisque Day, when will you, ya crab? 😛
1 Water St (between W Cadman Plz & Brooklyn Brg), Brooklyn
“Nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge, the River Cafe offers a view of the Manhattan skyline you would see on a postcard. With additional space on the outdoor deck (perfect for summertime cocktails), a candlelit dining room and a separate terrace room for larger parties, this a restaurant for any occasion–scratch that, any special occasion. The River Cafe has the sort of cuisine you would expect from a modern American bistro. The dinner menu features such delicacies as foie gras with carmelized apple and brioche “French toast,” crab and coconut bisque, and a selection of seafood.”–Trails
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The crab and coconut bisque was creamy and the crab was not overcooked. The coconut flavor along with the basil and lemongrass made it a very good soup. The wagyu steak tartar was fantastic. The toast was perfect, and the meat tasted like it was cooked. Cornichons, chives, mustard, and capers were added along with a raw quail egg to make the tartar.”–Tony T.
“I was surprised with a dinner at the River Cafe for my birthday. Nestled in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, the River Cafe is on the water, with spectacular views of Manhattan. I spent most of the meal gawking at the skyline, boats, and water taxi (yes, I’m a native New Yorker). Okay, now the meal. Awesome. The menu includes a $100 prix fixe option (appetizer, entree, dessert). Almost all of the choices sounded delicious and we had a difficult time choosing. While waiting for our appetizers we were treated to an Asian-inspired amuse bouche. I can only speak for myself, but my crab bisque and duck breast were wonderful. Excellent flavors.”–Ana B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!