New York City is already saturated with seafood restaurants, some of them excellent and others more or less in the solid to pedestrian range. So long as the quality of ingredients is there, it is difficult to mess up the seafood and who wouldn’t want a giant oyster platter or some whole roasted fish for a dinner get-together? Perhaps for that reason, with the exception of fine-dining institutions such as Le Bernardin and Marea, you don’t see a ton of seafood centric restaurants that experiment with different ingredients and techniques for a unique take on the bounties from the sea. Enter Alex Raij and Eder Montero, the husband-wife duo behind a collection of excellent Spanish restaurants like El Quinto Pino (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2018/08/31/el-quinto-pino/) and La Vara. They have opened a new seafood restaurant last year in Brooklyn, right next to La Vara, this time not bound by Spanish culinary traditions. My wife Jun and I dine with my ex-co-worker’s couple (her husband is a big foodie) from time to time, and the husband said he was dying to go to Saint Julivert Fisherie last year so I went ahead and booked a table in January. As with my previous experience at other restaurants from the couple, Saint Julivert was a very satisfying experience, with plenty of dishes that should grab your attention.
The menu at Saint Julivert consists almost exclusively of small plates for sharing. The portion size (especially compared to the price) could be an issue if you came to the restaurant looking for a roasted whole fish; on the flip side, for that reason we were able to order many dishes to get a sense of what the kitchen was trying to accomplish. I can tell that the kitchen is not afraid to combine ingredients in an unexpected way or use parts of fish that do not first come to our mind. The pig ear terrine with kombu and oysters on top, which Eater critic Ryan Sutton spoke very highly of, was indeed a great dish to start with. I absolutely loved the way the chili oil gave life to these ingredients whose textural combination between the meat and the shellfish turned out to be quite interesting. I was giddy that no one else in the dining party was eager to try it so I ended up eating most of this beautiful dish. You don’t often see the collar of Hamachi fish outside of Japanese restaurants, and Saint Julivert shows why it should be used more often. The flesh (which Jun graciously skinned with intense diligence) was quite delicious with jerk seasoning.
Squid carbonara with parmesan and spicy squid ink was also an interesting dish using thinly sliced squid as the noodle, while everyone also approved the skate that came with sherry and dry chili that gave a nice spicy kick. The best dish of the night, my ex-co-worker’s husband and I both agreed, was the crispy tuna bake (which also happened to be the largest dish we had ordered from the menu). It may not look much different from a fish casserole, but the addition of tomato, turmeric and curry leaf gave this dish an entirely different outlook that was quite rich and delicious. With all the seafood dishes we had ordered ending up being winners, it was perhaps not too surprising that the only dish with mixed reactions was the lone meat dish available on the menu. I thought the prego sandwich with local beef tenderloin was solid; Jun said she was disappointed as there was nothing special about the meat inside. For dessert, Jun and I split budin with Cuban bread pudding and mezcal ice cream. The bread pudding was pleasantly soft, but the ice cream’s flavor (neither of us is much of a tequila/mezcal person) was a little bit too overpowering.
Getting a reservation at Saint Julivert can be a challenge; it has quickly become a neighborhood favorite and the dining space is relatively tiny, so always best to book in advance although you can also try your luck at the bar. There is full bar with some cocktails using interesting ingredients; the wine list could certainly improve, though, with no glass options that jumped out at me. The intimate and cozy vibe of the restaurant is another plus to a dining experience at Saint Julivert. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on how seafood can be smartly done, I highly recommend Saint Julivert. There will be at least a couple of dishes that will surprise you.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 264 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Telephone: (347) 987-3710