174 East 82nd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues
New York, NY 10028
After my lobster roll initiation at The Mermaid Inn recently, I have been fixated on satisfying my lobster roll fix. While Luke’s is high atop my list, I suggested Flex Mussels to my gang as it was convenient, it has the endorsements from Zagat and Michelin, and you could make a reservation. I was dismayed that I couldn’t book a reservation at 8pm on a Thursday night on OpenTable, and then I resorted to calling Flex Mussels and could only make an 8:30 or 6 pm reservation. 8:30 it was then.
As those reservation-making blips would imply, the restaurant was packed. When I walked in to meet my dinner companions, I had to smush into a host stand so that other people could get by. The front room containing the bar and some seating was full of folk.
We were seated at a round table in the back right corner. We started off with an Australian (sounded like) waitress who might have been a trainee as she was often accompanied by a genial, affable, more confident waiter. What is neat is that Flex Mussels offers complimentary sparkling water. And they make it or filter all their water themselves or something.
Belinda, Stacy, Julie, and I ended up going the family-style way, ordered several dishes and sharing them. All I knew was that I wanted lobster rolls and made this clear to the other three. No problem. I ordered a Québécois beer, Unibrou, called Ephemere which was very granny smith-y, as it was supposed to be. The label helpfully X-marked a champagne flute and suggested pouring the bottle into a goblet. What did Flex Mussels give me? A flute. Rebels! Anyhoo, it was decided that we would get oysters, mussels, and lobster rolls. Yummy.
Free bread made an appearance. A pleasant bread basket.
I slurped the oysters first. Fresh and slimy-good! I regret that I cannot recall the names of the bivalves but all you have to know is that I approve. Personally, all I want is a healthy squeeze of lemon over my half-shelled friends, though there were plenty of topping options for others unlike me.
There were two lobster rolls to share amongst us. The menu describes the roll as “meat from a 1lb. lobster, citrus aioli, celery, lemon, toasted bun, flex fries” for $27. The fries were hot but a little too salty. The pickle was extremely sour though Stacy and I agreed that this was fine, and it turned out that she and I had to fight for the pickles. We both ended up with one. I must say that I give The Mermaid Inn the win over Flex Mussels’ lobster roll. Let me say that this bread was killer! I adore baguettes and their kin, so toasted and buttery! I’m in heaven. The lobster salad’s flavors were tamer. And it was slightly awkward to eat crustacean rolls like a Nathan’s hot dog. Not bad, Flex Mussels, but not out-of-this-world.
Flex Mussels has over 15 options of Prince Edward Island mussels to pick from. There were basic options like butter and garlic, and there were also other fancier selections like chorizo, lobster, Thai, and so forth. Julie voted for the funghi and was not voted down because who could refuse “wild mushrooms, double smoked bacon, garlic, cream?” This was $19.50. The bacon was cubed pork…oh so delicious. Pig and mussels, whatta pair! Julie and I utilized the broth in other way, me sopping it up with leftover bread.
Initially I planned to be cheap and resist dessert. But for a casual seafood joint, Flex Mussels has some tantalizing creative sweets. Continuing the sharing of food, we ordered the chocolate cream pie on its side for $10, consisting of “61% valrhona dark chocolate pudding, whipped creme fraiche, salted chocolate shortbread and creme fraiche ice cream.” That description makes me want to pull a Homer Simpson and just start drooling dreamily. The other dessert was a peach bread pudding. The peach bread pudding was unique and delightful which is hard for me to say because I do not like bread pudding. The outside was fried and crispy, and there were wee peach balls dotting the spherical structure. Pretty.
The chocolate cream pie on its side totally stole the show though, like a cuter younger sister. When our waiter set this bad boy down, the first thing we noticed was that it sparkled. Literally. There was an edible glitter atop the cream fraiche swirl. Cool. Oh, the valrhona dark chocolate pudding was happiness in a chocolate shell. Our waiter then revealed that the pastry chef, Zac Young, is going to be on Top Chef Just Desserts
which excited the Top Chef
fans at my table and a fan at the neighboring table. Despite me never having seen the show, I thought that was pretty darn cool and had to tell my Top Chef
fan friends about that.
Post-check, I looked at my watch. Wow, dinner was two hours. Food worth talking about (well, the lobster roll was just aight), warm company, what more could you ask for? More chocolate cream pie on its side!