"It's not much but it's ours"

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I like New Yorkers: endlessly surprising; friendly; enthusiastic. But they do need plenty of hugs. Dis something they're proud of and you risk a strop of massive proportions. They're a bit like a precocious three-year old...with a gun. That said the positivity in NY can be a refreshing change to the naturally cynical, eyebrow constantly arched pose of us Brits.

It's been over five years since my last visit to New York and things have certainly come on apace food-wise. Their raw ingredients may not always be up there with the stuff we can get here in the UK but the creativity, energy and plethora of ideas can be breathtaking. Certainly, London, often touted as a competitor in the restaurant stakes comes over as moribund and, well, a bit hick by comparison.

M.Wells is typical of that dining chutzpah. Located only a couple of subway stops from Grand Central Station (in Long Island City) and created by an alumni of Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal and his American partner it's actually quite hard to describe what they do here - bourgeois diner maybe?

Dinner, a relatively new addition - lunch/brunch was the only option before - began with an impeccable Gibson but with the added twist of blobs of chive oil languidly floating Monet-like (pronounced Moan-A) on the surface. A lava lamp for Flatlanders.

As always menu options these days are confusing for the older diner (that’s me). Small Dishes are more like mains and Big Dishes are like sharing plates for two or more. Still, the friendly staff are more than happy to help granddad navigate the options and were pretty on the ball all evening.

My first plate came on like something you might fashion when you got home after an evening on the beer. Let's see what I've got in the fridge, some whelks, some black pudding, a few crackers, some potatoes. But bound together with a dill sauce there was a curious logic to the whole dish – it just worked.

The whelks didn’t seem to be the dark chewy specimens we know and love in this country but had a more conch-like provenance and a taste which worked well with the homemade black pudding. Only criticism was I could have done with more of the protein component. Lucky then that I had accessorised the dish with slices of Foie Gras - possibly de trop but I did it anyway and I saw and tasted that it was good.

Veal Brains were classically cooked with a crisp exterior and served with a Grenobloise sauce i.e. croutons, capers, brown butter, lemon juice. The insides were all creamy and marshmallow-like in texture and had me wondering how such a fine dish could be the product of such a diner setting. Certainly watching the chefs hard at work it looks like short-order cooking but there’s a deftness to the dishes which surprises.

A Steak Tartare, served with a poached egg and a herb-driven salad, had a great texture and the taste wasn’t bad either although there was one odd ingredient in there I couldn’t identify which kept popping up.

While trying to digest that little lot I watched other dishes go out: huge trays of Porterhouse of Pork (how great does that sound?) served with Pineapple and Cherry Sauce, giant Hamburgers and Shanks of Lamb which had been cooked in a special ovenproof wrap fashioned into a rudimentary Tagine – all clever stuff and incentive to come here mob-handed.

In retrospect Lemon Posset probably wasn’t the wisest choice for pud but was rather good being rich and tangy. The accompanying madeleines were a bit solid but provided excellent dunking material for my morning coffee the following day.

As with most popular places in NY there was a hubbub – they do like to yack out here; the music was loud but the track selection great – The Smiths were on heavy rotation on my visit; and it all seemed pretty hectic, but I loved every moment of it.

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Blogger Gavin said...

How can that be a Gibson without cocktail onions?

Sunday, May 15, 2011 6:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Peter said...

Wonderful writing. You really are the best food writer out there Robin.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 8:20:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

It was called an MGibson so I guess it's their own take on it. In this case the the chive oil would be the onion component. It was very good though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 9:29:00 pm  

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