Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Flex Mussels - Satifaction in a Pot
Flex Mussels - 174 East 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028
4/5/6 Train to 86th Street
It's true that mussels are an acquired taste but for me, that taste has developed and I just love them. That's why when I found out about Flex Mussels, a mussels specialty restaurant on the Upper East Side, I just had to try it.
I summoned my crustacean-loving friend Margot to join me. Like me, she appreciates good seafood, so when she saw the extensive mussels offering at Flex, I didn't have to ask her twice.
I didn't know what to expect from Flex, picturing it as an informal seafood shack with a no frills atmosphere. My perception changed after my visit and though it's not fancy, it's definitely a more polished, modern eatery than what I originally envisioned.
The front of the house is friendly and welcoming, with a medium sized bar and more stool seating behind it. This is where Margot and I positioned ourselves, as we had no reservations. There's apparently another dining room in the back but I think that it requires calling ahead.
We didn't mind our seats at the front counter, as we could be as loud and boisterous as we wanted. Our seats also proved advantageous when I accidentally flung a mussel and its sauce into the mirror--a much safer opponent than another person per se.
The menu boasted a plethora of mussel preparations as well as traditional seafood fare. Naturally, Margot and I went for the mussels and even splurged on dessert.
The Spaniard - This was my choice of mussels, which included chorizo, tomato sauce, sweet peppers, red wine and Spanish olives. One word - magnificent! The prominent taste was smoky and very Mediterranean, especially with those olives. My favorite part was the chorizo--it was clearly of good quality and enhanced the flavor of the delicate mussels. What a home run!
Fungi - Margot ordered the full mushroom extravaganza mussels, with portabella, shiitake and button mushrooms, seasoned with thyme, smoked bacon and garlic. The overall flavor was a lot gentler than my dish and the thyme infused sauce added earthiness. Margot liked it a lot and so did I--but I liked The Spaniard mussels better.
Homemade Donuts - Our charming waiter convinced us to get dessert, despite the fact that we were full. We chose the homemade donuts with two different fillings - salty caramel and chocolate ganache. I loved them both but favored the chocolate, as it was rich but not too sweet. The donut dough was light and airy and didn't even feel fried--another big yum.
The Beer - We both ordered beer with our mussels and Flex had plenty of exotic versions to choose from. I chose the Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, a light, citrusy ale while Margot got a Unibroue White Apple Ale, which was sweet, refreshing and almost dessert-like.
Service and Cost:
Our server was a character. He was fun, animated, told jokes, danced but above all, he did his job well. He knew the menu backwards and forwards and made wonderful recommendations for us. We were amused by him but also very satisfied with his service. He stood out to me as one of the best parts of our dinner, proving that great service does make a world of difference.
Flex is moderately priced with mussels ranging from $16/lb for basic options to $20/lb for fancy ones. Traditional appetizers are priced between $9-$16 while standard entrees range in the neighborhood of $21-$29. Our meal set us back about $38/person including tax and tip.