Tuesday, April 7, 2009
BXL East - Mussels from Brussels
BXL East - 210 East 51st Street, New York NY 10022
6 Train to 51st Street
There is an upside to the challenging economic environment, which is the plethora of restaurant specials out there. One such special includes an all-you-can-eat mussels extravaganza every Sunday and Monday night at the newly opened BXL East in Midtown Manhattan. I was eager to check it out and was glad to have a partner in crime, Lisa who joined me on what felt like a never ending mussels binge.
BXL is a casual Belgian bar that's relatively roomy with plenty of tables both large and small. The overall vibe is cheery and social, as it seems to be a place where people gather after work, on weekends and weeknights to watch sports and drink good international beer. Various Belgian signs and beer memorabilia deck the walls and pay homage to BXL's European heritage.
We came for the mussels and mussels we got--each consuming about 4 pounds of them. This sounds like a lot and surely it was more than we'd normally eat--but given the endless possibility of options, we took full advantage. Overall, we were happy with everything and while the quality of the mussels was good it wasn't the best. However, we did enjoy ourselves and tried several varieties such as:
Provencale - This classic combination of tomatoes, basil and garlic sauce was delicious. The tomato sauce was chunky, fresh and garnished with fresh thyme, which smelled divine. If you like Mediterranean cuisine, you will love this option. It's pretty mild and not too heavy on the stomach.
Grand Mere - An amazingly rich concoction of cream, bacon and onions, the description for this sauce sounded heavenly. We were especially looking forward to the bacon but were disappointed when we didn't see or taste any. Despite this minor set-back, we enjoyed the cream sauce immensely and had a good time dipping the whole-wheat peasant bread into it.
Marocaine - My favorite of the bunch, this sauce included green olives, tomato sauce and cilantro. The tomato sauce tasted the same as in the Provencale option but the spices were kicked up a notch, which I liked. The chunky green olives were tasty and added tangy flavor, but once again, there was a missing ingredient, the cilantro.
Marinieres - The most basic of sauces, this one consisted of white white and shallots. It was the lightest of the four and was a good way to end the meal. While I liked it and thought that it was tasty, it wasn't very exciting and I think that I'd omit it next time.
Frites - On top of all of the mussels, which I just described, we each got an order of frites (French fries) to further soak into the mussels sauce. I ate them because I was hungry and because they were in front of me but they weren't great--a bit greasy, they lacked crunch.
Service and Cost:
Our servers were fantastic from start to finish. We had one main waitress who took our orders and a couple of other servers who brought out mussels and frequently cleaned bowls with empty shells. It was refreshing to see how friendly and attentive everyone was--both Lisa and I felt that our empty mussel shells were wiped away at the blink of an eye. In addition to the speedy service, a nice manager came up to us and asked how we liked everything. "Very good," we replied with confidence and gusto.
The cost was simply amazing. For four pounds of mussels and a complimentary Stella Artois beer we paid $20 each, $25 with tax and tip. Now, this is what I call a recession special. Prost!