Taste 3: a little bee said…

3/5 shells xxx

Petite Abeille, 401 E 20th St, New York, NY.

I heard about this place from a friend – a recommendation for an all-you-can-eat mussels night.  A deal that motivates one to eat until you can’t eat anymore, and then keep eating.  You can always diet tomorrow, right?  Right.

You can’t indulge in all-you-can-eat mussels by yourself, so I went with a few friends.  (Photos courtesy of friend nomalicious – Thanks!)  First impressions of a restaurant can really flavor the rest of the meal, and Petite Abeille was warm and comforting.  Mussels night is on Wednesdays, and there was a balance of busy and bustle at the bar offset with relatively quiet (mussel) eaters at the tables.  Nowhere did it feel overly crowded and I never thought anyone was being pushy or cold.  The crowd waxed and waned as we had our mussels – you could tell when New Yorkers were finished with happy hour and then again when New Yorkers were heading out for dinner.

And now the mussels.

For $25, the special includes one draft (chosen by the restaurant) and as many rounds of mussels as you want.  Naturally, you can only order one flavor at a time.  We went for 3 – one for each of us.  There were five total flavors on the menu, and we tried one of each before the night was over.

Our first round included the moules marinieres (white wine celery garlic broth), moules poulette (creamy white wine and shallot sauce), and moules rasta (Jamaican curry sauce and crisp apple).

The mussels arrived, each portion filling a large, steaming, deep pot.  Too deep!  As much as I appreciated the large serving of the shellfish of the day, I could not reach the bottom of the pot for the first layer or so of mussels to savor the sauce, and there wasn’t enough sauce for the mussels.  Still, between the mussels and the vegetables, the first pot was plenty filling.

But of course, we still wanted to try the others!  So we ordered an order of each of the flavors that we did not order before – the moules grand-mere (creamy beer sauce and bacon essence) and the moules sergio (tomato tarragon sauce).  As a vegetarian for Lent, I couldn’t try the bacon flavor, but the other was quite good.  These portions were smaller (thank goodness!), and the mussels were juicier and fatter.  We speculated that we must have gotten a fresh batch…  A good way to end the night though – mussels until we couldn’t eat any more – not even a single extra little mussel, and all of these juicy with easily accessible sauce.  All of the mussels that evening should have been like these.

What will bring you back: A lust for mussels in sheer quantity.  It’s a great deal if you can indeed eat a lot of mussels.  Even if you can finish 2 pots (which is really like 1.5 pots) and drink a beer, it’s worth the price ($3.25 extra compared to a normal serving of just mussels and fries).
What you might not like: The flavors were not that distinctive, and the quality of the mussels were inconsistent.  Perhaps they would be better on a not-unlimited night.

Mussels displayed in order of mention.

Taste 2: Flexin’ Their Mussels

4/5 shells xxxx

Flex Mussels, 174 E 82nd St, New York, NY.

Excited to try our first exclusively-mussels restaurant, shellsearcher and I made a reservation at Flex Mussels. A subway ride and a few texts later, we arrived with a foodie friend, ready to taste new blends of mussels.

This blog isn’t about the restaurant, per se, but the opening bar of the restaurant had a refreshing and creative beachside ambience. Hanging lights made of buckets. Blue and grey color theme. Cleancut, modern, trendy. In the dining room, a different interest hinted at you. The yellow walls were covered with bright photos, many food-cycle-themed. Notably, not many related to mussels, the ostensible theme of the place.

We were impressed by the variety and number of choices of mussels preparations on the menu. A refresher at the website reminds us that there are 22 options to choose from. Maybe this is greedy of us, but daily specials would be nice too. We had never had mussels mixed in with other non-seafood meat in the same dish, and continued to hold out on that idea – a effectively nixing a good handful of options from the start. We ended up choosing one per person, choosing one more traditional (fra diavolo), one Asian-inspired (south pacific), and one aptly named Portuguese preparation.

The mussels were served in one giant steaming pot each. It was a battle to see who would eat which style, but we worked out a rotational system. In all three dishes, the mussels came in a great size and were plump, fresh, juicy.  Each order came with about 30 mussels, and while we found some sandy ones we didn’t find any closed shells. The more traditional fra diavolo was the unanimous favorite, with a rich tomato and garlic stew topped with basil.

What will bring you back: LOTS of mussel preparation options, in a price gradient from $18-24.
What you might not like: Mood lighting at appointed time.  Fries could have better portions.

Fra Diavolo South Pacific Portuguese
Fra Diavolo South Pacific Portuguese

Taste 1: The Round Table

3/5 shells

Knight’s Steakhouse. 2324 Dexter Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

Knight’s, a place that knows their meat.  Good quality steaks without the over-the-top frills or prices.  Unlike the options on Main Street, this restaurant is not on the path of Parents Day weekend and is reserved for the locals.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t crowded.  It was the place to go for those looking for a good steak and friendly service.

Until our cuts of meat were ready, we dined on a plateful of buttery mussels with lemons on the side.  The butter was reminiscent of the marbleized steak that would come to our table.  Oil, oozing out of every corner, covering the corners of our mouths, lips smacking and glistening with buttery goodness.

It was a great way to start off the meal.