Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mmm. Wells.

This is the third time that I have attempted to eat at this restaurant and the first time that I have found success. It helps that a New York Times review forced the Canadian-influenced Long Island City Diner to start taking reservations; we made ours for the bar. The menu at M. Wells changes daily, so it's hard to predict which way the wind will blow on a particular evening. There are large format plates and organ meat feasts and a slew of French-style desserts, all boasting a Montreal heritage. And few of our dishes disappointed.

We began with bone marrow and escargot, which lacked a little salt but spoke to the finest qualities of both fat and snail. A raw tuna preparation came decorated with pickled mustard seeds, an incredibly inspired and balanced preparation. Veal brains grenobloise reminded me of the crunch suckers I once enjoyed in a cavern in Barcelona. I would have liked a touch more caper, but I was happy even without. The dish arrived atop the Time Out New York award. No, I'm not joking.

Next: a soft shell crab club sandwich with bacon and onions and mayonnaise and an ample dusting of smoked paprika. Would spring ever be complete without fried soft shells? The sandwich paled in comparison to the one consumed by our dining neighbors, M. Wells regulars who received, gratis from the kitchen, a foot-tall sandwich of foie gras, meatloaf, fried chicken, veal brains, soft shell crab, and fried grouper. It's not to say our sandwich wasn't near perfect--it was. But how can one look at a sandwich like ours next to a sandwich like theirs?

M. Wells serves a spin on a bibimbap, the Korean rice dish that usually comes cold with chili paste. This version featured oysters on the half-shell, foie gras, raw scallop, gravlax, carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. I wanted the cote de boeuf with soft shell crab, a mammoth rib-eye carved off the bone. M. Wells also serves a peking duck tasting priced at $150 for three courses, but we didn't get that either.

But five courses could not prevent us from eating dessert, a Paris-Brest filled with almond pastry cream and a lemon pot de creme with madelines and, finally, a pineapple upside-down cake. Chef told us to come back as we waddled away from the bar. And yes, I will be back.

M. Wells
21-17 49th Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101

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