Contrary to popular belief (or simply tourist belief), just being near the water doesn’t automatically make a place a seafood destination. However, this does not stop us from craving seafood every time we see water. New York is one such locations. Despite the proximity to bodies of water, do you honestly think much of the seafood is coming from the East River?
In the age of modern efficient transportation, the key to getting good seafood is no longer just the location, but rather a dedication to sourcing excellent raw materials. Whether this is done via pre-dawn visits to the New Fulton Fish Market, or by establishing a relationship with shellfish providers, it’s no easy task. However, the effort definitely shows up on the plate, and to the discerning New Yorker it matters tremendously.
So once your foodie mind grasp the concept that fresh seafood doesn’t need water, you realize that great seafood can actually be found in the East Village (Mermaid Inn), near Washington Square (Mermaid Oyster Bar), and yes, the Upper East Side at Flex Mussels.
I was originally told about Flex Mussels by my colleague, who has not dined in the city all too often. While he was praising Flex Mussels for its fun factor and fresh mussels prepared various ways, I maintained my skepticism. To me, it sounded slightly gimmicky, and like my sister always said, gimmicks don’t last in “The City”.
A few weeks ago on a Friday, I left work and headed straight for the madness that is the new Shake Shack UES. Upon seeing a line that stretched down the block, I went for plan B just a few blocks away.
The restaurant was simple, stylish, and for lack of a better word “hip”. There was a bar area up front, and a more traditional dining room in the back. The bar area itself was separated into two sides. On one side it was an alcohol/raw bar, and on the other, facing a wall lined with mirrors, a place to eat uninterrupted. The aluminum chairs were quite chilly and deceptively light.
Menus were interesting. On one side, Mussels. The other side: Not Mussels. We get the message, you guys specialize in mussels.
We started off with a few beers and a platter of oysters. The oysters were fresh, and so delicious that I successfully converted a non-believer of raw molluscs into happily slurping down a few. Beers were unfortunately bottled and not draft, but the selections were very interesting and pairs great with seafood.
For the entrees we got a lobster roll, which was excellent especially with the great fries. Then came the main attraction: mussels. Our mushroom, ham, onion flavored mussels tasted absolutely delicious, although I wish the mussels were a little bigger. Sure there were quite a few of them, but I would have traded quantity for quality (sheer size). After clearing the pot of mussels, I really wanted to pour the broth into a bowl of rice or pasta and gobble it down, it was that good.
So there we have it, another exceptional seafood restaurant in the city, but not near the water. If you’re ever in the Upper East Side and have a craving of oysters and mussels, the two sides of their menu has you covered.
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Flex Mussels (Make a Reservation)
174 East 82nd Street
New York, NY 10028