The Whelk

575 Riverside AveWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-0902 • thewhelkwestport.com

Having been to Le Farm (RIP) many, many years ago and loving it, I was pleased to learn that The Whelk was actually the mother ship. Plus, I had heard from just about everyone who lives within 50 miles of Westport that this is the best place to eat in town, so expectations were as high as the studio producers who thought Office Christmas Party was a good script.

But The Whelk delivers, hype and all. With its casual Cape Cod charm and equally warm service, I was sucked into being a convert faster than Vin Diesel, strapped to Usain Bolt, glued to a cheetah, duct taped to a rocket booster, wired to nitrous oxide packs.

A great deal of that being due to our adorable server who made us feel welcome, special and taken care of. What more could you ask for? Well, good food, of course, and The Whelk answered that call without a moment to spare, starting with some heavenly deviled eggs topped with fried oysters (pictured). They were literally amazeballs- ball-shaped and amazing. Oh, and an Ultimate in two categories; deviled eggs and oyster dishes.

And just as we were descending back to earth, up we went again with the scallop crudo and another Ultimate, which is also amazeballs, but not literally this time. Blessed with heat and blood orange, this place definitely knows how to handle its mollusks, which shouldn’t come as a shock I suppose considering the name of the establishment is a mollusk.

Another brilliant starter is the crab toast. Bright and lemony with the perfect hit of spice on the finish. Simple, but perfection.

For entrees, I highly recommend hake if it’s still on the menu by the time you go. It’s cooked like a boss, with a beautiful preparation that I won’t taunt you with because it was already gone by the second time we went, replaced by a trout with collard greens that didn’t quite fill the void left by the wonderful hake.

What is always there, however, is one of the best burgers I’ve had in a very long time, so if you’re not feelin’ the fish, you will not go hungry my friend.

The only mortal dish for me that I have discovered thus far (apart from the trout, which technically I didn’t order) would be the salt and pepper squid. I mean it’s good, but no better than any halfway decent fried calamari you could get a bagillion other places.

Capping things off on high, we ended the night with the white chocolate and cherry bread pudding, which if you’ve been following me for any length of time you know is my weak spot. But weakness aside, The Whelk finished strong. And while the Banana Bavarian is also good, it’s not even worth comparing it to the bread pudding, therefore I won’t.

The place packs ‘em in almost every night, for good reason, so be sure to make a reservation, go on an off night or an off hour, or prepare to wait. Fortunately it’s worth it, because as those before me suggest, it truly is the best restaurant in Westport. Hell, I think it gives Pearl and L&W in NYC a run for their money!

Advertisements

Lure Fishbar

142 Mercer St. New York, NY 10012(212) 431-7676 lurefishbar.com

3218676627_e124486e38

I was debating whether or not to lead with a photo of their food or of their decor, but in truth there really is no contest as to which is more impressive, hence the photo above. It’s almost as if they built a restaurant using parts from the boat in the movie “On Golden Pond.” Just gorgeous. But sadly that’s close to about it in terms of plusses- well, that and it’s location, right in the heart of prime Soho shopping.

And while the Yelpers may swoon, I have to scratch my head, because the food simply doesn’t hold up to the adulation. For example, the lobster roll is an eye roll, paling in comparison to places like Pearl, Luke’s, Mermaid Inn and Red Hook. And the other dishes weren’t much better, or perhaps even worse, because they were so unmemorable as I can’t even recall what else we had- only that it was more of blah, and enough blah to form a solid opinion that we would rather eat at any of the other dozen or so places in Soho that we love. Guess the name should’ve been a dead giveaway, lure’s are inherently shiny, attractive objects, but when you bite into them, well, you get screwed.

P.S. The sister restaurant Burger & Barrel is much, MUCH better.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Salad

5095710774_9a8833d919_z

Cocoon – Cannes, FR

With its warm goat cheese pastry wrapped in a wonderfully flaky filo dough and caramelized apples on top, it’s more like a dessert than it is a salad I suppose, but with such fresh greens and tomatoes, it somehow manages to pull itself back out of the pigeon hole and land firmly in the middle of magnifique!

L&W Oyster Co. – New York, NY

As I may have stated before, I’m not a huge fan of fried oysters. I much prefer them in the raw or roasted state. In fact, there’s only one other place that has ever made we swoon over the fried variety, Pearl Oyster Bar. But hats off to L&W, because this salad is so good- so beefed up with unsalad-like ingredients that you might even question if it’s a salad. But then again, why spoil the mood?

Three Square – Venice, CA

By now I’m guessing you’re starting to see a theme here as not one of these salads are a usual suspect, but that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate a good, all vegetable salad. I do. But when you compare that to the likes of a perfectly cooked, medium rare rib-eye, sliced over mesclun, with crumbled goat cheese, grapes and roasted pine nuts- there’s no contest!

5 teeth

The Mermaid Inn

568 Amsterdam Ave. New York, NY 10024(212) 799-7400 themermaidnyc.com

content_Mermaid-Inn

Hi. My name is Ferocious Foodie. And I too am a Mermaid lover. In fact, I don’t think I’ve loved a mermaid this much since Ariel, The Little Mermaid. From the first bite (well, technically “sip”) to the last, everything was great.

The wife and I both started with cocktails. I partook a pair of Pink Dahlias, which sounds more fru fru than it is. It’s actually a spicy margarita with grapefruit. Tart, refreshing, spicy and perfecty. Can’t recall what the wife had because I’m a typical, self-absorbed male, but I know she liked it because I asked… So I’m not a total schmuck.

Everything else we shared, to a symphony of simultaneous foodgasms. The octopus was tender with a nice contrasting char for texture. And it was dressed with wonderful flavors that netted out a touch sweet, but in a good way.

The oysters were fresh an delicious. We did the Kusshi, which, if you’ve never had them are so sweet you’d think they were candy. And the Mermaid Cove, which were delightfully creamy. Great combo for those who don’t dig on the brine.

For entrees we split the lobster “sandwich” and the fish tacos and the reason “sandwich” is in quotes is because it’s a lobster roll. Not sure why they don’t call it that. I’m assuming there’s no copyright infringement since about 1000 other places call it that, but whatever. Maybe that’s not how they roll… oof. Even I cringed on that one. But cast your cringes aside, because the roll/sandwich thingy is up there with the Ultimates. Quite handily better than Luke’s down the street and as good as Pearl Oyster Bar. Yes, I said it. Just not quite as big as Pearl’s though, making it a bit pricier per ounce. But like Fancy Feast, it’s worth it. And truth be told, Mermaid’s fries are better.

The fish tacos were mighty fine as well, adorned with pickled jalapenos and a side of handy fresh made salsa. Together they made for sloppy, fishy bliss.

And finally, for dessert, there is no menu. They simply bring you an espresso cup filled with chocolate pudding and call it a night. No charge. Just as a thank you. Well, Mermaid, thank YOU for a wonderful meal. My only regret is having not tried you sooner.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Lobster Roll

SONY DSC

I know I’ll probably catch some grief for not having a single New England establishment amongst these, but the only one that would’ve made it no longer exists, at Harborside, Osterville, MA (RIP). Sorry, NE, you may have created it, but New York perfected it.

Pearl Oyster Bar – New York, NY

I have been going to Pearl ever since it was a one-table restaurant and a bar. Oh, and the owners were still in love. Since then, the owners split up and the place blew up (now about 20+ tables). But the good news is that in all of this time Pearl never lost its way. Their lobster roll continues to be the bomb. The standard to which all others are held in my book. And I’ve been all up in New England, on Cape Cod, etc… And there was one other that bested Pearl. But then they closed. And closed don’t count in Ultimates. But I digress.

What makes Pearl so damn fine is that they don’t over do it with mayo and herbs and spices. But they don’t underdo it either, making it feel too much like a lump of lobster meat in a hotdog bun. They also give you a ton, making it feel mildly worth its hefty price tag. And with a well poured pint of Guinness, there are few things on this earth that compare.

Red Hook Lobster Pound – Brooklyn, NY

Now after praising the shit out of Pearl’s lobster roll I’m about to sound like a giant hypocrite, and that’s because I am. But no more than anyone else I suppose. I’m human. And I love to contradict myself. Even within the very same post. Like now. Because Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Connecticut-Style is so good, it’s contradiction worthy. A little on the small side, however, but don’t let it’s diminutive footprint fool you. It’s more filling than you’d expect, primarily because it’s done up with warm butter as opposed to cold mayo. They also toss in a sprinkle of paprika and then top it with freshly chopped parsley and the net outcome is a lobster roll incomparable to so many others, because the flavor spectrum is just so vastly different. Like apples and oranges. But make no mistake, this is one friggin’ good apple.

L&W Oyster Co. – New York, NY

Technically this isn’t a lobster roll. It’s a sandwich. And more specifically a lobster BLT. But more specifically than that, it’s OMFW (Oh My Fucking Wow). Served on a buttery toast, as opposed to a “hot dog bun,” which I’m not sure is required by the official lobster roll commission of Maine (if that even exists), then they spread a killer sriachi aioli and top it off with bacon, lettuce and tomato obviously. But what isn’t so obvious is how much one man can truly love a sandwich.

The Mermaid Inn

After having made this initial post so many people clamored on about Luke’s Lobster and how it deserved to be on this list so I finally tried it, and well, as you can see, Luke’s still isn’t making the cut on my update either. That said, just a few blocks away there is a very similar roll, clean and simple, like Luke’s. With a nice hint of vinegar, like Luke’s and that one IS making the list.  Mermaid somehow manages to play subtly like a seasoning virtuoso, allowing the lobster to shine in all of its lobstery glory, and yet still brings a little somethin’ somethin’ to the party with the most artful restraint. And thus, edging out Luke’s by a nose.

Red Hook Lobster Pound

 284 Van Brunt St. Brooklyn, NY 11231 • (718) 858-7650 • redhooklobster.com

IMG_4139

For a lobster roll in the city, there is only one better that I know of, Pearl Oyster Bar. That said, Red Hook has three types and all are varying degrees of holy shitter- the Maine Style (with mayo), Tuscan Style (with vinegar and herbs) and Connecticut style (with butter and paprika). Maine is normally the kind I’ve had in the past, but I have to say, the Connecticut (pictured) is the one to get. In fact, it’s an Ultimate. The Tuscan is also pretty great. And surprisingly, Maine is my least favorite of the three, but that’s more a reflection of how amazing the first two are, as opposed to how bad the Maine is.

On the downside, 15 bucks for a lobster roll half the size of Pearl’s (which is only 4 bucks more) seems awfully steep. I usually need to eat two of Red Hook’s, they are so small. So, 30 bucks for lunch plus a drink starts to be more $$$ than $$.

As for other dishes, the shrimp roll is a big pass IMO. I like the cracked pepper on it, but it’s really not worth forgoing the main event. Nor is the lobster mac and cheese, which is so poorly done you can taste the fact that this was an afterthought on the menu with its giant lumps of lobster thrown half-assed on top of a very average mac. I think RH should just stick to their core competency.

And last but not least, the decor, while campy and bare bones, is also a touch odd with it’s dining room located confusingly next door to the actual counter. So, you actually have to exit one building and enter another to order your food and then eat it.

Back on the plus side, it’s great place to go instead of eating at the Ikea. And if you go to their Dumbo location in the summer, the view of the city is incredible.

4 teeth

Mary’s Fish Camp

64 Charles St. New York, NY 10014(646) 486-2185 •  marysfishcamp.com
 530051_height370_width560

I have been eating at Pearl Oyster Bar so far back, Mary was still there. So, when I heard that she had parted ways and opened her own restaurant I was psyched, especially with the growing popularity of Pearl and its equally growing wait times. The bad news, is that when I did, I was very underwhelmed. WAY too mayonnaisey as you can see from the picture above. Her lobster roll isn’t even second best in the city. Or third. Or fifth. Which begs the question who is second? Red Hook Lobster Pound. But for more on lobster rolls see my Ultimate Lobster Roll list (coming soon).

The calamari was also just so-so. And it kills me to say this because I sincerely wish Mary’s was a good back up, but unfortunately, there’s nothing like the original. So stick with Pearl if you ask me.

2 teeth