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

ABC Cocina

38 E 19th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 677-2233 abccocinanyc.com

IMG_22481

If you’ve ever been to ABC Kitchen then you’ve seen how great Jean-Georges is with décor. And I’m guessing he found it so nice he used it twice, Cocina is a dead ringer.

And speaking of the dead, the irony of Cocina is that it’s sitting atop the gravesite of another great tapas restaurant, Pipa. Not sure why it didn’t last, but my remorse dissipated after one bite of their guac with grapefruit salsa. Such a simple, brilliant twist to refresh a classic.

Another great spin on a tried and true was the beet salad with “smoky” goat. It gave layers of depth to the dish that made it seem as if I was trying it again for the first time.

But the dish that stole my corazón was the huevos rancheros. Easily the best I’ve ever had. Served in a skillet, sitting on a crisp tortilla bed. Nothing too inventive about it truthfully, so I’m guessing it was just a matter of quality ingredients and proportions.

The ham and cheese fritters are also worthy of your attention, described as “ooey-gooey,” as in “Oooo-weee are those friggin’ good!”

And while I didn’t actually try it, the fish sandwich got tons of praise form the other side of the table. That said, upon my return for dinner, I did try the the crispy fish tacos and holy contrasts Batman! The use of pickled cabbage is a beacon of brightness that balances out the fried fish, keeping it from feeling heavy. Just genius. And the habanero sauce they dress it with was so on point I didn’t need to add a drop extra, which is rare for me. Definitely adding this one to my Ultimates.

But Cocina is not perfecto. The much raved about short rib taco fell way short of the fishy glory that preceded it. And speaking of fish, the fluke ceviche was chewy and bland. Probably the worst dish we ordered and worst ceviche I’ve ever had. As for the octopus, it made my taste buds scoff, especially after having just had some killer pus at Mermaid Inn a few nights before. So the comparison did not bode well for Cocina.

Service was also a touch spotty during lunch. Not knowing when to clear dishes. Hostess tried to seat us inches from the front door with nothing between us and the frigid cold outside but a velvet curtain, even though we had a reservation. But for dinner we sat at the bar and our server/bartender couldn’t have been better. Partly due to his wonderful recommendation of that fish taco and also due to his suggestion of the blood orange margarita– deadly!

In the middle of the road, I would put the Red Hibiscus sangria, which was certainly good, packed with refreshing fruit, but unfortunately not quite as packed with awesome as the margarita.

And all four desserts also fell somewhere in the mids… The tres leche was solid, but I’ve most certainly had better. The flan was also pretty good, but it’s hard for me to get too excited about flan. I’m not the biggest fan. The vanilla fritters with Mexican chocolate was done well, but the flavors just didn’t wow. The best of the quatro being the rice pudding. It’s nothing incredible, but if you like rice pudding (which I do), it is done very well.

And well done is the main takeaway at Cocina. The hits definitely outweigh the misses enough that I feel obliged to round up to four knives.

4 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.