The Red Cat, Jan. 30, 2006

The Red Cat
10th Avenue bet. 23rd and 24th

Danna has been kind enough to take some time off from work to take care of my mother. In the interim, I'm working and going to school and so after school tonight, I headed several blocks west to revisit The Red Cat.

I went the OpenTable route to get 100 pts and opted to sit at the bar where Amy, a cute bartender with really good moves, was to the point but kept herself available for conversation. She also had great skills in getting people (even her own friend) to "bite" on a particular wine. I probably tipped her less than I should have (20% was what I gave her) but I'll somehow make it up to her.

Here's what I had:
Tempura Green Beans
These were as good as ever and I thoroughly enjoyed half of the full serving. Better than candy to a kid.

Baby spinach, sliced cremini and shitaki, fried egg, tempura bacon, red onion, tamarind (shallot) vinaigrette This was very tasted and had slight similarities (slight) to the warm lamb's tongue vinaigrette at Babbo. The egg should have been a 3 minute egg - nice and runny...or at least panko crusted a la Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The egg could have been much better. The entire dish had a porcine essence to it but the bacon itself was minimal. Otherwise it was good.

I love the radishes at the bar but was very surprised at the lack of zing to
them. Maybe they were French radishes (isn't that what they are at the Greenmarket...maybe Belgian?). Music tonight included the Beach Boys (Sloop John B) and Simon & Garfunkle (Mrs. Robinson) as well as Terence Trent D'Arby (Wishing Well)...all of which neither had much of an impact on the meal nor did it detract from the ambiance. Odd choices which took any trendiness out of the restaurant.

Roasted monkfish cheeks with hearts of palm salad and sweet hot sauce

Speaking of the Beach Boys, this had as
much depth as anything on Pet Sounds. Crispy and moist, sharp and mellow in all the places where it needed to be. They certainly have the push and pull (Grey Kunz) down.

I had two glasses of the 2004 Vouvray they had by the glass which was great...and a better value than the Long Island "Sisters" wine that they have. Still a bit pricey at $12, but your best bet for the whites.

I truly love The Red Cat. I just wish I lived closer to it. The one thing that does bother me with both this place and the Mermaid Inn is the limited menu. True, there is enough on the menu for me to visit a few more times without ever ordering the same thing (especially those sardines which looked crazy good), but I think I will feel slightly cramped with the options the third or fourth time I visit. Then again...that remains to be seen. For those that have yet to check it out...what are you waiting for?

Eleven Madison Park (Restaurant Week), Jan., 27, 2006

Eleven Madison Park

My annual lunch at EMP with Dad and Danna was, unfortunately, cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances. However, I was able to get there for lunch on Friday by myself.

The host took me past our usual banquette and up to the northeast section - a new room for me at EMP.

My waiter, Dale, provided the menu and offered my water options attentively and with a smile. I'll get this out of the way now...service was perfect. Wine, water and food were served at a perfect pace and empty plates and glasses as well as unused bread and butter were taken away equally well.

The RW menu offered many different options, nearly all of them appetizing for my palate. Often times during RW, the menus are limited and have one thing you want and several things you will have if you have to. Not the case here. Nearly every dish sounded great and in fact was a tough choice.

In the end, my palate and decision making rewarded me.

I started with the champagne pear soup that was perfect. Hard to say it was anything else. This was the type of soup that reminded me of the cooking at our Country Club when its kitchen was at its zenith. The soup was served not poured table side...perhaps the only thing that took away from the dish. I've always liked the soups at EMP and this was no different. Perhaps one of the better ones I've had at EMP (no offense to Chef Heffernan)and slightly reminiscent of what you might get at L'Impero...but again, without the tableside pour.

I opted for the braised short ribs with broccoli rabe, blue d'auvergne and puree of a root vegetable that escapes me. Jerusalem Artichoke maybe? The short rib was flawless, the puree a nice texture to go with it and the bitterness of the broccoli rabe and the salty earthiness of the blue d'auvergne provided a carnival of flavors and textures. The only thing bad about this dish was the addition of crispy matchstick potatoes. Chefs of the world take note: This makes your dish impossible to navigate and the matchsticks don't allow themselves to be eaten, simply by the nature of them. I mentioned this to the waiter, who agreed.

For dessert...oh dessert. Dessert was a blood orange creamsicle. The base of this dish tasted like the best Good Humor Toasted Almond ice cream bar ever made for man. The tip of this ice cream triangle bar was blood orange ice cream that was simply delicious. The pistachio crumbs added that extra texture and flavor to make it even more well rounded of a dish. The only complaint was that it was very hard and though it was cutable with a fork or carefully angled spoon, it made one feel like you were going to break through the plate. But what a great dish.

For wine I had a 2001 Graves SB. It went very well with the soup.

As per usual, a $25 gift certificate and a dark chocolate maple (?) leaf was given to me with the check. I simply don't know why this place wasn't packed with people. Then again, more space for me to enjoy it. The best RW lunch I've had to date.


Smorgas Chef, Jan. 24, 2006

Smorgas Chef
53 Stone Street

Just got back from lunch. Didn't realize until this morning (thanks to another CHer) that this place existed. Apparently there are two others, one on W. 4th Street and one on 2nd Ave at 49th St.

The place was very busy with a considerably quick turnover rate. I sat at the bar. I ordered the black current juice (though I was tempted to try the lingonberry/blueberry juice). This was great and an excellent alternative to cranberry juice or something of that nature. Would go great with a splash of selzer, champagne or vodka.

The woman two stools down from me was finishing up her "burger" and it looked like what I would want, so I got it as well. On one half of a Balthazar bun sat 8 or 9 (maybe 10) swedish meatballs with melted jarlsberg on top. The meatballs weren't all gravied up, but there was some gravy which moistened the bun and made it really tasty.

On the other half was a pile of lettuce, red onion, pickles, tomatoes and spread on was a roumalade sauce of some kind that I think had chunks of mushroom on it.

It was also served with chive mashed potatoes that tasted exactly how my Tante Kari makes them. Which makes sense considering both she and the owner are Norwegian.

Not a Swedish speaking soul in the place, including all of the workers. Apparently they don't last too long working there (from what I was told). Stone Street has done it again. This will be a weekly dining experience. The food, ambiance and easy going service is everything you could ask for.


Room 4 Dessert, Jan. 20, 2006

Room 4 Dessert
17 Cleveland Place

I just had to see what this was all about and compare it to my experience at Danna, our dining partners SueAnne and Doug as well as SA's sister AnnaLynn walked a few blocks from their apartment on Mott after eating some pizza from Lombardi's (take out) to see what all the fuss was about.

We walked into the very narrow and long space and found ourselves at the tail end of a major dessert rush (10:15ish). Apparently the whole bar got jammed up just prior to our arrival, so we would have to wait. And wait and wait we did. At least a half an hour for them to accomodate our party of 5 together.

But I'm glad we got to wait. Our pizza was still digesting, we had a chance to talk a little more with one another, we got front row seats to the plating action behind the bar and were even given some lovely snacks because of our patience and their good nature. This included candied macadamia nuts -- very similar to what you might find in a particular dessert at Craftbar; some blueberry flavored cotton candy, made right in front of us on one of those kiddie/home versions (thus it took a little while to warm up and the finished product was minimal) as well as some litchi sorbet. By all accounts this was all fun and good and greatly appreciated. The Mikli-esque glasses- wearing chef was very kind and hospitable as were the others in attendance (a chef, a sous chef, a waitress, a host and another manager of sorts).

The menu changes daily and should probably be changed in design to better reflect their ordering suggestions.
I would recommend to Chef Goldfarb that they take a look at the Rickshaw Dumpling Bar menu which better illustrates the suggested way of ordering (dumpling->salad->soup). In the case of R4D, the columns are vertical but they ask you to read and order from it horizontally.

In either case, they have liquid desserts that cost $9, some of which have unclear descriptions like the drink called "Energy" which is litchi sorbet and tea air. Hmmm. With this particular dish, they pair it with either a riesling or and indian style yerba mate tea.

Then there is the tasting menu of desserts, each for $12.

Here's what we had:

Apple in various states
(sorbet tatin, tartare, 'cidre', fata papillote)
This dish was served backwards to Doug, and we only realized this later. Though I think the error is actually in the menu. The sorbet was served as the last item on the right, and I think that's how it should be.
It was good and had a sharp, winesap bite to it. Mulled cider sorbet might have been a better name. The tartare dish was the best of the night. It was evenly diced pieces of apple that were almost jellied to make them like the texture of tuna tartare. On top of it was sprinkled something called ouso blend, which was a tarragon microgreen and possibly something else. Neither our waitress nor the host knew exactly what it was and didn't get the clearest answer from whoever they asked. But it made the dish. The tartare alone was good, but with the spicyish green it made it perfect. Hard to describe. Get this if you can. The cidre was a sweet, warm cider that was very clear in color. Nice. Not sure if I tried the fata papillote.

Sue Anne and me
Voyage to India
(coco, mango 17480 (cat), parfait, 'kulfi')
What is all this? The coco was a chocolate ring - looked a lot like a crispy creme donut, that tasted similar to a pudding-like fudgsicle and had a crispy wafer cracker bottom. The mango 17480 looked like tapioca pearls but apparently this is 100% mango but an emulsifier of some kind was used to create its shape. The texture was fun the taste was subtle. The parfait was bizarre to me. It looked like a pile of white confectioners sugar in a white, eggshaped dish. And my first taste was like a mix of confectioners sugar and talc. But the secret was that just below the layer of powder was another white substance that had a somewhat invisible gooey texture to it. Together with the powdery substance, this actually was quite good...but confusing. The Kulfi was a rice pudding-like dish served in a way too tiny portion on a white miso soup spoon. This was my second favorite dish as far as taste goes. I just wish there was more of it.

Danna and AnnaLynn
Plat du jour
(nolitela, caramel ice cream, brioche, cloud)
Again with the names. Nolitela I suppose is a combo of NoLita, which is the location of this place and Nutella, which this dish was inspired by. Pretty good. Deeper/darker in flavor than the original. This was served in its own bottle. Caramel ice cream was good. The brioche was supposedly excellent. Danna refused to share and AnnaLynn had finished hers. Cloud. Yes, cloud. Another name for frozen lemon meringue. Spare me.

Doug had the suggested pairing of caffeine free red spiced tea called rooibos chai. I had the recommended nooshin, which was a mango, hibiscus and calendula tea.

We were given hourglass/sand timers and told not to pour the tea until it was finished. Okay. When we did and had our tea, we were both a bit surprised at how tepid the tea was. Perhaps, like wine or beer, it is best served close to room temp. to truly appreciate its flavor...but I like my tea hot. The nooshin was tasty and had mango, hibiscus and I suppose calendula flavor but almost too much so. It tasted like a phoney tea. Doug felt the same way about his. I'll save the $7 next time and just get water like Danna and Annalynn did.

Sue Anne got the wine recommendation which was a 2003 banyuls, mas blanc rimage for $9. Very sweet and rich and I guess it paired okay with the dessert. I see why they went for it...but wasn't 100% convinced.

Overall, I like the concept and the chef. I truly hope it succeeds. But major things need to take place for that to happen. Here's what I'd change:

* change the menu format. Make it more understandable. Don't try to be Thomas Keller with your clever menu names.
* change the placemats. Though, as Annalyn said, they do look like chocolate swirls, the sinewy, rubber placemats are cool, but they collect other people's uneaten food. Both mine and Annalyn's had a considerable amount of other people's dessert stuck in the swirls of plastic. They will be a nightmare to clean.
* change the rather boring photo spread that lines the wall and doubles as a cabinet facade.
* change the way you offer your wines. Some are served by the quart, others by 3 oz serving and another by the glass. Consistency is needed.
* Consider having less people behind the counter. 5 people seems like way too much staff to have on hand at this place. Perhaps all of the partners wanted to be on board its maiden week/journey.
* Consider less tea (and cheaper tea) to encourage turnover. People were hanging out for a LONG time. At $20 a check, this will ruin you.

And to end on a positive note, because I do like the place, here's what I'd suggest to keep doing:

* keep enjoying it. It looked like the chef was having fun despite getting slammed. He was very pleasant.
* keep coming up with fun desserts each night...but listen to people's favorites...these can eventually make your place a success if they become house favorites.
* keep the dated menus. I like that.
* Keep the setup. Obviously you don't have much of a say on this because it is so long and narrow. But this truly works for your concept.
* keep treating your guests as friends. Nice job.

Photos will be put on my blog later tonight...


Cosette, Jan. 16, 2006

33rd St. (bet. Lexington and 3rd Ave.)

Danna was working late again so I went over for a quick, early dinner so that I could get home and do some work.

The place is rather charming. A table, candle, business cards, menu and a chair greet you outside. Once in, the tiny room seems impossibly busy...especially at 6:45 on a Monday. But part of that is due in part to the frenetic energy coming from the owner/proprieter/host/waiter and possibly his son, the other waiter. It is a bit dizzying and for maybe 40 seats (half of which were full) it seemed excessive.

The yellow ochrish walls are not much to look at but I have a thing for wood beams...which pepper the walls much to my liking.

What was noticeably lacking was a true french bistro smell. It was cozy (temp.) and it smelled pleasant I guess, but no discernable food smell. Not even onion soup or melting gruyere.

What wasn't lacking was your typical "hurry up and order" attitude from both the young man and the elder proprietor that you might expect from such a bistro. Asking for a wine list by the glass, and not able to see it (it was on a chalkboard behind me) was an affair in itself.

I ordered a glass of a Cote du Rhone (all red wines btg were $7), escargots ($8) and the cassoulet ($17 I think).

The escargots came out how I like them: slightly still sizzling (unlike the popping and overbubbling from La Petite Auberge). They were good and had a pleasant but not overly powerful garlic butter which I greatly enjoyed dipping the excellent bread into (the bread runs circles around the bread at both Park Bistro and LPA).

The cassoulet came out and I have to admit that first glance had me a bit concerned. It was a bit too liquidy - more soup than stew.

After having tried the cassoulet at Park Bistro, Artisanal and now Cosette within the last few months, I found this to be my least favorite though all were quite different.

The items that made the cassoulet were very good individually but the sum of the parts was not as good as it could be. It seemed like the cassoulet was either cooked a few hours ago and didn't have time to become one cohesive dish or the beans, duck, sausage, other sausage and pork belly were cooked on their own and added to the pot afterwards.

Not a bad reminded me of the version I had in Grenoble at a friend's family's house, just not great. It was homestyle, which, I suppose, is what it should some extent. The dish did get better as you ate cutting the meats helped bring flavor to the beans/soup.

I will definitely go back here. The menu is fairly priced and I can look past the harried service if only for the fact that there are only two people in the dining room.

In the end...this is the type of place I could see myself opening during my pre-retirement years after my other business has run its course.

Bon Appetit!


Petite Abeille, Jan. 14, 2006

Petite Abeille
401 E. 20th St. (1st Ave.)

Had a quick dinner here on Saturday evening at the "New Jersey Strip Mall" location on 20th St. and 1st Ave.

From the outside, this place looks as inviting as the Duane Reade (or was it CVS) next door.

But we were quickly given a table, menus and placed a drink order. Danna had a strawberry milkshake (it was one of those rainy days ya know) and I ordered a Nostradamus Brown Ale. The beer was sweeter than the shake (heavy on the alcohol %) but very good despite a poor pour from the waiter. This is bad practice unless you are a bartender. The shake was perfectly thick and not too strawberryish, if you know what I mean. Just right.

Danna got a cheddar bacon cheeseburger and I ordered the Moules Jamaicaines (2 lbs of steamed mussels in a Jamaican curry sauce with apples) which was nothing short of delicious. The mussels were plump and medium in size which was just right, perfectly steamed and the Jamaican curry was excellent. Truly a great dish and very similar to that of Park Bistro's variety. The ones at Park Bistro might be slightly more complex but it's a real toss up as to which ones are better. The broth was remarkably delcious and in abundance. Much more so than you are likely to get elsewhere. I could have eaten an entire baguette - dipping into that broth.

The burger was very good as well but the biggest disappointment was the frites. Wow. These could have been a LOT better. They may have been too crispy for their own good -- and without any potatoey center.

We left a good percentage of our fries on the plate.

The place itself is very family oriented and indeed the number of children came close to equalling the number of adults this evening. The service was fine for what it was (we got our check and the receipt in record time
, which was nice).

A burger, a beer, a shake and more mussels than one needs to eat came to about $40. We went to the back of the restaurant afterwards and bought a jar of Nutella (we had run out) and two "sweet" waffles of which I topped with some hot carmelized bananas and the Nutella (slightly warmed) the following morning for breakfast. Yum!

It's a little out of the way for us, but if I am craving mussels...I will probably head back here...and will order a larger basket of bread for dunking.

Cute website


I Trulli, Jan. 13, 2006

I Trulli
27th St. (bet. Lexington and Park Ave. South)

I had been unhappy with my last two experiences at I Trulli - mostly regarding the flight of wines I had at the enoteca one night. The smug and generally unpleasant bartender served one awful wine after the next (and in one unbelievable escapade...tried pouring me the same wine I had turned down).

But Danna and I wanted to go out...Italian sounded good...and local sounded better. Even though Aleo and Trio are relatively close, the sheer convenience of having I Trulli a sand wedge from my front stoop was the deciding factor.

Thankfully we went here as the food was quite good tonight and the wine, mercifully, was on point as well.

I ordered a 2002 Rosso di Montifalco ($9.50) which had plenty of fruit, easy on tannin and generally drinkable with or without food.

Here's what we had:


Panzerotti ($10) - small apulian calzones filled with mozzarella and tomato. This was just fine - a simple but pleasant way to start the meal. Just salty enough to bring out the flavor of the tomato and mozz.

Bucatini alla Guanciale ($19) (Special)
Danna has a reaction to red chili flakes. She asked to have it without...I had my appetizer of this with it and the difference was dramatic. It really needs the chili flake. But the pasta was delicious and perfectly cooked. Also, just enough parmagiano.


The bucatini dish ($12) mentioned above. One other thing...the appetizer wasn't much smaller in portion size to the entree. Hmmm.

Coniglio ($28) - Rabbit roasted in a clay pot with black chickpeas and rosemary.

I tried this dish for an elementary reason...I wanted to taste how the Italians might prepare this. During the last 8 months or so I've had a french preparation (French Bistro), an Austrian version (Wallse) and an American version (Red Cat) and must say that although this was a good wasn't great. The essence of rabbit simply wasn't there (perhaps a little too much so at French Bistro and just the right amount at the other two). The pancetta that wrapped the loin was too rubbery and added little to no flavor. The chickpeas added a nice texture...though the rabbit loin wasn't tender enough to enjoy the balance of the two ingrediants. One last complaint was that the rosemary - a pathetic little spritz - added nothing to the dish whatsoever. The mashed potatoes it was served on were fine and added that other texture that helped bring the dish together. This could have been an excellent dish. Instead it was just good.

The desserts made everything just right for both of us.

We shared the Crespelle ($10) - a beautifully presented dish of paper-thin apple pancake with spiced semolina crumb and cinnamon gelato. Delicious. The spiced semolina crumb boosted this dish to great heights. The dish also had a very sweet, crispy and impossibly thin slice of green apple sticking into the gelato and a thin stretch of caramel.

We also shared another Panzerotti ($10), this one a touch smaller in size (4 total as well) and filled with nutella. As good as you might expect. More sugar in place of that salt from the appetizer.

Overall it was a good dinner. But a bit expensive for what we got. $107.50 before tip, which, while not outrageous in the least, could have been toned down...especially for the rabbit dish. It was at least $6 or $7 overpriced. Other entrees on the menu and their prices seemed a bit excessive as well.

One thing to note, walking from Lexington we detected a foul fishy odor coming from the direction of the restaurant. We chose, on purpose not to eat fish this evening because of this. During our dessert, we noticed someone had ordered the fish and it too had a significant odor to it. A little off-putting to say the least.

Anyhow, a decent meal and it's been put back in my roster.


Trio, Jan. 11, 2006

167 East 33rd Street
(bet. Lex. and 3rd Ave.)

Someone mentioned Trio the other day, I thought it was RGR, and so I gave it a shot last night knowing that we have fairly similar (with exceptions) tastes.

I sat at the bar and ordered the caesar salad, porcini dusted herb chicken and a side of onion rings. I'd been warned by another review that the duck was hit or miss and I was confused by the prices. The venison stew, for example, was listed as $15 on the website, but in reality was $32. So to test the waters, I went with the chicken dish.

A regular patron was perched on what was probably his usual corner bar stool and offered a wine suggestion, his approval of my selection, and a great conversation that lasted for about an hour - none of it discussing other Murray Hill restaurants or oversensitive chowhounders.

The caesar salad ($8) was pretty good. The lettuce was actually the best part. Nice and crispy. The cheese on top seemed pre-cut - the kinds that is shaped like thin strands. This is not my favorite. I much prefer a fresh slice or two of pecorino. The croutons were good and the dressing, though creamier than my preferred kind was also very good.

The chicken ($18) was served with petit pois a la Francaise (peas, onions, bacon and a green of somekind, maybe a leek or a type of lettuce?) A large serving for sure and was more than enough for one person. The heavily peppered chicken (which was cooked just right) and the salty, flavorful broth and vegetables it sat on was a powerful and tasty combination. But heavy. Even I couldn't totally get through this dish.

The onion rings ($5) were downright awful. They were clearly cooked in a convection oven - and weren't fully cooked either. I passed them back to the bartender and quietly told him they were awful. He winked and took them away. Good, I thought. It won't be on the bill. was. However, I can overlook this as he comped one of my glasses of wine instead.

This is a great neighborhood place. It is by no means a destination restaurant, but I could certainly see myself back there for a dinner with my wife, or even my parents in the near future.


Payard Patisserie and Bistro, Jan. 7, 2006

Payard Patisserie and Bistro
Lexington Ave. bet. 74th and 73rd

After taking my wife to the Fashion in Colors exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, we went to Payard for high tea on Saturday.

Danna lit up when she saw where we were about to enter (this was a surprise day...something I like to do now and again).

The beautiful mahogany (?) doors open into a chocolate (or sweets in general for that matter) lovers paradise. The smell of sweet, buttery creations wasn't overpowering but just right.

We made our way through the chaotic and packed "showcase" room to the hostess stand that splits up the front and back rooms. We were seated at the corner table in the back left part of the dining room. This is probably the best seat in the house (if there are two of you) and would recommend asking for it if you make reservations prior to your visit.

The tall room with fanciful yellow hand-blown glass lamps with wrought iron "curves" looked like pschedelically shaped pumpkins that hang above in a droopy posture from its base. Something you might see at Moulin Rouge or in a Dali painting. Mini versions could be found as sconces above our table. The rest of the room was semi-transporting as well with comfortable seats and pillows of red and gold.

Danna and I both had a darjeeling that's first two cup fulls were great but terribly bitter toward the end (as is usual but perhaps moreso).

The food brought to us included:

Top tier:
Pretzel with salmon rillette and chive cream cheese
Vitello tonnato in ciabata
Mini mediterranean Pan Bagnat

All were very good. The tuna fish one might have been the crowd favorite. The salmon and turkey dish were also fine. The "pretzel" was just that...but of a very soft variety. The mayo on the pan bagnat was delicious.

Second Tier:
Creme Chantilly
and homeade confiture that we never received

The scones, unfortunately, were not warm...a pet peeve of both my wife and myself. They were still good though. The madeleines were also quite good. Chantilly creme is often too sweet for me...and this was no different. I prefer how the British serve this. As mentioned above...we never received the confiture or jam and didn't know to ask. We found out about it later.

Third Tier:
Mini lemon tart
Mini pistachio tart
Mini 11 layer hazelnut square
Mini 7 layer Opera
Mini blueberry tart
Mini chocolate eclair

Everything was very favorite going to the lemon and pistachio tarts followed closely by the hazelnut square. Danna had the eclair so can't attest to that...but I must say that the blueberries were very pronounced in their fruitiness...much more than I expected for this time of the year. Very good.

This was a fun trip and am very glad we did it. However, I find that the pastries, both the ones we had and the ones behind the counter, paled in comparison to those at Financier. Which really surprised me. The madelines, tarts and hazelnut items taste better at Financier and items like the Opera (full size), Paris Brest, buche de noel and others are prettier at Financier.

The Mermaid Inn, Jan. 6, 2006

The Mermaid Inn
96 2nd Ave. (bet. 5th and 6th)

We had a very good meal at The Mermaid Inn to celebrate our friend, and regular dining out partner, Sue Anne's 30th bday.

Two things right off the bat upon entering: YUM, what a lovely, soft/fresh seafood smell wafting about in neither an intrusive nor offending but cohesive way.

Secondly, you can tell this is owned by the Beanstalk folks, who's other restaurant The Red Cat, is similar in vibe, lighting and sound level. I can't attest to either the fallen Pace or the still going strong The Harrison as I haven't been, but I have to assume that at least
the Harrison is similar as well.

I just feel so at home at both the Mermaid Inn and The Red Cat.

Anyway, we split a bunch of appetizers:

Mussels - average, not my favorite but certainly passable.

Fried Calamari (special) - especially good thanks to a healthy dose of salt. The roumalade was quite good as well.

Fried Clams - Wow. Another example of what the folks at these two restaurants do well - what my interpretation of Gray Kunz's term "push and pull" is - excellent layering of textures. This was crunchy and soft/mushy in just the right proportions. Yum. They were served with savoy slaw and spicy tomato butter.

Hurricane Harbor - Washington State
and another variety from Nova Scotia. I had the one from Nova Scotia and it was quite large and perfectly saline. Really good.

Old Bay French Fries - pretty good. The cocktail ketchup sauce was pretty good but didn't adhese to the fries very well.

I think next time when D. and I go by ourselves, I'll get the corn and crab chowder. Sounds great.

Entrees -

My wife had the lobster roll, which both of us thought was a poor version compared to what I've made at home. Really not a very good dish. I can't for the life of me realize why a) this is the most expensive item on the menu (ok, I know the food cost of lobster is high but...) and b) why people love this so much. Really the only disappointment of the night, but kind of a big one.

I ordered (as did Sue Anne and her mother) the crispy trout filet with was served sliced in half and criss-crossed and plated vertically on top of a celery root mash and scallion-tomato vinaigrette. The potatos were nice and slightly less creamy but similar to the Shirred Eggs at Deborah. The fish itself was similar to the texture of chicken parm at an old red sauce joint. This is not a bad thing at just helps to know that before going for it. Fairly simple but good dish.

Others ordered the spaghetti with shrimp and scallops (looked great) and a grilled whole dorade with spicy sicilian escarole, golden raisins and lemon. The fish looked lovely with its grill marks but I can't help but think it was slightly overcooked...a little gummy. This fish has a TON of bones, some remarkably small. I don't recommend this dish for those with little patience.

Served as dessert was a complimentary pudding that tasted exactly like a fudgsicle...if you've ever had one, you'll know what I mean.

Service was quite good. Never intrusive, pretty much there if you needed her. Solid all around. Even the coat service was impressive (7 big coats).

And oddly enough, they didn't add the parties of 6+ = 18% tip to the bill. Probably to her advantage in the long run.

I'd definitely look forward to returning, but I think a trip to the Harrison first is needed. Dinner wasn't as good as at The Red Cat, but solid.

Oh, and I drank a beer from their menu called The Fisherman Brew (I think). It was an American unfiltered lager that was very good.