Well, Yum

In food, restaurant on 04/30/2011 at 1:51 pm

Yesterday, the pageantry of the fascinators brought back fond memories of our Easter brunch at a haute diner helmed by our neighbors from the north. They don’t make Canadian food at M. Wells so much as locavore cuisine. The bonus is that although hipsters frequent the place, the attitude doesn’t reek of it.

I had really wanted to go for dinner, but yelp reviews of horrific lines made me picture eating at 9pm or later, plus, who has time to dine in Long Island City on weeknights only (Besides our Crossfit friend who lives nearby)? I would have to settle for brunch, and if it was worth it, then go back for dinner entrees that feature innards and other interesting game.

Verdict: It is, and we will have to. Luckily, Dutch Kills is nearby, accessible for after-dinner digestive drinks.

We ordered almost everything on the petite menu. Thank goodness we had three other mouths at the table to help out.

We started with apple cider donuts, then bone marrow topped with escargot, and egg souffle. Everyone raved about the bone marrow, but I thought it was a little bland. It’s really just fat in a tube. One time the other half bought bone marrow and I broiled it in the oven. For a bunch of fat, it’s not very flavorful. I prefer bacon or duck grease.

The egg souffle is something pretty commonplace from my childhood. The bonito flakes on top were dancing. It made for a good show and it’s easy to make. Just stick some seasoned scrambled eggs in the steamer for 10 minutes. Top with savory bits.

We also sampled the locally made hot dawg with chili and slaw; it was not full of big flavor, but still nicer than a typical dirty water dog. We couldn’t pass up the first fiddleheads of the season. These were topped with bits of sauteed pork on an egg and potato hash patty. Very hearty in a delicate way.

There were two standout dishes. First was this coffee sabayon-topped oyster. It’s not that the oysters were spectacular, the sabayon was a perfect blend of savory umami, reminiscent of the aioli at Diner in Williamsburg. With a  squeeze of tart lemon, it was the perfect bite.

Sabayon is normally noteworthy for being an incredibly fickle sauce, and I’ve only seen it as a dessert, added as the pudding layer in trifles. It is thinner than hollandaise, so less likely to break, but it involves a double boiler, so I’ll have to persuade the other half to make it for me.

While I couldn’t find a particular savory coffee sabayon recipe, it seems that a bunch of them are paired in a seafood setting. The question is whether to use instant coffee granules or a brew of really strong espresso. The trick is to find the right ratio.

For a snooty foodie, I am surprised I’ve never had steak tartare. In my mind, this dish is akin to wet pet food because the iterations I’ve seen are finely minced piles of raw meat that look mildly congealed. Imagine my delight when I took a bite of the M. Wells version and I could chew actual chunks of nice steak.

The soft poached egg on top was a little overkill, but it didn’t hurt. Once I get my hands on some good quality steak, I will have to reproduce this Saveur recipe below.

2 egg yolks
2–3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
2–3 dashes Tabasco
3 tbsp. olive oil
3–4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. rump steak, exterior fat removed
1/2 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 small cornichons, chopped
2 tsp. capers, drained
1/4 bunch parsley, trimmed and chopped

1. Whisk egg yolks, ketchup, mustard, worcestershire, and Tabasco in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually whisk in oil, then lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Slice beef into 1/2″ pieces with a very sharp knife or cleaver. Gather pieces together and slice crosswise into smaller pieces, then chop them and add to the bowl.

3. Add onions, cornichons, capers, and half the parsley, and mix gently with 2 spoons until just combined. Adjust seasonings. Divide between 2 plates and garnish with remaining parsley.

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