M Wells Diner
Posted 03 November 2010 - 12:10 PM
It's located in a strange part of LIC (and that's saying something), in a crappy diner near a LIRR station that I never set foot in once while living nearby for over a decade. I was hoping for that decadent over the top heart attack food that is APdC's signature, and the menu doesn't disappoint. I went straight for the hash, which that day consisted of fingerlings, brussel sprouts, bacon, cheese and a poached egg. Sounds great on paper, hashes are one of my favorite gut bombs, but this was really eh. In trying to figure out the problem, I'd say it had no balance. It was all one note: fat, with not a lot of other flavor going on.
That saying, I sat at the counter and watched the guy making what looked to be a great burger (beef and lamb). There is of course foie gras on the menu a plenty and though I had no room for it, the desserts looked good too.
I'm in the area every now and then so I'll be back, hopefully they'll be open for dinner soon.
Posted 24 February 2011 - 05:19 PM
We all know about the physical plant: an actual diner (a real Abandoned Luncheonette), right next to the Hunters Point Ave. 7 stop. It seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, but -- this is how it always is in neighorhoods you don't know really well -- really it's just a few blocks from the Vernon Blvd. dining strip. SEEMS desolate, though -- which is definitely part of the fun.
The chef, as is well known, is an alumnus of Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal. While he doesn't replicate their menu here, and this is not Quebecoise cooking, the food is in the same antic high/low nose-to-tail fat-intensive basic style. (What differentiates it from places like The Breslin is the "high/low" [and the "antic"]. The chef here definitely uses his background in French haute cuisine -- and definitely knows his food is kind of funny.) The problem is that the cooking is not quite immaculate. But it's close enough to eat happily.
We've all (well, many of us) been waiting for them to open for dinner, and now they are. Three nights a week, anyway (Tuesday through Thursday). To my surprise, they take reservations. To my further surprise, last night it wasn't packed. You could've walked in. I doubt that will last.
The menu format is, as you expect these days, confusing. There are "small" plates, which consist of both (a) appetizers for sharing and (b) main dishes a solo diner could eat. The two subcategories aren't differentiated: you have to figure it out for yourself (or ask your waitress, who will be unfailingly helpful). Then there are "big" plates, which are main dishes definitely for sharing -- by more than two people, in many cases. Curiously, these include their hamburger, which is kind of comic in affect and which not even Daniel could finish by himself. Prices on the "big" plates are mainly between $25 and $75 (i.e., very reasonable, considering they're shared) -- although each category contains a very expensive ringer or two, to prove their "haute" credentials.
On the whole, despite the inviting diner dining counter, this would NOT be a good place to dine solo.
We started with a blue cheese salad (VERY VERY high quality greens -- you KNOW they're local; I wouldn't be shocked [although I might be disturbed] to learn they were foraged; good cheese; apple slices; walnuts). I was probably overcome with good cheer because my date amazingly agreed to split the other appetizer -- you'll see -- but I thought this . . . this . . . this salad was amazingly good.
Also, a plate of calf's brains. These were prepared in the French style, sauteed with some capers, herbs, and (in this case) croutons. Well butchered (more on this later), well cooked. My only criticism is that it would have been better with even more capers and maybe some lemon to up the acidity, which you of course really need to cut the richness of the brains themselves. (This was a very hefty portion -- definitely for two.)
Then, a huge plate of salmon coulibiac to share. The best possible? No: could have been a bit less goopy. But really really good? You bet. Instead of the usual creme fraische this came with (lightly) "smoked" cream (a very nice flavor accent), sprinkled with salmon roe. There was plenty of dill and -- this made it; it was the best thing on the plate -- the best fried dill pickles that have ever been served anywhere!!!!!! (Stupid hyperbole, but try them and tell me you don't agree.) That's the kind of antic touch that makes this cooking lovable, and it's done and conceived well enough that it makes the food both distinctive and delicious.
For dessert: they had a special of canales! Maybe a little bit burnt, but I don't mind them that way. The brownie was (as you might expect) too rich and over-the-top.
Service was in the "friendly hipster" mode. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu and obviously committed to this place's fresh-local-ingredients/in-house-butchering mission. And helpful and friendly. (The hipster as Girl Scout.) When I very obviously pouted when she told us they were out of brains:
WAITRESS: Wait! I'll go back and check!
(Disappears into the kitchen for a few minutes.) (Comes back.)
WAITRESS: Good news! We're going to butcher another head for you! If you look over there, you can see them taking the brains out!
I really like this place.
Posted 24 February 2011 - 06:24 PM
How does one time a visit for freshly butchered brains?
Great report btw. You really take us there every time.
Posted 24 February 2011 - 06:31 PM
How does one time a visit for freshly butchered brains?
Just luck, I guess.
Posted 24 February 2011 - 09:10 PM
Posted 24 February 2011 - 09:13 PM
And she picked the bone marrow and escargots!
I told her I thought those might be too heavy alongside the brains (she'd never had brains, and so didn't know what they're like, although happy to try them), and she said, "Oh, OK, I guess maybe the salad, if we have to. Wait! Or maybe the steak tartare?"
I'm in shock.
Posted 24 February 2011 - 09:30 PM
"Oh, OK, I guess maybe the salad, if we have to."
Posted 08 March 2011 - 06:24 PM
I did hear about the bone marrow with escargots. With the bone marrow and scallops at Ai Fiore, another trend?
Why live your life when you could curate it?
At the Sign of the Pink Pig