21-17 49th Avenue off 21st Street, Long Island City, Queens
$330 for five, with drinks, without tip
♥ ♥ ♥
It’s rare that I eat out these days mostly because there’s something in my life now called “mortgage”, but when I do go, I make sure that I’m with a good group of people who appreciate food as much as I do. I was at the Breslin a few months ago with more or less the same group of people and we talked about what and where we were going to eat next while we were eating. We jokingly called ourselves the EatingAnimal Club because we realized how much we liked our red meat and pork. I wanted the rest of them to love sashimi and offal as much as I do, so the premise of eating nose-to-tail came up as one of the unofficial foundations of the club. (The “club” in the name made it sound so pretentious and exclusive–two adjectives we all aspire to be.)
M. Wells was the club’s third meeting. I was glad that everyone was willing to take the 7 train to Long Island City, Queens on a weeknight. When we were planning it, all we could find online was their brunch menu, but it didn’t take a lot of convincing to tell them to get adventurous for dinner–Québécois adventurous.
We all looked at the small dishes on the menu but I was pretty much handed the baton to order for the table. They were out of the “porterhouse pork” and the headcheese sandwich by the time we sat down at 8pm, so we picked eleven other dishes while skipping out on the three salads and a blini. Here’s the line-up of what went in our tummies:
Oyster in sabayon – We all met up at Grand Central Oyster Bar beforehand, so I wasn’t a big fan of this. It was also coffee sabayon! I love coffee-flavored anything, but I prefer my oysters unadulterated.
Whelks and blood sausage – I love me some snails and blood sausage, but I never thought I can eat them together. That said, this was one of the strongest dishes on the menu for me. Both ingredients were doused in dill-garlic butter while the soda crackers kept the strong flavors at bay.
They didn’t have sweetbreads on the menu but the veal brains made up for that. It was soft and smooth like homemade ricotta, rich like creamy butter.
Escargots and bone marrow – Another combination that perhaps only Canadians with French thinking would come up with. The textures were odd: chewy escargots with slushy marrow fat but I couldn’t stop scooping them up. I would have loved it even more topped with finely chopped parsley and red onion.
Beef tartare – Tartare is tartare and I wasn’t a fan of how saucy their version was. Like my oysters, I prefer my raw meat clean and immaculate. The poached egg was a nice touch, though–much heftier than a quail egg.
The snow crab salad with celeriac was also delicious and, if I remember correctly, went faster than any other dish on our table. The shaved Brussel sprouts was also a nice break from all the fatty dishes. It was served with dry venison jerky instead of perhaps bacon bits.
My favorite dish of the night was the tripe. It was called tripe “pasta” on the menu because I think they looked like cavatellis, but instead of a sauce, they were tossed with crushed smoked herring. The saltiness of the fish was oddly perfect with the blandness of the tripe. I would have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Canuck breakfast reminded me not of Canada but of my breakfasts in Ireland sans the grilled tomato. I ate fried eggs, ham (bacon to us Americans) and blood sausage everyday for a week before I hiked or biked and the dish brought so many memories of that trip.
The tuna was pretty amazing with capers and egg yolk sauce, but I barely remember the butter chicken that my eating mates loved.
If those weren’t enough, somehow a cheese plate made it onto our table. (Good upsell from the staff there!) We were expecting small wedges of cheese but it came as a sticky mess of Winnimere, hazelnuts and candied fruit in maple syrup. I think if I wasn’t full, I would have appreciated the earthiness and saltiness of the dish. It certainly falls under the “weird” category for me and I didn’t need a platter for four of it.
We were pretty bummed when we found out that they had ran out of the banana cream pie, so we opted for the cheesecake, and man, what a cheesecake! Were those Ladyfingers in there? The cake wasn’t ridiculously sweet and we practically fought over it. The solution: take a slice to go!
Put the EatingClub in one room with food and drinks and we get pretty boisterous. The three ladies who shared our long wooden table weren’t too pleased with our behavior, but our servers seemed to like us, offering us a complementary bottle of bubbly for keeping us waiting in between courses and shots of some type of anise-flavored digestifs. We had to cancel a couple of dessert items after the gigantic cheese course and we felt bad that we requested to remove $17 worth of extra charges from our first bill, but we were also good diners and left them a hefty tip for putting up with us. I hope the staff had a good time with us as much as we had eating at their diner-cum-restaurant. We walked out of there, happy and drunk well past midnight, and into the cold Queens night.
The Spotted Pig back in 2005