Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spring Break New York, pt. 2

As I was saying...

That charcuterie and wine apéritif I was telling you about was meant to get us primed for dinner that night, but it was also partly strategic--we had a late reservation at M. Wells Steakhouse and we figured showing even just slightly sated might act as an insurance policy.  We had a feeling the experience of eating in this fully reconditioned former body shop/pleasure palace would be jacked up enough without us showing up parched and famished.  We were positive the barrage of temptations would come fast & furious, and we were absolutely right.

butcher shop, NYC fig. a:  meat lover's paradise

Yes, enticement was in the air that night--

every99¢thing fig. b:  hard sell

quite literally, actually, because the perfume of that wood-fired grill began to charm and seduce us from the moment we stepped into the restaurant.

Our chief mechanic that night was our homeboy Étienne (Go, Habs, go!), and it turned out we weren't the only Montrealers in the house that night.  He seated us right next to another table of Canadiens who were already reeling from the gastronomic assault that was being meted (meated?) out to them by the M. Wells kitchen when we showed up.  We took one look at their glazed expressions and promptly explained to Étienne that we'd gotten off to an early start and that we were ready to start in with our wine and victuals without any preliminaries.  In fact, we'd already decided what we wanted.  He took our order, bellowed to the kitchen, "Let the games begin!," and we began to tremble with anticipation.

...A few hours later, we were just a tiny bit stunned, but mostly we were delirious with satisfaction.  The festivities had included the following:
wedge salad with dehydrated ketchup & blue cheese dressing (quite likely the best, and definitely the most inventive, we've ever had) 
a very generous Caesar salad (almost hilariously so) 
stack of super-thin pork chops with anchovy butter (kind of brilliant, totally irresistible) 
truite au bleu (delicate & delicious) 
grilled lobster tail (wood fired, or course) 
t-bone steak (wood-fired, of course) 
pommes aligot (the very cheesiest we've ever experienced--complètement débile!) 
French peas w/ lardons (peas, please) 
& a great bottle of Charly Thevenet Régnié, Grain & Granit (which went beautifully with our food, but also prompted a heated discussion over who's hotter, Charly Thevenet or Brad Pitt?*)
Actually, as we wrapped up our savoury courses, we felt pretty wonderful.  Our strategy seemed to have worked like a charm.  Thing is, we'd forgotten about dessert, but the M. Wells kitchen hadn't forgotten about us.  After all, Michelle is a pastry chef--a known one, even.  Now, it's not like we were going to skip out without sampling their dessert cart--in fact, we had designs on M. Wells' highly touted Paris-Brest, a delicacy we've been fans of for a long time now--but the point is that they never would have let us if we'd tried.  So we ordered our Paris-Brest, and it was excellent, truly excellent.  Beautiful to the eye, a total crowd-pleaser, and a perfect finish to a rather perfect meal.  But that wasn't all...  Because they also sent out a sugar shock-style tarte tatin graced with an enormous slab of foie gras.  And that was what killed us--or, at least, that was what killed me & R, because Michelle & MA wisely decided to forego.  The problem was that this, too, was excellent--and that's how they get you.  You know you should stop, but once that combination of apple, caramel, and foie gras gets its hooks in you, you just don't want to.

All in all, this was one of those meals that you just couldn't stop talking about--later that night, all the next day, and all the following week, too.  We're not even half way through 2014 yet, so the year's still young, but so far that night at M. Wells Steakhouse is the one to beat.

carousel fig. c:  la ronde

Not surprisingly, it took us a while the next day to start thinking about eating again--me & R, especially.  It was gorgeous out, though, and Central Park was just throbbing with springtime energy, so we spent most of the afternoon walking, and gradually those "foie handles" that appeared on my torso overnight seemed to burn off.

By late afternoon, it was time to head back to Montreal, but by then my appetite had returned, I was in the mood for one last food adventure before we left the Big Apple, and I still had a number of places on my hit list that we hadn't managed to fit in to our itinerary.  That's when I remembered how easy it had been to scoot down 2nd Avenue from Midtown the day before.  And that's when I decided we were going to motor on down to Motorino for a couple of last-minute pizza pies.  I had a hankering for a clam pie, and we'd never ever tried Motorino's East Village location (though we had been there way back when, when it was still Una Pizza Napoletana).  So we zipped down to the East Village, and--wouldn't you know it?--there was a parking spot waiting for us directly in front.  The pizza gods were smiling on us.

the lord works in mysterious ways fig. d:  AEB mobile unit @ Motorino

We took a look at the menu, but we'd already decided.

Untitled fig. e:  Motorino menu

One clam pie and one margherita.

Untitled fig. f:  pizza perfection

The margherita was phenomenal, but that clam pie was the stuff of dreams:  cherrystone clams, fior di latte, oreganata butter, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon.  That final squeeze of lemon is what really takes things over the top, but the entire ensemble is enlightened.  Plus, their pies are so tender, so full of savor, so perfectly baked.  What a treat!

We watched the bicycle delivery guys take off with one pizza after another, and tried to imagine living in a town where such insanely good pizza is not only readily available, it can be delivered to your door (!).

Half an hour later we were crossing the George Washington Bridge with a couple of slices of leftover Motorino pizza, some M. Wells steak sandwiches (made with leftovers from our t-bone), and a whole lotta Italian specialty items.

M. Wells Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, NY, (718) 786-9060,

Motorino, 349 E. 12th St., New York, NY, (212) 777-2644


* Answer:  they're both pretty hot, but Channing Tatum's got 'em both beat on dance moves.

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