Monday, June 28, 2010

What To Do When You Forget the Mermaid Parade Until Too Late...

Each year, I promise myself anew that I am going to strut my fins in the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, and every year it arrives before I can get my shells and netting together for a mermiform. Instead, I went to The Mermaid Inn in the East Village.
I always hear the Inn dubbed as the "poor man's Bernardin", which really isn't a good categorization of the place at all. It's much more of a Pearl Oyster Bar/Mary's Fish Camp option. Cute little breezy white table-clothed joint with t-shirted waiters and potted plants. (Do not, I repeat: do NOT take your s.o. here for a significant anniversary or wedding proposal expecting the elegance of Monsieur Ripert. Not here.) That said, it's a fantastic little fish-focused eatery with some robust and soulful preparations and a great selection of diverse piscinery.
Raw bar options are unforgettably fresh, if not particularly innovative. But they needn't be; freshness trumps novelty. And the rest of the menu bumps up the flavor factor immensely, so it's not a bad way to start. An asparagus salad featured expertly grilled stalks, nutty and tender, spiked with some bitey arugula and mellowed with a smear of rich herb aioli. A pretty perfect asparagus dish. Most of the rest of the apps toe the nautical line: lobster bisque and peekytoe crab cakes, crisp calamari or steamed mussels, all competent.
Had to go for the skate again (hey: as long as they've got it, so will I.) Anyways, it allows for a very meticulous comparison, and I have to say this dish ranks up there with some of the best. It was a hugely ample portion, in a classic brown butter sautee, and rounded out with garlicky spinach and an (over?) abundance of what was dubbed crispy potato- actually potato-chippish planks, and probably much too many. I irresponsibly forgot my camera this time, but the website's own Photo Gallery ( gives perfect visuals, and also an accurate view of the substantial portion size here.
They cap you off complementary with a little demi-tasse of homemade chocolate pudding, which even as a non-chocolate-dessert person, I think could use a lot more chocolateyness. There's no dessert menu, so that's your only option for a sweet finish. The portion sizes of apps and entrees are big enough though, so that dessert here (if ever it could be) might be a bit of an after-thought, anyways. And it is creamy enough to get you through.
Service is present and chipper, just right for the space. It's hard not to love it here, the tasty food, convivial atmosphere, and lively E.V. surroundings.
And while it won't make up for my shameful absence yet again from this year's parade, I at least got my mermaid on culinarily. And NEXT year......

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