Monday, June 12, 2017


Motel Morris isn't a motel.  It's not a hotel.  It's not even really in the remote vicinity of any such type institution that I can think of, until avenues over.  But it's got hospitality to spare and oodles of other fine qualities that might make you wish that there WERE sleeping accommodations nigh.

The room is painted dark shades of blue, but while the space is deep and lighting is low, it is in no way gloomy.  A kinetic energy somehow imbues the space with a livelier ambiance than the architecture itself might imply.  The room is centered with a large bar, and this night and every night I've peered in, it's been two deep by prime time, and that imparts a festive vibe that appeals to many.  The menu is new old school Americana, in keeping with the motel theme.  A BLT&A salad gives a naughty wink to a leafy version of the sandwich, although
I'm nor sure what the A stands for... but you can add lobster to it, making it a meal for
just $7 extra.  A wilted kale and radicchio salad is voluminous and savory, but disappointingly had zero hint of wilt, char, or any other indication of the presence of heat, which would've made the roughage exponentially more interesting.  As it is, it's an okay salad, hearty enough for sure with big, fat dates and big, fat gigantes beans padding up the greens.  If, in fact, the greens (and reds) would've been charred, it would've become a pretty excellent salad.
 Pierogies are pretty hearty too, as pierogies usually are.  These are plumped with a creamy, cheddary potato filling and elevated
 with knobs of lobster meat, a global nudge is provided by chewy slivers of
shiitake mushrooms.  Sweet chili charred octopus uses deliciously fresh and meaty tentacles, cooked tender, but the sweet might override the chili somewhat, imparting a more saccharine impression than a fiesty one, even with nubs of Chinese sausage and a drizzle of chili oil.

Now while some of these starters would be filling enough to pair up and make for dinner, the entrees might actually be Morris' stronger suit.  They have a lineup of daily specials, like Monday's Lobster Pot Pie and Saturday's beef cheek stroganoff.  I think we were there on a Tuesday, whose chicken thigh paprikash gave NO competition to a sautéed skate wing.  So often chefs plate mild-mannered skate in a broth, and while those flavor profiles offend meld well, the texture of the fish is always compromised by the sog.  Here, it is proper upon a super flavorful sautéed of spring vegetables, including baby corns that I'm pretty sure are actually the fresh, premature cobs.... they had no inkling of that canned,
ascorbic acid-taste and were too crunchy and dense to have ever been frozen.  Kudos on that- a rare find.   I wasn't as impressed with a side of grilled asparagus, whose spears achieved not nearly enough grill.  They were pretty abruptly raw and crunchy, and the piquillo romesco beneath was slightly bitter, but mostly just saw limp and watery it pooled listlessly below, with zero chance of adhering to the vegetable.  They would've been better given more time on the flattop and simply strewn with the almonds- like Coco Chanel said, "look in the mirror and take one thing off".  Simplicity
 can be a virtue.  In that vein, grilled marinated skirt steak was a winner, cooked precisely as requested  and charred salty crisp on the edges.  A savory, bacon-enriched gruyere fondue beneath was judiciously applied, and bitter greens and tart shards of Granny Smith balanced the richness, of which there was plenty.    

Desserts are but two, plus "Mom's Dessert Special", all of which are $10.  In a nod to Americana, we went with Butterscotch Banana
 Pudding Pie, a perfectly cool and creamy slice crusted in a crumbly, buttery graham cracker cookie crust and dolloped with fresh whipped cream, spritzed with crushed butter bricks.  My tablemate ordered a second, which was entirely unnecessary but hard to resist.  And that's pretty much the overall impression I took from Motel Morris.  It's got a lotta yum, a lot of fun and even with the neighborhood stalwart Cafeteria just right across the avenue, I think Chelsea's got herself another keeper.

132 Seventh Avenue
                                                                       tel 646 880 4810

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