M. Wells (Queens - Long Island City)
Posted 25 January 2011 - 06:45 PM
I have to embrace the term "quirky" that has been used in some writing about M. Wells. The restaurant is run by Hugue Dufour, who is an alumnus of another quirky restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal. It's a diner, in a classic old diner building a few feet (if you get the right exit) from the Hunters Point station on the 7 train (that's the second stop in Queens -- very fast trip).
It's not really possible to categorize the place. It's not Quebecois, though there is some of that food on the menu, including some profoundly unremarkable buckwheat pancakes (aka plogue). I guess it's a little like the diner equivalent of a gastropub, except not British in orientation. We had some exceptionally tasty food, some decent food, and some bad food.
The highs were very high, though, such as the best sausage-and-egg sandwich I've ever had: a big fat English muffin topped with a big fat house-made sage-sausage patty, very fluffy scrambled eggs, cheddar, tomato, mayo and jalapenos. Nothing I've ever made or had comes close. Also exceptional: the bacon hash, and a dessert item called Graceland which is half way between a cupcake and a muffin, heavy with peanut-butter flavor. I'm sad that Elvis never got to try it. Also very good fries and a chili dog worth traveling for if you're a chili-dog aficionado.
Not so good were the aforementioned plogue, the maple pie (it would have been a mediocre pecan pie if it included pecans, but it didn't), and the worst doughnut you can think of. There were a couple of good sweets in addition to Graceland, though, including a Momofuku Milk Bar-like chocolate cookie and a moist brownie that was either made with Mexican chocolate or with some other kind of chocolate enhanced with capsicum.
There are a lot of things on the menu that I'd still like to try, including the Maine shrimp salad, meat pie (it was 86d today), steak tartare and Cubano sandwich.
Although the kitchen is a little slow, the servers are very friendly and pretty well informed.
Prices are low, with most things under $10 and I think pretty much everything under $15 except the day's special of duck confit for two.
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Posted 30 January 2011 - 03:09 PM
Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:40 PM
filet mignon tartare served with poached egg and vibrant greens is among the best in the city. perfect seasoning, texture, and temperature. escargot & bone marrow (cut length wise) is a welcome marriage of ingredients. from the big dish section, we split the head & cheese; fried veal brain, foie, ham and fried bread served on top of a wheel of brillat-savarin. the brains were spectacular. the chef had the same next to us, deemed the cheese was too ammoniated, and comped our dish. i detected a hint of ammonia but didn't find it objectionable. he clearly has high standards. he poured us a glass of wine from his friend's vineyard and kept us entertained for a while.
from the space to the menu, i can't think of another place in nyc that even comes close in comparison. i know that's an obvious thing to say based on all the write-ups thus far, but it didn't fully register until i dined there. i doubt it'll be long before diners have to call far in advance for a reservation.
Posted 18 February 2011 - 09:09 AM
Posted 22 February 2011 - 04:02 PM
Ended up getting the pickled pork tongue, the tortilla espanola with blood sausage and shrimp and finished off with a graceland.
I enjoyed it and want to go back to try other selections and their dinner service.
more details of the stuff i got it up in my blog stuff
Posted 14 April 2011 - 08:53 PM
Posted 15 April 2011 - 03:50 AM
M. Wells is one of the few interesting restaurants that isn't hard to get to from where we live in Maspeth, since the bus that stops at the end of our block actually goes directly there. Now that they're open for dinner, we'll have to try it.
Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:44 PM
Posted 21 May 2011 - 04:20 AM
Although most of the dishes are quite heavy (think Breslin type weight), they provide a real variety of flavors and textures. The one real departure in terms of flavor/weight is the Bibim Wells, which is sort of a riff on Korean bibim bop with various raw seafood toppings, among other things. Even though it included foie gras, the overall effect was surprisingly fresh and light, which was unexpected. A real counterpoint to most of the food that night, and a fun one. The brains, as many have said, are really great. Subtle, silky and delicate despite their richness. Sort of like a soft, utopian version of sweetbreads. The Caesar salad, was essentially a totally classic version except for the use of smoked herring in place of anchovies. Still, the net effect was basically that of a perfectly executed Caesar salad from eons ago. It was like seeing an old friend after many years, even though it had a little twist to it. Same was true of the steak tartare, which didn't open any new flavor combinations for the dish, but was so well executed it made us all wonder why more people can't do steak tartare this well. One real (pleasant) surprise was the butter chicken. While I'd normally be wary of a restaurant serving dishes from a huge range of ethnicities, this riff on Indian food was not to be missed. Just a delicious flavor bomb, and left everyone looking for stuff to dunk in the sauce. One of the highlights of the meal. But maybe the best thing we ate was the meatloaf sandwich. Sweet, savory, juicy, messy, perfect. The only consensus dud was the tripe. I'm a tripe eater, but this tripe didn't really work for me. Tasted a bit muddy, and had an overcook broccoli quality to it (I think it may have been cooked for a long time with a bunch of broccoli...). Still, only one dud among many highlights.
By the way, don't let the large plate/small plate distinction fool you. There were no small plates, but the dishes did vary quite a bit in size (from large to gargantuan), so consulting a server was very wise. As is dining with a large group, as you'd never get through much of the menu with just a few companions. Go now, and go often, as the menu changes frequently.