NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 4: L&W Oyster Co. and North End Grill)

Sunday, June 8, 2014
My mom and I were moseying along 5th Avenue early Wednesday afternoon looking for a good place to eat lunch, and stumbled upon L&W Oyster Co., which looked promising. Though my mom doesn't eat raw oysters, we looked at the menu outside the restaurant and it was like a contemporary play on an old school New England seafood house, offering various seafood-based sandwiches, salads, and chowders, so we decided to eat there. Also because it was hot and we really didn't want to keep walking around.

Fried Oyster Po' Boy

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich

It's a small space, but seemingly open so that on a sunny day (like the day we went) with the front windows wide open, it feels spacious and airy. It has a kind of retro, playful feel to it, with the sides of the narrow restaurant lined with booths, single lightbulbs hanging down, condiments displayed in frying baskets, brown paper lining the tables, and boards of magnetic poetry hung beside every booth. L&W Oyster Co. has a different menu everyday (though some items seem to be consistent throughout all their menus), so these two particular items are not on their regular menus that you can find online. But on that day, we decided to share the Fried Oyster Po' Boy and the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich. The Po' Boy was perfection: Golden deep-fried oyster pieces with crispy bacon chips on a bed of fennel slaw in a buttery toasted bun. If it's available, this is a definite must-order. The Soft Shell Crab Sandwich was also tasty, with the crab perfectly crispy and golden, sitting atop a bed of greens and drizzled with a creamy sriracha sauce, but I didn't think the flavours worked as harmoniously as the Po' Boy. Both were served with housemade salt and vinegar kettle chips; tasty and addictive. My only complaint is that the portions are on the smaller side, so it ends up being pretty pricey for how much you get.

Iced Oysters on the Half-Shell with Mignonette: Barron Point, Cadillac, and Wellfleet

Maine Crab Salad with Avocado and Green Strawberries

Tuna Tartare with Crispy Shallots and Fried Quail Egg

After another afternoon of shopping in Soho, we met up with my brother and his girlfriend in the Financial District to take a look at the new National September 11 Memorial which had just opened up the week before to the public, stopped by Godiva for some truffles, and then hung out at their apartment until it was time to leave for North End Grill for our 8:00 reservation. Contemporary American restaurants are apparently all the rage right now, and North End Grill is one fine example of Contemporary American executed well (no surprise, as it's owned by Danny Meyer, who is also responsible for Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, and Union Square Cafe). It's a beautiful restaurant in a huge space, somehow modern and rustic at the same time, with a large bar area at the front (this place boasts over 150 different types of Scotch, along with cocktails, beer, and wine), an oyster bar, an open kitchen, and a massive dining area in the back with big floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooks the Hudson River.

To start, we decided to share fresh oysters (three types, served with lemon and mignonette), Maine crab salad, and the tuna tartare. Oysters are delicious, fresh, creamy, slightly sweet with just the right amount of brine, and the mignonette added just the right amount of smoky spiciness. The Maine crab salad is beautifully presented in a massive mother of pearl shell. Massive chunks of crab and just-ripe avocado tossed with slaw and fresh green strawberries. I normally don't like fruit in my salads, but the strawberry worked really well here, maybe because they had equal amounts of tartness and sweetness (ripe strawberries would have overwhelmed the salad entirely by being too sweet). Perfect for a hot summer day. But the real star here is the tuna tartare, mixed with crispy shallots and croutons, and topped with a single fried quail egg. Break the yolk, blend it in the tartare, and it's just heaven.

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Thai Chili, Lemon, and Pecorino

Wood Grilled Chanterelle Mushrooms with Garlic Aioli

Black Sea Bass with Saffron, Hazelnut Romesco, Leek, and Mussel Broth

For sides, we decided on the — what else? — Brussels sprouts and chanterelle mushrooms. The Brussels sprouts here are fried and tossed with Thai chili, lemon, and pecorino cheese. They were a touch bitter, but lemon added a bit of life back into them, and the addition of chili and pecorino cheese made them incredibly addictive to eat. Not as great as the other iterations of Brussels sprouts that I ate on this trip, but you could almost eat these ask a snack, really, and I reckon that they'd be great with beer (you know, if I drank). The chanterelle mushrooms were impeccable, though. Wood grilled, firm with a nice crunch, and served with garlic aioli. We should've gotten two orders of it; we literally scraped that bowl clean. And for our mains, all of us ended up ordering the black sea bass, which is strange, because aside from my mom, none of us really have an affinity for fish as an entrée. Maybe because we'd eaten such heavy meals on this trip. But I don't regret my choice at all. We all agreed that it was the right decision. The bass, so perfectly cooked — soft and tender, flaky but never chewy — and set in a most heavenly (and I really don't use that word often, so you know I mean it) broth made of saffron, hazelnut romesco, leek, and mussel. Aromatic, silky smooth, almost buttery in flavour. The kind of broth that you don't want to leave a single drop behind (and I didn't, 'cause I totally got a piece of bread to sop up all that goodness).

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Oat Streusel and Smoked Vanilla Ice Cream

Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Chocolate Streusel and "Single Maltmallows"

And then, dessert! We ordered two desserts with totally different flavour palates: the strawberry-rhubarb crisp and the butterscotch pot de crème. The strawberry-rhubarb crisp was as you would expect: equal parts sweet and tart with crunchy oat streusel on top. It was the smoked vanilla ice cream that really elevated it, and the flavour was completely unexpected. When they say "smoked," they really mean it. It has the mellow sweetness of vanilla with an almost cured bacon flavour. It sounds strange, but it's oddly addictive and adds such an amazing contrast to the strawberry-rhubarb. The star, however, and the one most recommended by our server, was the butterscotch pot de crème. I wasn't really sure what this was upon reading it, but turns out, it's a delightfully rich creamy pudding, served cool, with butterscotch right at the bottom of the bowl. It's topped with a flurry of chocolate streusel and served with "single maltmallows" which are vanilla bean marshmallows that have been soaked with single malt whiskey, and you dip them in the pudding as if it were a fondue. Even after the marshmallows are gone, though, you just dive right in that cream with a spoon because it is positively glorious. Not too sweet so you don't get that sickly feeling, and the chocolate streusel adds a great crunch with every spoonful. A must-order. 

A perfect last meal on our New York trip.

L&W Oyster Co.
254 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 203-7772

North End Grill
104 North End Avenue
New York, NY 10282
(646) 747-1600
4 comments on "NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 4: L&W Oyster Co. and North End Grill)"
  1. I want a fried oyster po so badly! There's a place near me that makes it pretty well. I should stop by and make sure they haven't gone out of business. And I wanted to mash my face up against the computer and throw myself into that sea bass broth even before I read your description, lol.

    1. You definitely need some oyster po' boys in your life! Unnngh, just thinking about it is making me drool. I wonder what's the best place in TO for this...

      LOL! I've never been one to love cooked fish dishes, but this one is to die for. :) UGH I MISS NYC.

  2. Out of curiosity, Denise, do you feel weird taking out your massive camera when you eat? LOL. I rarely ever snap more than a shitty iPhone photo at restaurants because I feel so self-conscious.

    1. LOL! My camera's actually not that big -- I have a Nikon 1 J1 which is a "micro-DSLR," or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The body of the camera is a bit bigger than a point-and-shoot and then it has a detachable lens, which takes more dimensional photos like a DSLR. That having been said... it is a bit awkward when I first bust it out but... I get over it pretty fast, LOL. I'm like, "MY FOOD PHOTOS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR JUDGING ME."


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