One recent Saturday CT and I had a late-starting engagement party in the East Village, so we decided to also get dinner in the neighborhood. We checked the deals currently out there and decided on The Mermaid Inn with its Blackboard Eats deal. We had previously eaten at the sister restaurant, Mermaid Oyster Bar and enjoyed that a lot. CT’s close friend, KR, was also able to join us for some seafood.
Since we did not plan ahead and make a reservation, it was about an hour and a half wait. We weren’t in a rush and there were plenty of bars nearby to wait it out. The front room and bar area of the restaurant were pretty tight quarters. I was pretty happy when we were seated in the more spacious back room with a wall of windows looking out to the tiny backyard.
Although we didn’t get a little bucket of their awesome flatbreads, service was quick, so we didn’t stay hungry for long. We were originally just going to order one appetizer and some oysters for the three of us to share. However, our friendly waiter went over the evening’s specials with us, so we quickly changed our mind. They were offering an octopus and feta salad($12). I hardly ever pass up on octopus and this time would be no exception. The waiter also reminded us that the half dozen oysters we ordered were complimentary for Blackboard Eats customers. SCORE!
I was pretty hungry so I ate more than my fair share of the salad eventhough it was only ok. The salad was a bit overdressed for my taste. I would have also preferred the octopus not as finely chopped. It seemed to me as if the octopus was the remnants of other portions. I have become quite the feta fiend and enjoyed these crumbles a lot.
CT says: I like the octopus, but found the overall salad to be much too salty. I had a small portion, but couldn’t stomach much more than that.
We also shared the littlenecks & crispy pork belly with roasted tomatoes, thyme and pickled shallots($11). This was a huge disappointment. While the clams were passable, the pork belly was overcooked and flavorless. The roasted tomatoes had large parts that were completely black(no, that isn’t a mussel on the bottom of the dish). The expediter should have been paying more attention when this dish went out.
CT says: Agreed. The clams were good and I liked the flavors of the sauce it came it. Though the tomatoes were black, at least they didn’t give off a burnt flavor that could have ruined the whole dish. However, the pork belly was almost inedible in its dryness from being overcooked, which was especially shocking considering it was sitting in liquid! We definitely didn’t finish this dish.
The oysters were fantastic. They were shucked perfectly as to not waste a drop of the precious liquor. Served with a side of cocktail sauce & horseradish and a shallot mignonette. The oysters were so fresh and juicy that they didn’t need anything added to them. Fresh oysters are great and even better when they are free.
CT says: Yummmm oysters! I could have eaten a whole plate of these myself. So fresh and delicious! I tried a bit of the shallot mignonette too. It added a nice additional flavor to the oyster.
Onto the entrees:
KR chose the Mermaid seafood stew with clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp, lobster and roasted garlic crostini($25). I joked with her before that there would probably be just a tiny bit of lobster. Boy, was I wrong! Tail & a large claw. KR loved the everything in the dish except for the crostini. It was toasted a bit too much(black) for her taste. I had a bite of lobster and liked it. The calamari was a little flat in flavor and too chewy.
CT went with the mustard crusted rainbow trout with burst cherry tomato, spinach and lemon oil($23). She was a little disappointed when the plate arrived and saw that the fish was fried. I had a taste and enjoyed the crust with the tang of the mustard.
CT says: While I wasn’t expected something fried, it was quite delicious and not greasy at all! The mustard crust had a perfect crunch to it and the slightly tangy flavor paired well with the fish. The spinach was a little overcooked and got too soft in the tomato sauce. However, when eaten with the crispy fish, it wasn’t too bad and made me feel slightly healthier.
I had the seared Montauk skate with organic root vegetables, caper berry, soy brown butter($21). I think the last time I had skate was at Sel et Poivre. The portion was quite large and the flavor was very mild. Skate sounds intimidating, but trust me and give it a try. The root vegetables were quite forgettable and I ended up leaving most on the plate.
The girls were easy to please once we ordered the lobster & truffle mac and cheese($9). While it did have some large chunks of lobster, I was not that impressed with the dish. It tasted a little bland to me, but fortunately was not overwhelmed with truffle oil.
CT says: I’ll agree that the flavor was just ok. But I love mac and cheese and even more so when there are large chunks of lobster. I’m not sure I would order this dish again, but I’m glad I got to try it.
After we were done with our meal, we were each given their traditional espresso cup of chocolate pudding with whipped cream. It was the perfect portion size and not too sweet.
CT says: I didn’t like this as much as I remembered. I don’t know if it’s the same recipe as Mermaid Oyster Bar, but I could barely get a chocolate flavor from it. Mostly just heavy cream. I only had one bite.
With dessert always comes the fortune fish.
All in all, it was a good meal. I now officially like Mermaid Oyster Bar better than Mermaid Inn, mostly due to the menu choices. It was true that you always end up over-ordering when a discount was involved. We noticed that many tables around us also used Blackboard Eats that night. Unfortunately, the table next to us were noobs. They only had one entree and drink each. What a terrible use of the discount! If you have an oyster craving, go no farther than the closest Mermaid location.