Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Food Field Trip NYC Part 2: The Joys of Camping

Anyone who knows me knows I hate camping. But this past weekend in NYC, I discovered a type of camp that I genuinely enjoy and cannot wait to go back to: Mary's Fish Camp (, a small 30 seat urban "fish shack."

Mary's is situated in the heart of East Greenwich Village, occupying a tiny corner of real estate composed of a nine seat bar (designed for eating) and tables that line the wall. They do not accept reservations so B and I  expected a wait.

What we did not expect was to be greated so amicably by the host who noted the wait was only a half hour; he suggested that we choose our wine and enjoy a glass on the sidwalk while we waited. The weather was fantastic as was the people watching so we happily obliged. We chose a white Rioja. While we really enjoy this red varietal, we had never tried the white version. It did not dissapoint and may have been the antithesis of its red counterpart -- crisp, light bodied, and slightly tart. Perfect for an unseasonably warm autumn night and the seafood that was to come.

About twenty minutes later and already in a great mood, B & I were seated at the bar. In spite of its small size, the space is laid out in such a way where you don't feel cramped. The service follows suit; our waitress (and also I think owner) carefully went over all the evenings specials with such a genuine enthusiasm that B & I had a really hard time deciding.

After debating the merits of about 12 appetizers, we went with the Jonah crab claws, in part because of the ease of eating this particular preperation -- eating crab can prove overly cumbersome for such a little bit of meat.

These claws were shelled to the tip, battered, and served up with a lemon aioli. The meat was tender and flaky and the aioli added a fantastic tang to the dish. Each claw contained about two bites of deliciousness (and yes I know this is not a real word.)

Before arriving knew I was going to order the lobster roll as my entree. There is nothing I like more than a lobster roll (maybe it is my New England roots), but ever since having the hot buttered lobster roll at Neptune Oyster ( in the North End of Boston, the bar has been set so high that I ussually have to temper expectations... no need in this case.

(picture does a better job showing off the fries verse the lobster)

The roll arrived and had hunks of tail and claw meat, overflowing the brioche bun, accented with the perfect amount of mayonnaise and just a dusting of chives. And the lobster was flavoral and cooked perfectly -- not chewy or overdone as is often the case in your run of the mill lobster roll and no shell fragments! The shoestring fries that accompanied it were also quite good.

For B the entree decision was a bit tougher; he really had no idea and was overwhelmed by the ten or so fantastic sounding options; then we saw what the bouillabaisse looked like and his mind was instantly made up.

This was a classic Mediterranean bouillabaisse with a saffron infused broth and plenty of the ocean's bounty: lobster tail, mussels, calimari, white fish etc. B liked it so much that he picked up his bowl at the end of the meal to savor the remaining broth -- this type of behavior seemed to be encouraged!

I should also add that the music is just fun -- think Beyonce Bootylicious -- and at a volume that still allows for conversation.

Since we were headed out for drinks later we did not get dessert, but the old fashioned ice cream Sunday looked delightful.

Dinner for two, with a shared appetizer, bottle of wine, and two entrees, tax, and tip was $135; the fish drawing the accompoanied the check was gratis. And the experience was a blast!

Mary's Fish Camp on Urbanspoon

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