Upon entering the cool, clean interior of Flex Mussels, I forget entirely that I had just ridden a crowded No. 6 train all the way to the Upper East Side (a long haul from my usual downtown stomping grounds) to try mussels. The pale green walls are covered with spectacular photographs of Prince Edward Island (the restaurant’s geographical muse) and its various inhabitants; the images are so evocative I am suddenly craving the sea and a windswept beach. It being April and me being stuck in New York City for the near future, the next best thing would be fresh seafood.
Flex’s menu is simply divided into two categories: mussels and not mussels. While the 23 different types of mussels are incredibly alluring, you would be remiss not to order some of Flex’s other offerings, such as the excellent crabcakes or the incredible selection of oysters. I really don’t remember the last time I ate something that transported me right to the ocean (and in fact I cringe at the memory of the last time I downed $1 oysters. Not so oceanic.). The lengthy list contained the predictable Island Creeks and Malpeques, but if it’s on offer I suggest trying the Shigoku oyster, a West Coaster that has the most refreshing cucumber aftertaste.
The mussels come in big steaming pots, and flavors run the globe- Negril (peppers, jerk, lime, red stripe), Thai (curry coconut broth, lemongrass, coriander, lime, garlic, ginger), San Daniele ( prosciutto, caramelized onions, white wine, garlic), and Bombay ( Indian curry, mango puree, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, white wine) are among the offerings. If you’re a traditionalist, there’s the classic with white wine, herbs and garlic.
They serve wine and beer, and I appreciate the way they organize the wine list- by flavor rather than grape or region (sometimes, it’s just easier to say what you feel like tasting). I was into citrus and fresh herbs that evening, so I went with a lovely Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc.
Flex desserts are, for lack of more appropriate words, off the hook. We had a carrot cake ho-ho with homemade maple pecan ice cream that was delish, and light-as-air (but not in calorie) donuts where you choose the filling. We went with chocolate hazelnut and lemon blueberry, both of which we dipped in a vanilla sauce. As I wrote this, my mouth just watered.
This spot may be a trek for those of us who live below 42nd St, but if you miss the beach and everything you eat at the beach, Flex is worth a trip. On a side note: there’s a rumor going around that Flex is considering opening a second location downtown.
Flex Mussels: 184 E. 82nd St. The place gets packed so make a ressie: 212-717-7772. To see the menu and photos of the place, visit flexmusselsnyc.com