My love affair with mussels began at a young age. It has continued to flourish as I’ve grown, solidifying the fact that there are very few things better then a steaming bowl of mussels and crispy fries on the side.
I had heard about Flex Mussels during the summer, and had been looking for any opportunity to go. Finally, six months later, the reservation was made and confirmed, and I couldn’t wait. All day, I stared at the menu of unusual combinations of flavors with my beloved mussels as the star, wanting to try everything.
I arrived at Flex around 9:30 on a Tuesday night, and was pleasantly surprised. The interior and decor was not at all what I expected. White and blue covered the elegant walls, with hints of silver adding to the classy, yet nautical feel of the restaurant. I found myself longing for summer inside, transported back to the beach, when seafood was an evening staple. The pictures of Prince Edward Island add to the illusion of summer, making me forget about my winter coat and the harsh cold outside.
While waiting for my friend, in the comfort of Flex’s open bar area, I spoke to the bartender for a while, gaining some insight into the best way to tackle all of the unique mussel options. He suggested to get one with a lot of stuff in it, and one that is a lot more traditional.
Finally, Mike arrived and we were seated. The restaurant portion was equally open and warm, with simple pictures on the wall, sticking to a similar theme as the bar area. I felt like I could’ve sat inside for hours.
We then got down to business, strategizing our plan of eating. We watched gigantic metal tins placed on the tables around us, with the excitement building for our own mussel experience. We didn’t even glance at the back side of the menu appropriately titled “Not Mussels,” since you really are coming here for “Mussels, Mussels, Mussels.” Ultimately, we decided to order the San Daniele, which was a more classic take on mussels, and the Little Neck which added clams and bacon to the mix. And of course, we felt compelled to order fries on the side.
A tin bucket of bread was placed on our table shortly after ordering, which we both decided to save to soak up all of the juices from the mussels. As the moments went by, our excitement rose, until finally the metal tin and large iron skillet made its way to our table. The iron skillet, containing the Little Neck order was placed in front of me, while Mike had the San Daniele to start. The large container of fries were placed in the middle of us, as we quickly dug into our dishes.
Little Neck was our dish filled with other components, with bolder flavor and tons of mix-ins. The combination of clams and mussels are classic, allowing for the briny flavor of the seafood to shine through, with hints of smoky bacon making its way into each bite. The both was not the star of this dish, but rather focused on each of the shellfish and other complimentary ingredients. Just the way it was served gave light to this fact, having been presented in a larger flat skillet, rather than the deep bowl.
When Mike and I switched plates, and I tried the San Daniele, I knew this dish was clearly the winner of the night.
The rich, flavorful broth could have stood on its own, as we kept dipping pieces of bread to soak up the wonderful white wine and garlic sauce. The hint of flavor from the prosciutto added a light saltiness to the dish, adding to the natural briny flavor that you get from the mussels. Caramelized onions sweetened the broth and each bite with the mussels, adding a unique complexity to what seemed like an otherwise simple, straight forward dish. This was by far both of our favorite mussel preparation of the night.
The fries on the side were extremely necessary, light and crispy. They add a necessary contrast of texture and flavor, making it a natural pairing with mussels. What can be better than fries and seafood?
Flex Mussels specializes in seafood, and does it right. I just imagined the containers, upon containers of fresh mussels in the kitchen, just waiting to be transformed and devoured. I am already plotting my next trip back to try their twenty-three different variations of mussels, with the goal, to try them all. One caveat about Flex is the wine list is definitely on the pricier side, with the cheapest bottle selling for $42. If you are looking to drink a lot and eat mussels, Flex will definitely put a dent on your wallet. However, for a bucket of damn good mussels, Flex will fill your needs every single time.
Flex Mussels – 154 West 13th Street – New York, NY
Location: West Village, NY
Perfect For: Quality Seafood, Impressing Foodies, First Dates
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: San Daniele Mussels