676 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 727-3314

I've been to Markt three times and eaten there twice. The first time was on a Friday or a Saturday and I was, simply put, not cool enough to get in. When I asked the maitre d' if there was room, he actually rolled his eyes at me, asked if I had reservations (nope) and then told me that a table would be a two or three hour wait. Maybe if you came back at 10, he said with disinterest. I haven't seem him since then. I wonder if he was fired...

Markt is Belgian, which in layman's terms means "French with a Dutch twist and an emphasis on mussels". Markt's menu is even half in French and half in Dutch. At least, I think it's Dutch. My apologies to anyone who's offended at my ignorance, and I'll make corrections if need be.

Once upon a time, there was a restaurant named Tomato. For all intents and purposes, Tomato was a trendy and overpriced diner. Tomato was replaced by the very nice, but now very closed, Sensa. Sensa was on the list of the "world's sexiest restaurants", but I guess that wasn't enough. I don't really remember what kind of food they served, but I do remember once being there with a friend and seeing this girl (woman) sitting alone and seemingly bored at the bar. So I went up and asked her if she wanted to sit with us (wink, wink). Joke's on me; she was the owner.

Markt's bread is the first thing you get and it's a good start to what will, in all likelihood, be an even better meal. As I said, I've been here twice: the first time with Speeds, and the second time with both her and Mr. Dogz. Initially, Markt was chosen because it was down the block from Speeds who, as you know, is allergic to travelling very far from her apartment to eat. Or actually to do much of anything. But I was genuinely impressed after presuming that it was going to be overpriced comfort food with a European flair.

Markt is a very cool place. It's appears trendy (okay, it's trendy) because of the clientele, but not because of the decor, which feels... normal. I don't think it'll ever make the list of one of the sexiest restaurants in the city, but while sexiness may be a good reason for trying a restaurant out, it's never a reason for returning. For example, take Markt's Chelsea neighbor, Elmo. Forget that it's basically a gay bar with waiters (another joke on me), it's food was a demonstration of what happens when you spend so much money on your image that you can't afford to hire a chef. Markt, in contrast, is similarly popular and crowded, but I'm betting it's drawing those crowds for the food.

Speeds was in training season for... uh, a sporty something-or-other. I don't pay that much attention. She was on one of these health kicks when we first ate here and decided to trade wine and an appetizer for dessert. Her entree was a salad. Me, I can't bring myself to order a salad for dinner. It seems like a con. But I can admit that if so many people like salad entrees, I must be the weirdo. Speeds went with the Salade Verte au Fromage de Chèvre/Salade met Verse Geitenkaas, a mixed green salad with goat cheese, croutons, honey, and toasted pine nuts. She loved it. Being at a Belgian restaurant and not at a Pax, I chose the Moules au Vin Blanc/Mosselen witte Wijn, which were mussels steamed in white wine. At the time, I was trying to decide between this or the mussels in cream sauce and think I should have gone with the cream. This dish seemed kind of bland. Not bad, but I wasn't wowed, either. The French fries it came with, on the other hand, wowed me. Thin, crispy, but creamy. Perfectly salted. Served with mayonnaise. We asked for ketchup.

On round two, we managed to get the same table outside, but a more irritating waiter. Speeds thought he was cute, I thought he was slow and never around. Mr. Dogz, less interested in attractive guys than Speeds and more laid back about service than me, had no opinion. Appetizers and vino again vetoed, we headed straight into the entrees. Mr. Dogz, an avid sushi fan, was drawn immediately to the Tartare de Thon/Tartaar van Tonijn, a tuna tar tare (raw tuna) over a sesame seaweed salad, served with fresh lemon juice, wasabi, and soy sauce. This was good. Very smooth with a little tang. I'd definitely recommend it if you like fish. Speeds again hit the salad, this time choosing the Salade de Crevettes/Salade van Garnalen, grilled shrimp on a bed of endive with pine nuts and an orange vinaigrette. Again, she liked it a lot. Again, I just can't think of salad as an entree. Stealing a bite, though, I'll admit the whole citrusiness was pretty tasty.

I wasn't really sure how the dishes that Speeds and Dogz ordered were Belgian, so I once more went with the more traditional choice of Carbonades Flamandes/Stoofvlees op Vlaamse Wijze, a Belgian beef stew prepared with Leffe Brown beer. I was expecting a stew that contained vegetables, maybe because that's what I'm used to. In reality, it's just beef with a healthy amount of gravy over it. A first I was disappointed. It didn't look like much. It didn't look like twenty bucks. But it was very good and also very filling. Adding vegetables would have made it impossible to eat dessert.

Dogz, under much pressure from Speeds, ordered the Moelleux au Chocolat/Warm Chocoladetaartje, a warm chocolate lava-cake-like tart served with pistachio ice cream. This was really good. I ordered it the first time I was allowed to eat here (the second time) and even though I'm not the world's largest chocolate guy, or even in the top third, I was very impressed. Speeds ordered the above-pictured Gratin de Fruits Rouges/Rode Vruchten Gratin, fresh mixed berries covered in Hoegaarden sabayon (custard). I ordered the below-pictured Crème Brulèe, a dessert that, once I see, is very hard to pass up.

All three desserts were excellent and, quite honestly, one of the major reasons that I'd be headed back in the future.

In short, I suggest the salads and the tuna tar tare, the desserts and the fries, but I'll have to go back and try more of their numerous mussel dishes before I can recommend them. The one I had was too bland for me to get again.

So two dinners; five entrees, five desserts, four coffees, and two colas, plus tax and tip, came slightly shy of $190. Since meal two coincided with the anniversary of Mr. Dogz's wombal escapeage, Speeds and I spit his tab. She even remembered to bring a candle.

PS: I realize that my photos of Markt's inside are pretty poor. No, they're awful. Embarrassing. I need a new camera. Maybe when I get one, I'll go back and replace the photos. In the meantime, go to Eater and see some very crisp, perfect interior shots. It would appear from their photos that the lunch crowd is very different from the dinner one.

UPDATE: 8/14/07
I returned here for dinner tonight having tried their Waterzooi A La Gantois/Gentse Waterzooi, a creamy chicken and vegetable stew. I've always loved creamy chicken stews, probably because I've always loved chicken pot pie. This was almost like a soup, though. It was served in a deep bowl and was very watery. I was expecting it to be much more thick. Also, it was too salty for my taste. Nevertheless, Markt's tables come complete with a peppermill, so I tempered the salt by peppering the hell out of the stew. And then it was quite good. Though it was very heavy and I couldn't finish it.

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