96 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
New York, NY 10003
Seafood restaurants can be divided into two basic categories. The grillers and the fryers. The grillers like their salmons, their swordfishes, their bisques. The fryers like their shrimps, their cods, and their chowders. Grillers tend to be more upscale. Fryers tend to be more kid-friendly. Char lines versus batter. The Mermaid Inn is a popcorn-shrimp-free griller.
Bro and Shrink and I took a pleasant schlep from the old abode to 6th Street. It was a nice early evening and the muggy heat had yet to overtake the city like an oven-warmed wet blanket. Nevertheless, we chose the air-conditioned interior over either the sidewalk seating or the rear patio.
Unlike so many lower-end seafood restaurants, Mermaid Inn avoids the need to perpetually remind you that you're eating seafood. No nets, no buoys, no oars, no waters dressed like sailors wearing lobster-themed pieces of flair. Just a seafood menu and some lighthouse-lamp-esque wall sconces.
For her starter, Shrink ordered the Lobster Bisque. Mermaid Inn's version of this particular soup is a dark and spicy sea with islands of lobster bits. Shrink wants me to be sure to mention to you all how much she liked this part of her meal. Bro appreciated it as well. My two cents, for what it's worth, was less positive. I found it too gritty and too bitter. I prefer my lobster bisque smooth and creamy. Bro ordered the Bay Scallop Ceviche, a cold southwest-inspired seafood dish with mango and lime, perfect for the hot summer. If it had been larger, it could have been considered a salad. Instead, served with tortilla chips, it was a pleasant, light appetizer that begged for a beer (or, in this fancier setting, perhaps a blush wine). My appetizer was more seasonally inappropriate. I ordered the Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels with shallots in a Pernod broth. Good but small. Once you get through the shells, there isn't much to mussels. This particular version was somewhat more bitter and somewhat less sweet than I might make at home. The Pernod, which is a brand of absinthe, a liquor flavored primarily with anise, is almost certainly the reason. If you like your mussels less sweet and more earthy, you'll like these quite a bit.
Much to my dismay, both Bro and Shrink ordered the same entree, the Pan-Roasted Brook Trout with a toasted almond vinaigrette and a cold bean salad. The cold salad was take-it-or-leave-it, and everyone agreed that this would have been better had we been sitting outside. Indoors with the air conditioning, it lost some of its appeal. The trout itself was okay, but not great. It was perfectly cooked, but needed more sauce, as there was virtually none. My entree, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. Everything about it was perfect. If I could have licked the plate without being judged I might have chosen to do so. I ordered the Sauteed Skate Wing, which came on a cushion of sauteed spinach and under a little crown of fried potatoes. The caper-butter sauce it was all coated in was tangy and salty and was intensely good. I can't recommend ordering this enough.
We were never offered a dessert menu. I'm not sure why. Instead three small chocolate puddings appeared before us. We ate them and paid the bill. The pudding was forgettable. I'd have preferred some apple pie and a coffee.
Our meal of three appetizers, three entrees, and two glasses of wine plus tax and tip, came to about $150.
The Mermaid Inn has added two new locations in the past couple of years, one at 568 Amsterdam Avenue at 88th Street and an oyster bar at 79 MacDougal Street.