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Mermaid Inn


Now that high concept spots like Lure Fishbar, Bar Tonno and ten million
others have turned seafood into low carb crudo, its only fitting that I,
always behind the curve, finally try Mermaid Inn, part of the New England
clam shack craze of 2003. Yes, loving french fries, breading and things
served on buns, is so last year.

The upside of avoiding the trendier restaurants until no one cares about
them anymore is that long waits for tables arent as major of an issue. It
was also early, 6pm on a miserably rainy weeknight, which I'm sure
contributed to the desolate feeling inside. Though it wasn't helped by being
seated in the woody carpeted empty back room that truly did look like it
belonged in a small-town Elks lodge. Maybe its cozy and fun when its filled,
but it felt perturbing when a couple other twosomes were seated in the
warmer, more ambient main space. I'm not usually a nitpicker like this,
maybe the foul weather had dampened my soul in addition to my head and feet,
but it also rubbed me the wrong way when out waiter called me
“maam.” It's one thing coming from a bagboy type teen, but quite
another from a gentleman who couldnt be more than five years younger than
me. It was off-putting. And James though it was irritating that they only
list wines on the menu. I kind of agree, given the urban/downhome vibe beer
wouldn't be totally outrageous.

Perhaps my expectations arent well defined, its not as if I grew up with
coastal traditions (despite being raised barely more than an hour from the
Pacific Ocean), but I'm often disappointed with seafood restaurants. They
always seem blah and overpriced. Now that I think about it, fish prepared in
non-Asian styles kind of bores me, and any battered and fried sea creature
(except soft shell crab) gives me stomach trauma.

My grilled dorade stuffed with lemon slices, thyme and cloves of garlic
was rustic and tasty, very Naked Chef, but it wasn't terribly exciting. And
I'm pretty sure the thick slice of bread that sat under our sardine and
tomato-avocado relish was charred, not toasted. I mean, the crust was black
and peeling off. The free chocolate pudding that ends the meal is a nice
touch, though. Or maybe my memory is being clouded by the concept of
complimentary treats. In any case, I expect to report on hot raw fish
trend–I don't know–sometime in early 2006.

Mermaid Inn * 96 Second
Ave., New York,NY

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