M. Wells Steakhouse
If you’ve heard anything about M. Wells Steakhouse, it’s that steaks aren’t necessarily its strength (oh, and that it’s hidden away at the ends of the earth amidst a bunch of grit and rubble–never mind the towering luxury dwellings and five subway lines running less than four blocks away). That makes perfect sense for a restaurant sprung from the contrarian Québécois school where more is more and things are never what they seem.
Prices, portions and descriptors can be at odds. Can a lobster tail really be $10 when the caviar sandwich is $50? Should one pay $60 to eat something called a Dog Bowl? I knew that the $25 side of beef butter was actually a small steak, but where does that fit into the meal?
Two of the things I did want (Solomon Gundy, bison rib eye) were already unavailable at 8pm on a Sunday. Not that that didn’t leave plenty of other choices; the menu is sprawling. I would’ve preferred the excess of the smelt and trout egg waffle to the shrimp on shrimp, which is exactly what it sounds like, plus cocktail sauce and the flavor of Old Bay.
The onion and bone marrow soup was more like it. Who cares that the gratineed beef gelatin enriched with pork belly, caramelized onions, and yes, containing a scoopable bone, hardly qualifies as a soup. This is the M. Wells-ian decadence people–and by people, I mean me–want.
The steaks were ok. Or maybe I’ve just been unduly influenced. I had to nix the châteaubriand for two because that tender cut is like the steak fries of steak. And that’s not a positive. The côte de boeuf probably would’ve been more up my alley, but the Minetta Tavern price tag was not. The grass-fed Kansas strip had moments of greatness. Medium-rare was exactly that and some bites had nice char and punches of minerality, but overall it was a fairly innocuous piece of meat. That said, the half I saved for dinner the next night was one of the better things I’ve eaten in my apartment this year. It’s all about context.
The T-bone was more what I wanted–fat and flavor–though my dining companion preferred my strip steak, which only proves that meat is very subjective.
Sides were more fun. Potatoes come five ways and the aligot, more cheese and butter than actual tuber, is the one to get if only to test its elasticity with a fork.
Salsify with shaved black truffles was almost candied, as the roots were browned in copious amounts of butter, bringing out the natural sweetness.
After all this (and a Manhattan and a bottle of Russian River valley pinot noir that I can’t recall) dessert wasn’t entirely needed. I wanted to see the fabled dessert cart rolling about the former garage’s floor (as long as I live, I’ll never forget the two sweets trolleys at Robuchon a Galera in Macau) but that wasn’t the drill. Next thing, I’ll find out that the trout are already dead and caught elsewhere and and that there’s not going to be freaking catamaran at all.
At least a pavlova is light. The meringue shell was drizzled with a passionfruit sauce and branded with gold leaf. The interior contained blood orange curd.
The menu is ranging enough to pay an additional visit and try all different things. I’d be up for a non-steak second meal, not because the meat was all that disappointing but because other dishes are just more interesting.
M. Wells Steakhouse * 43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, NY