First there was Mermaid Inn East Village, then there was Mermaid Inn Upper West Side, and now, folks, there is Mermaid Oyster Bar at 79 Macdougal. Less New England-y than the Inns, the new project from Danny Abrams and Co. (by "Co." we of course mean Zach Braff) boasts Laurence Edelman in the kitchen, a cocktail program, and 16 oyster varieties. Non-shocker: everyone thinks the pearly stuff is great. There's also praise for the redesign of the old Smith's space, the service, and the general vibe, but it gets a bit hazier when it comes to pricing and the kitchen offerings. Judging by the comments, though, it sounds like none of the issues are beyond a little tweaking. It's fair to say Abrams has himself another winner, even if you should probably stick to the bar for the time being.
The Good News: Several folks have taken to the Yelp, where the restaurant finds itself with mostly positive diner feedback. Here we go: "So, how does Mermaid Oyster Bar fare? Pretty well, I would say...For oysters, there are 8 varieties from the West coast and 8 from the East coast. We got kumamoto (from California, $2.75/ea) and malaspina (British Columbia, $2.50/ea). The malaspina were a wonderful surprise for me, since I've never tried them before. The kumamoto, on the other hand, although still excellent, were very small even for kumamoto standards... All the dishes we had were excellent: snapper ceviche ($9), fried clam strips in tartar sauce ($8), and sauteed calamari with mushrooms, feta cheese, and frisee salad ($9). This last dish was absolutely superb: the calamari were very tender and juicy, and had that lightly charred taste of seafood just off the grill that I totally love...Service was good but not great." [Yelp]
The Bad News: That one Yelp detractor: "Ahh. Snapper cerviche tastes like I would imagine Ammonia tastes like, and the $30 dollar lobster sandwich tasted like a bag of imitaion crab meat with way too much mayo! Ambience was good though, staff decently friendly, It was only day two or 3 though. Great place if you want a cocktail at the bar, not the place to come for good food!" [Yelp]
The "Food Needs Some Work" News: Gastro Chic publishes an extensive rundown, with many an iPhone picture integrated, that praises the redesign, the oysters, and the cocktails, but is more critical of the kitchen offerings: "Fried clam strips ($8) tasted more of fry oil than clams or crispy seasoning, and neither the lemon nor the tartar sauce could perk them up. The lobster sandwich ($26), mysteriously served on a hamburger roll, had more mayonnaise than ocean flavor, though the buttery griddle marks on the bun helped. As for the Old Bay fries, take it from a Baltimore native: No one in New York is adding enough Old Bay to them. They should look orange and taste spicy. Even with the Old Bay, Mermaid Oyster Bar’s fries were rather dry and tasteless.A nice filet of flounder ($17) was grilled just until it was done, dressed with a buttery lemon-chive sauce, and served with a deviled egg alongside. But the salmon carpaccio ($10) basically tasted like sliced salmon on a plate. That’s all. Sweet, crispy hush puppies came mixed with smoked salmon and onions. There’s something extremely unkosher about this dish... yet the smoked salmon was meltingly tender and fishy in the best possible way." [Gastro Chic]
The Tigertt Likey News: William Tigertt of Freeman's (@williamtigertt) was quick to tweet his approval: "The Mermaid Oyster bar on Macdougal wins for best restaurant exorcism/reboot. Space is much used. Tuna sammie was a mayonnaise delight." [Twitter]
The Mixed News: Sarah DiGregorio of FitR stops in and definitely likes some of what's going on, but she does dish out criticism. "General early impressions: The oysters are beautiful, the fries crisp, the service friendly and efficient, the lobster sandwich very overpriced (now that you can get a fat $13 lobster roll at Luke's Lobster...), the saltine-crusted oysters soggy. Free dessert--a tiny mug of excellent chocolate pudding--is a nice touch, as it is at the Mermaid Inns. For best results right now, sit at the bar, order a Hot and Dirty (a martini with olive brine and Tabasco) and a dozen Long Island oysters, which have the twin advantages of being local and the cheapest on the menu." [FitR]
The Solid News: A menupager has this to say: "Good place. If you are a fan of the Mermaid Inn you will also like this outpost. The focus here is more on oysters, with a very solid selection of both East Coast and West Coast oysters. It's only been open about a week, so they are still tweaking the menu a bit. The decor is clean looking and charming. Overall a nice experience and not too hard on the wallet either." [Menupages]
The Twitterific News: @tkbalt "Had a wonderful dinner at new Mermaid Inn Oyster Bar on MacDougal. My new favorite oyster: Beausoleil from northern New Brunswick, Canada." It's pretty safe to assume that @kelsellen also enjoys: "If you ever lose me in downtown Manhattan, you can find me at the Mermaid Oyster Bar." [Twitter]