Category Archives: Seafood

Catch: global seafood in trendy meatpacking

catch

I spent my first years as a restaurant-goer in NYC dining where I could most easily imagine myself as a cast member of Sex in the City. Straight out of college, I wasn’t looking for cute hole-in-the-walls — I got the biggest thrill wearing heels and strutting into exclusive spaces pumping dance music, offering $15 specialty cocktails, and turning tables like clockwork. Buddakan and Stanton Social were my locations of choice. Fortunately I’ve now moved on to less trendy pastures as a more seasoned New Yorker, but every now and then I’m dragged into the high concept restaurant chains of my past.

Catch last week was one such occurrence, but it helped me remember why I like menus intended for broad audiences. I admittedly went into it with low expectations, but I left impressed with the service, the food, the drinks and the experience overall. As a seafood lover with menu anxiety (it’s difficult to narrow down to one item after eating a Google buffet for the last five years), Catch’s food selection is perfect for me. They offer a small delectable sushi rolls, a raw bar, a ton of hot specials, family style platters, or a variety of fish simply prepared for those not as adventurous. Think of this place as the steakhouse for fish. It keeps that well-known, roomy corporate feel, but maintains a relaxed, light-hearted vibe with light colored furniture, good lighting, dance music, and fun cocktails. Waiters aren’t as formal, but the service is spot on.

The highlights of the many dishes we tried were the MrC roll with tuna, tempura shrimp and ponzu butter, the soft shell crab roll, the crispiest crispy rock shrimp I’ve ever had, and the tuna tartare crispy rice cakes. These dishes aren’t necessarily unique to Catch (find similar variations at Koi, Bond Street, Nobu, etc), but they’re done exceptionally well. The showstopper visually was the crispy whole snapper that comes out deep fried with an asian style saute, positioned as if it’s about to swim away. The sauce was definitely needed to add flavor. Chinese food lovers would die over the salty cantonese lobster tails; I’m just not a fan for thick brown sauces. The overly buttered mushroom pasta was the only disappointment, but that came as no surprise given it was one of the only pasta dishes on the menu.

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

crispy shrimp

hot, buttery crispy shrimp

hamachi tartare

hamachi tartare

salmon belly carpaccio - yes we did get all of this.

salmon belly carpaccio – yes we did get all of this.

scallop dumplings

scallop dumplings

fried whole snapper

fried whole snapper

cantonese lobster - photo from Zagat.com

cantonese lobster – photo from Zagat.com

banana brulee spli

banana brulee split

Dessert at Catch and its sister restaurants are remarkable, and that goes a long way for someone like me. The strawberry shortcake with a large buttery biscuit brought me straight back to my childhood. The banana brulee split was beautifully prepared, but given the tiny scoops of ice cream and difficulty of scooping up all the ingredients off the flat dish for an ideal bite, I would have preferred a less stylized version.

Despite the hiccups in food, I left hoping to plan my next work event or dad’s visit to town at Catch. It’s a crowd-pleasing special occasion restaurant that sets you up well for a night out – there’s not surprisingly a club upstairs, and it’s situated smack dab in the center of the Meatpacking.

Grade: A-
Location: 21 9th Ave above Sephora, entrance on 13th street. Also one in Miami.
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Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Meatpacking, Parents in Town, Seafood, Sex & The City Swank, West Village

John Dory Oyster Bar: fish bowls & parker house rolls

oyster

I went to the original John Dory Oyster Bar when it opened right next to Del Posto for about a year. It was good, but I don’t recall it being mind-blowing. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience at the relatively new Gramercy location last week. The space is uniquely aquatic, bold with beautiful fish tanks high above the bar, an ornate oyster shucking station, black tiled walls, eclectic fish art and bright blue and green cushioned high stools. But while I usually love everything stamped with April Bloomfield’s approval, I was underwhelmed by the food and frustrated by the horribly inefficient service. And despite all the hype surrounding its opening, the space emptied out by 11pm – a shocker for any NYC restaurant on a Saturday night.

While our waiter was friendly, young, and passionate about his oysters, the wait time between placing our order and receiving the food was astoundingly long. Fortunately, early on in the meal I had devoured two warm, fluffy parker house rolls glistening with golden butter, which come 3 per $4 order.  The plates then came out at a snail’s pace, one at a time: oysters, razor clam ceviche (never again), an oddly textured semolina soup, chorizo stuffed squid, a lobster roll, and an odd dish called kedgeree, which is essentially a mixture of butter, rice and fish. While the chorizo stuffed squid, the shoestring fries and the oysters were expectingly tasty, everything else irked me for one reason or another. The lobster roll was smothered in mayonnaise, and I am still having nightmares about the razor clam ceviche. Slimy. Wet. Gross. Though, to be fair, I don’t think I would have enjoyed raw clams in any setting, so I don’t blame John Dory Oyster Bar for this.

JohnDory_Parkerhouse-Rolls

parker house rolls

chorizo stuffed squid

chorizo stuffed squid

nightmarish clams

nightmarish clams

mayo-roll

mayo-roll

So, given that the food wasn’t fabulous, I likely won’t head back uptown for my oyster fix – I’m quite content with Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village. But, if you’re in the market for the most delicious rolls you’ll ever taste, and want to be in a unique space away from the bustle of downtown, John Dory Oyster Bar has your name written all over it!

Grade: C+
Location: 1196 Broadway @ 29th
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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Seafood

Lure Fishbar: solid seafood in adult fashion

Given my freakish seafood-obsession, I can’t comprehend why it’s taken me four years to try Soho’s well-known Lure Fish Bar – essentially my favorite type of food in my favorite New York City neighborhood. Yes, the restaurant is a little scene-y & corporate, its nautical theme is a little tired and its clientele is a tad too New York housewives, but the menu has a plethora of creative seafood options and sushi that is nothing short of tasty. The place resembles the old-timers Atlantic Grill and Blue Water Grill further uptown in that it’s fish and sushi focused in a family friendly environment, but given the address it’s a little more amenable to a weekend GNO (Girls’ Night Out).

My two girlfriends and I shared the Crispy Calamari and Tempura Shrimp to start. The calamari, served as large pieces of crisp but lightly fried mini squid with lime glaze, made me realize the impurity of the heavily breaded piles I normally down at bars. I’ve had better breaded shrimp (Koi‘s is to die for), but this rendition was still good enough to keep my fork launching across the table for more. I decided on a special for my main, mainly because of the sides: Roasted Sea Bass with gnocchi, beets, and asparagus, but unfortunately the charred gnocchi was the best part of the dish. Dessert is really the standout – it’s rare that I struggle with choosing what to order, but with almost every item incorporating ice cream in some way, I had a mini panic attack. I narrowed it down to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. Given it came with a fat chocolate dipped pretzel and peanut brittle ice cream, I was pretty much in salty sweet heaven.

crispy calamari

rock shrimp with a little too much sauce

chocolate peanut butter pie

Lure Fishbar has got it going on for its wide range of seafood, good cocktails and last but NEVER least, dessert. Think ice cream galore. Try it for your next business dinner or night out with parents.

Grade: A-
Location142 Mercer Street @ Prince Street

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Maison Premiere: dainty seafood in New Orleans’ fashion

My favorite thing about Maison Premiere in Williamsburg is not necessarily its food or its cocktails, but its ability to transcend time and create a feeling truly reflective of an 19th century New Orleans’ absinthe house mixed with a classic Paris-cafe. An unassuming storefront with french country doors, wooden stools, leather booths, a gorgeous marble bar, waiters with curly moustaches, gold-leaf monogrammed white china, and a pull-flush toilet show the owners’ incredible attention to detail in creating a fully-orchestrated experience for their customers. The restaurant was formerly known for its cocktails, but with a new chef and a robust seafood-stocked menu, there’s much more to be found than a long list of absinthe drinks.

dining room bar

seafood (photo from website gallery)

Bar it may be, but Maison Premiere’s food is nothing short of refined. My seafood plateau included an oyster with caviar, sea urchin with gaspacho, scallop with pear and horseradish, razor clam with celery root and apple, bay scallops with lemon grass and thai basil, and geoduck with white soy and avocado. My perfectly coiled raw Alaskan King Salmon with caviar and creme fraiche tasted like the most sophisticated version possible of my dad’s favorite lox and bagel breakfast.  The Lobster with sunchoke, chestnut, and custard was absolutely divine – a large white pot with creamy, soothing lobster broth and hearty chunks of lobster was the perfect thing to finish off my $3 order of home-baked bread and seaweed butter. Don’t expect anything but the raw oysters to be served traditionally here – my autumn salad, which was written sans description on the menu, arrived as a beautifully composed dome of fruit and lettuces, unlike any salad I’ve seen before. Dessert was just as eclectic – the rum-soaked cake and the absinthe panna cotta tasted shockingly more alcoholic than my wine, but the coffee pot de creme balanced out the oddities. And with dirty martinis and wine throughout, I left the restaurant feeling like I had quite a trip to the old bayou where alcohol induced artists and writers were the quintessential product of the times.

Smoked Alaskan King Salmon (photo c/o SeriousEats.com)

sea urchin close up (photo c/o seriouseats.com)

lobster with custard

oyster platter

Everything about Maison Premiere is intricately thought out, from the menu’s vintage font to each plate’s well-incorporated flavors. This is not a place for greasy food and brew. Come here only if you’re craving an experience – not a meal – of perfectly measured cocktails and delicate food in a hipster meets 19th century enclave. I commend this place not only for the inventive seafood, but for also staying true to the perfectly measured Maison Premiere brand. I’ll definitely be back for next season’s menu.

Grade: A
Location: 298 Bedford Ave between South 1st and Grand Street

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Filed under Brooklyn, Drinks & Apps, Romantic Date, Seafood, Southern

Mary’s Fish Camp: unadulterated seafood and a barely-legal ice cream sundae

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in the West Village for four years and have never been to Mary’s Fish Camp. What is wrong with me? I love seafood, love my hood, love casual restaurants, love bar seating – I can’t believe I never considered it. Fortunately, it’s my man’s ultimate destination for fried clams and wine in water glasses, so we decided to swing by last night for an impromptu seafood fest.

Our hour-long wait for a seat brought to life the many reports of unbearable wait times for one of the restaurant’s few seats. Still, given our prime waiting spot that allowed us to witness each disappointed, shock and awed, or frustrated facial expression of those who entered hoping for immediate seating, the time flew by. Tables moved quickly and we finally got 2 great seats at the bar with the tiny kitchen and our waitress front and center. As a fish lover, I found it heart wrenching to narrow my options. There are a ton of whole fish options (fried or grilled), a lobster roll, fried fish sandwich, tacos, bouillabaisse, scallops – all my favorites, but we decided on exactly what we were in the mood for: fried oysters and clams, steamed clams, raw brussel sprout salad, raw oysters, and the special entree of pan sauteed tile fish with farrotto, raisins, and pine nuts. Everything was delicious. The fried clams and oysters came out hot and crispy with an incredible pink-colored, pickle-heavy tartare sauce. The oysters were briney, plump, and creamy. Even the tile fish was a standout in its simplicity. I was happy as a clam (ha!) sitting at the bar with my glass of prosecco and the most ideal seafood feast I could ask for. I looked left, I looked right – every patron couldn’t have been more excited with the food before them. It’s the type of place that reminds you of the beauty and value of simple, fuss-free food.

kitchen view

fried clams and oysters

Who knew I could be even more happiness-inflated after I was pressured into ordering the hot fudge sundae off the chalkboard menu. As I watched a chef scoop not one, not two, but three scoops of vanilla Laboratorio Del Gelato ice cream, add two-ladles full of hot fudge off the stove and a huge spoon full of fresh whipped cream, I knew doomsday approached. All feelings of fullness were forgotten and I immediately dug my long spoon right at the core of the beautiful creation. Now THAT’s what a hot fudge sundae should taste like. After so many disappointments by ice cream sundae claims on New York menus, downing this puppy felt like a breath of fresh air, until I had to limp home due to over indulgence.

this could be my life partner if all else fails

Mary’s Fish Camp, as cliche as it sounds, you are my new favorite place. If anyone asks me where to go in NYC, you are top of the list. People, it’s worth the hour wait and they’ll call you get a drink nearby.

Grade: A+
Location: 64 Charles Street off of West 4th
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Filed under American, Fun Group Dinner, Seafood, Sugar Surge, West Village

Featured City Post: Harris’ in San Franciso

the not-so-sightly front of Harris'

For the last ten years, my family has held our Christmas Eve celebration at Harris’ Steakhouse in Nob Hill, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. What has changed, however, is my selection off of the standard menu of fish, chicken, lobster, and steak. As a child, I always went for the petit filet mignon. Then, when my grandmother came to town and ordered lobster, my menu selection became steamed lobster for 5-6 years. Then, in my figure-watching high school days, I went through a soup-and-salad-only phase. And now, after realizing that I overdosed on lobster and am not a huge fan of steak, I’ve resorted to splitting a salad to start with my sister and ordering the salmon for my main, cooked medium-rare.

Harris’ value lies in its consistency. Each year, as we’re seated in the same large leather booth, a server arrives with buttered toasties and a small ramekin of delicious whipped cheese.

toasties with cheese

After ordering our drinks (generally ice cold martinis or wine), we’re served warm Acme bread and butter, which my family rarely hesitates to devour.

warm bread

Last night, though my sister Justyn and I normally split the baby spinach salad, we went for the mixed greens, which came with jicama, blue cheese, and tomatoes. Simple and fresh, it was exactly the basic salad that one would expect at a longstanding steakhouse.

mixed greens

My mother, as usual, ordered the oysters but did not share. I’m still bitter!

Oysters

My grilled salmon this year was cooked to perfection – just pink enough in the middle but perfectly seared on the outside. My baked potato was loaded with butter, sour cream, and chives, and with the creamed spinach off of my mom’s plate, I was in Christmas Eve heaven.

salmon

my sister's delicious steak

To top it all off we had pecan pie to go, which with tea was amazing. Another December 24, another success!

Grade: A

Location: 2100 Van Ness Avenue (at Pacific)

Website: http://www.harrisrestaurant.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Romantic Date, Seafood, Special Occasion, Steak House

Bond Street Sushi

Hello! I have been very out of commission lately with an overwhelming amount of work, but I couldn’t resist updating everyone on the incredible Japanese meal I had at Bond Street last night. My friend and I got the personal attention of the very animated sushi chefs by sitting at the bar, which provided a much more friendly setting than the swanky dining area.

Basically the sky was our limit and we ordered everything that passed by and looked delicious. In the interest of time, I am going to preface the entry by saying every item was absolutely delicious. The mixed green salad was refreshing and flavorful, the ahi tuna pizza was smothered in amazing truffle flavor, and the addictive fried rock shrimp arrived caramelized and crispy. We also ordered the special crab legs with miso butter, which offered generous amounts of flakey, buttery crab meat. My favorite was the classic tuna on crispy rice – the pan fried block of rice complemented the soft spicy tuna immaculately. Labeled as a “roll,” it’s easy to miss this one, but definitely a must have.

After two intensely strong cucumber-gin martinis (their specialty cocktails are all subtly sweet and delicious), I was pretty much ready to float out of the restaurant, but the food was unforgettable enough to give me Japanese food cravings the very next day. While it’s not the cheapest sushi restaurant in the area, it’s definitely the best!

green salad

tuna pizza

fried rock shrimp

crispy tuna

eggplant

crab with miso

Grade: A+

Location: 6 Bond Street at Lafayette (go up stairs for entrance)

Website: http://www.bondrestaurant.com

 

 

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Japanese, Nolita, Parents in Town, Seafood, Sex & The City Swank

Marea

Despite the fact that I’m so painfully full, I can’t resist professing how completely blown away I am by my meal at Marea tonight. It has been almost a year to the day since my inaugural visit with my friends Sophia and Sara, but Chef Michael White’s inventiveness, sheer skill, and ability to successfully yet respectfully break the boundaries of italian cuisine has only gotten better. And the space, service, and sophisticated clientele couldn’t be better matched with the caliber of food – don’t expect to kick back and relax at this place. From scoring a 6pm reservation, to being seated at the table, to ordering, to figuring out every possible fleck of $100 per ounce ingredient on your plate, the experience at Marea is serious business.

With such a long list of descriptive menu options, the four-course pre-fixe menu is the best way to go at a $40 per entree restaurant like Marea. For $90, you have a choice of antipasti, pasta, pesce or carne, and dessert, which not only makes the most economical sense, but also helps to narrow things down for the indecisive like me. I for once went with my instinct and picked the first things that caught my eye: tuna crudo (supplemental), white asparagus soup with smoked trout and chervil, tagliatelle with nova scotia lobster and coral (who know coral was edible?), and hudson valley baby chicken with a number of things that took a backseat to the copious shavings of fresh black truffle.

crudo

Every single bite was noteworthy, but the most ridiculous and shockingly delicious dish was the one that completely distracted me from all conversation: the luxurious, velvety, decadent lobster tagliatelle. With long, silky, golden noodles coated in a shiny and subtly-buttery seafood-saffron sauce, these flakey chunks of fresh lobster could not have been more beautifully paired. With dishes such as the famous lobster and burrata antipasti and the bone marrow octopus fusili, Chef Michael White balances very carefully, yet close to perfectly, on the very fine line between luscious and over-the-top rich.

gorgeous golden pasta

hudson valley chicken

While I’m not one prone to ordering chicken, the description of the crispy chicken served with my favorite thing in the world (truffles) was not an option to miss. And I made no mistake, either; the meat was tender, perfectly seasoned, and uniquely paired with soshito peppers and cippolini onions.

For dessert, we ordered a selection of ice creams and sorbets for the table, which were generously portioned for such a high end restaurant but nothing noteworthy. The chocolate crostata however was beautifully presented and the perfect option for a die hard chocolate and coffee combo fan.

chocolate coffee crostata

And, as if we had room for more, we were served tiny yet personally un-enticing mignardises.

too full to taste

With so many courses, you run the risk of getting full very quickly. In order to prevent this, the time between meals needs to be long enough not to rush the process but short enough that your hunger lingers and fullness isn’t realized. My one complaint about Marea is that it missed on this precision – by the time our pastas appeared, we were already on the way to max-capacity, and after 15 minutes of waiting for our final course, we were close to turning it away.

Regardless, the food at Marea is undeniably off the chain. At one point in the night my co-worker Morgan posed the question, “what is the best food you’ve had in the past few years?” I struggled to answer this at the time, but after a cab ride of reflection I can honestly say that Marea goes home with the gold. And I say that with confidence even with the deprecation of their homemade muffin-for-morning-after end of the night give-aways.

Grade: A

Location: 240 Central Park S

Website: http://www.marea-nyc.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Italian, Romantic Date, Seafood, Special Occasion, Upper West Side

The Dutch

outside the dutch

After much anticipation, I finally paid a visit to Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde’s new hot spot, the Dutch. With reservations nearly impossible to find, I took a chance and walked in unprepared. Fortunately, despite the overbearing noise and packed bar, at 6:30pm a table for two was relatively easy to come by. After a few drinks and sampling 5 different dishes, I profess with regret that I’m just not that impressed. The Dutch is housed in a beautiful, window-lined space surrounding a grandiose bar, and its food is solid and obviously professionally prepared, but it seems to blend in with New York’s dozens of other (yet delicious) American-classics-with-a-twist restaurants (think Cookshop, Market Table, 100 Acres, Craft…). They’re indistinguishable. I won’t be disappointed if the opportunity to re-visit arises, but I won’t be rushing back.

With a bar of its stature, I would expect a larger selection of specialty cocktails, but it came down to either the one gin or the one vodka selection after eliminating all of non-clear alcohol options. I decided on the Aviation Royale, which was a mix of gin, maraschino, lemon, and a bubbly wine. Though the waitress described it as “exceptionally dry,” it was actually quite sweet and tart. Definitely an interesting concoction, but too much going on for my preference.

Aviation Royale and Eastside Manhattan

I do give props to the Dutch for having such a robust complimentary bread, something very important to me. All tables are served a hefty portion of warm, homemade cornbread served with whipped butter. I could have made a breakfast, lunch, and dinner out of this thing and it was so delicious that I had to cut myself off to save room for dinner. For appetizers, I, as always, went for the buratta and heirloom tomato salad and one mini oyster sandwich. The buratta was perfectly room temperature and creamy, but clashed with the sweet cornbread. I love buratta but I prefer to eat it with grilled bread, so I was disappointed by the fact that it wasn’t an option.

corn bread

burrata salad

The little fried oyster sandwich brought me straight back to New Orleans with its oversized, crispy fried oyster and subtle dill sauce. At $5 a pop, this crunchy oyster overload is a steal.

tiny oyster slider

For our main dishes we selected a wide range of seafood: the ruby red shrimp with fried green tomatoes and the black cod with smoked mushrooms. Even though the waitress warned us about the smokiness of the fish broth, we ordered the cod stubbornly, not realizing the vastness of the smokiness spectrum. Desperately searching for something to WOW me, I ordered the scallops with corn and bacon, which were perfectly cooked but a typical, boring rendition of the scallop and corn combination. Regardless, the waitress kindly took our fish off the bill without us even alluding to dissatisfaction – an exceptional service move in a city with little patience for discontent.

shrimp atop crispy, juicy fried green tomatoes

smoky black cod

scallops

So, I think I ate enough to give a fair assessment that while The Dutch has solid and hearty food, a professionally trained staff and an obviously well organized operation, it doesn’t have enough to keep it at the top of my list. I think I’ll continue my visits to Barbuto or Extra Virgin instead if a hankering for glorified American classics arises.

Grade: B+

Location: 131 Sullivan Street at Prince Street

Website: http://www.thedutchnyc.com

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Seafood, Soho

Mémé

from front window

Though my mom flew across the country for a weekend of wedding dress shopping (for my sister), she came with every intention of eating good meals for the entire duration of her stay. Knowing this, my sister and I decided to take her to one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants in the city, Meme. Meme opened only a few months ago, but has since garnered a hefty following for its diverse menu and intimate window-seat tables.

After a casual amuse bouche of feta-tomato bruschetta, olives, and olive bread, we started with the appetizer special of prosciutto wrapped figs with warm mozzarella and balsamic glaze. The five small dumplings combined an awesome mix of the delicate sweetness of the fruit and sharp saltiness of the crispy seared ham.

special appetizer

For my entree, it was a tough choice between the chicken tagine and the striped bass with chick peas, cumin, coriandor and roasted peppers served with a side of rice. I decided on the bass, which was beautifully prepared in a flavorful red broth perfect for olive-bread dipping. Though the dish would have benefitted from some citrus and salt, it was easily fixed with my mom’s extra tzatsiki.

roasted bass

Considering the food sharers my family members are proud to be, I shamelessly stole a few bites of my mom’s baked meatballs with yogurt and mint, served in piping hot in a clay pot. My sister loved these, but they were a little too rich for my taste – definitely a better dish to share.

meatballs

My mom’s chicken kebab, however, was definitely something I’ll order next time – served with roasted vegetables, rice pilaf, and on a generous portion of my favorite – tzatsiki, they would be the perfect thing to pair with a salad.

chicken kebab

The food at Meme is hearty and refreshing, and the restaurant, like Cafe Gitane and Bill’s, is a cozy haven in a neighborhood of overwhelmingly packed and scene-y hot spots. The service is spectacular – actually, so attentive that at one point in the night my mom and I were convinced that our waitress had the hots for my sister. Meme is definitely a must if you are in the village and looking for something easy with a variety of options, unpretentious waitstaff and a solid full bar.

Grade: A

Location: 581 Hudson St between 11th St & Bank St

Website: http://www.memeonhudson.com

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Filed under Affordable Date, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Mediterranean, Parents in Town, Seafood, West Village