Mermaid Inn

Every once in a while I go on an intense Yelp search to compile a list of restaurants for the Boyfriend and I to try out over a time period of a few months. It’s always fun to find new restaurants with amazing deals that I’ve overlooked all this time. Mermaid Inn is a restaurant that fits that description perfectly. With three branches and the high rating of 4 stars on Yelp for all of them, I knew I have been missing out on something amazing.

The Mermaid Inn in the East Village might just become one of our regular restaurants because of their Happy Hour (5:30 to 7:00 PM) menu. Unlike the Mermaid Inn in the UWS, who only offers $1 clams for happy hour, the East Village location offers $1 East Coast oysters and $1.75 West Coast oysters as well as $1 Littleneck clams. The Happy Hour menu also offers appetizers, cocktails, wine and beer at discounted prices.

We arrived a little before our 6 o’clock reservation and were seated immediately. The bar and the sidewalk seating were both already full. There were even people hovering around the bar without seats. We decided to order some wine first while we perused their menu. The Boyfriend went with a glass of sparkling ($6.00) and I decided on a glass of rosé ($6.00). Despite both glasses being their “house” wine, they were still very good. I particularly liked my glass of rosé – very sweet and not too dry. They also offer a variety of Happy Hour cocktails for just $7 each, which is almost half off the original price.

We decided to try out the oysters before ordering too much of them. Their East Coast option of the day was Barcats from Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and their West Coast option was Pacific Kiss from Barkley Sound in British Columbia. We went with 4 EC oysters, 2 WC oysters and 6 Littleneck clams to start. The Barcats were very good – possibly the best EC oysters I’ve had. I liked that Mermaid Inn offered other EC oysters besides the standard Bluepoint. The Pacific Kiss were also very good – very creamy and sweet. And you can never go wrong with some fresh Littleneck clams. All three were very clean – I didn’t get a single grain of sand or shell. The oysters were well shucked – with the occasional sticky one that refuses to let go of its shell.

We also ordered their Fried Calamari off the Happy Hour Menu ($7.00). They were very crispy and crunchy. The main difference with Mermaid Inn’s calamari was the breading. Instead of a sprinkled breading, the fried covering was thicker and more uniform. As a result, the calamari was a lot more crispy than other calamari’s that I have had.

Since we were planning on ordering more oysters and clams later on in the meal, we only ordered sides. The Boyfriend is a big fan of Old Bay over fries, as am I. We liked that their Old Bay Fries ($6.00) were thin and crunchy. The fries were heavily seasoned with Old Bay, which gives them such a nice flavor besides the usual salt and pepper.

Our other side order was their Mac and Cheese ($8.00), which came baked in a tiny little pot. It was the cutest thing ever! The cheese sauce was very creamy and we knew for a fact that it wasn’t cheddar. We guessed that there was some Gouda and possibly Parmesan used in the mix. Regardless, it was very light and delicious. Definitely a must try!

The cutest thing of the night though, was the complimentary dark chocolate pudding and the infamous fish fortuneteller. You take the fish out of the plastic wrap and place it on the palm of your hand. Depending on how the fish curls, it will tell you your mood. It was so entertaining that the Boyfriend and I completely forgot about our pudding and just kept playing with the fish.

It might not sound like we ate much, but after we finished our sides, we decided to order 8 more Barcats and 6 more Littleneck clams. Our total intake came up to 12 East Coast oysters, 2 West Coast oysters and 12 Littleneck clams. I think that’s the most I’ve ever eaten in one sitting. And it didn’t break the bank either! I know I will definitely be back to see what other oysters Mermaid Inn has to offer. At prices like their Happy Hour special, Mermaid Inn really can’t be beat!

Hatsuhana

When it comes time for my mother’s annual birthday dinner, we usually decide on Japanese because my family are raw fish addicts. After a bit of Yelping, I found Hatsuhana, located in midtown East. I was able to get same day reservations on a Saturday night at 8pm. Surprisingly, everyone started arriving around 9pm, which I always thought was rather late. Most couples sat at the bar but they had several larger tables for groups.

We decided to order a couple of appetizers off their daily specials menu. First was their Tofu Salad, which had mixed greens, seaweed and tofu. They serve their ginger dressing on the side so it is definitely a friendly dish for those who like to go light on their dressing. The tofu was very soft and mixed very well with the ginger dressing.

Then we sampled their Braised Pork Belly, which I thought was a bit on the small side. It was also not as good as I expected it to be. I’ve had excellent pork belly at places like Sakagura and Bozu so I was expecting something amazing like the other two. I was sort of disappointed. Hatsuhana’s pork belly wasn’t bad, per say, but it didn’t stand out for me.

We also had their Grilled Duck, which was a bit on the salty side. My sister loved it so maybe it was just me. I thought it was a bit salty and a little overcooked. Again, it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t pop out to me. I think Hatsuhana is a place that excels in sushi and sashimi but not cooked foods. Their cooked appetizers weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special. Nothing stood out to the point where I have developed an urge to try it again.

What did wow me, however, was their sushi and sashimi. We ordered two sushi entrees to share and it was definitely more than enough. The fish was very fresh and the rice was very well seasoned. We started off with their most famous dish – The Box of Dreams ($40). This really was a marvel to the eyes – it was so pretty! The Box of Dreams is a lacquer box of 9 sections. Each section features a tiny bowl of sushi rice topped with raw or cooked fish. There were 9 very different tasting bowls but my favorite was probably the salmon, tuna, and red snapper. All the fish was very fresh but those three definitely stood out to me the most.

We also shared their Sushi Hatsuhana entrée ($37.50), which features 10 pieces of sushi and 1 roll of your choice. They give you a tiny list to fill out with the 10 pieces that you want and we decided to go with a variety. There was salmon, tuna, eel, salmon caviar, uni, and octopus. We decided to go with the spicy tuna roll, which was done very differently than your normal spicy tuna roll. Instead of mashing up the tuna and mixing in spicy mayo, they simply line the rice with some spicy mayo and two strips of tuna. I found this way of preparation very interesting because it is so uniquely Japanese, who don’t even have spicy rolls.

We were all completely stuffed by the time we finished our entrees but we decided to share one dessert – to balance out the savory that we had just devoured. We went with their Matcha Shiratama, which features small pieces of gnocchi-like rice pastries served with green tea ice cream and topped with red bean sauce ($6.50). This dish is skimpy on the rice pastries (we only had four) but very liberal with the ice cream and the red bean sauce. Together, the green tea ice cream and the red bean sauce provided a very distinct flavor. The red bean was super sweet while the green tea ice cream had a slight bitter taste from the matcha. Very complimentary!

The service was attentive and our teacups were always filled. Our dishes also came in a very timely fashion. Again, I would not come to Hatsuhana for their appetizers. Instead, skip it and order some extra a la carte sushi or sashimi pieces. Their sushi is so fresh and so beautifully prepared that it is well worth the price tag. This isn’t your standard sushi. This is the good stuff.