How could I have forgotten? Summer weekends are kind of amazing in New York City. I say that with a smile as I look outside and know that the humidity is finally here, temperatures are on the rise, and the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm will probably end up just adding to the sticky air. Minus the unpredictable weather, which is never really more than just a useful piece of conversation in awkward encounters, a summer weekend in New York can be one of the most enjoyable times to be in the city - especially for the food lover. A recent, actually pleasant trip to an uncrowded Fairway on the upper west side reminded me of the advantages of staycations and simply sticking around. But, it was a meal at The Mott last weekend, that really made me smile and think: it's good to be back.
Not only are the popular, established restaurants less crowded, but there is actually opportunity to get a reservation at a new, hot restaurant without settling for the always flattering 5 or 10 pm slots. And, after visiting the newly opened The Mott on Saturday night, these restaurant vets from Bouley, Picholine, and Town already have every reason to claim all tables as booked weeks in advance. From start to finish, it was a wonderful experience. Located in a debated territory - it could be Soho, Chinatown, or even the lower east side (I will leave it to you to decide) - this is an excellent addition to an area lacking many dining establishments. You may recall visiting its predecessor - Double Happiness - but never for more than a drink or two, and probably not a return visit. Well, The Mott is another example of a successful reincarnation of space. Take a seat here, your happiness will be doubled, and it won't be long before you head back for more.
The Mott is the kind of place that groups in New York are constantly seeking out - a place serving delicious food, where you can actually talk and hear beyond the person next to you all the while sitting in an attractive setting and still being able to afford a few drinks out after. At a table for seven, we started the meal by sharing several appetizers - all of which are worth ordering again. The crispy pork belly with stone fruits and spring lettuce as well as the rabbit terrine with spring fruits and watercress were very similar in presentation, but both had very different, distinct flavors. Knowing that an appetizer portion would definitely not be enough, we ended up ordering the ricotta gnocchi with artichokes and pine nuts as a main course portion to be served with the other starters. This was an excellent decision especially since, unlike most gnocchi, these dumplings were actually very light - almost pillowy - and we easily managed to clear the entire plate.
If you are in the mood for a meat, the duck breast is an excellent option. However, I found two seafood dishes to be the winners of the night. The sea scallops with yellow wax beans, cherry tomato and basil were perfectly prepared. The use of basil with the scallops created an extremely light dish with very fresh flavors. And the pan seared cod with cockles, artichokes, and piquillo peppers was actually my favorite dish of the evening. The fish was lightly seared and served over a broth that I just as quickly enjoyed with the sesame bread provided. Every dish prepared felt very summery and light - a true testament to a seasonal menu. We all had room for a bite or two (and what ended up being much more) to share a few desserts. The lavender creme brulee and the chocolate cake with berries and fresh whipped cream were a great combination to satisfy all cravings. However, even if you are not normally the chocolate lover, this cake is a must with its oozing chocolate center.
So the next time you start to get envious when hearing about your friend's or coworker's upcoming exotic get away, think twice. Now's the chance to take advantage of weekends in NYC - and especially those restaurants you have always been so curious about. Even on the hottest of days, there are ways to stay cool. I've never known a glass of white wine or cocktail on the rocks to keep anyone's temperature up for long. Before you know it, fall will be upon us. And, that glass of wine and fresh seafood will no longer be quite as easy to come by at The Mott or any others of your favorites.
173 Mott St (@ Broome)
New York, NY 10013
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):