Flex Mussels on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is diesel. Love the concept, loved the food, awesome execution. The main event–a huge bucket of steamed mussels available in 23 styles. Informal and casual, yet easily considered fine dining in a classy space. Flex is a fun spot to go with friends and pass plates, while indulging in their extensive wine and beer list. Not feeling shellfish? They have other stuff too like fried calamari, cod and salads.
I sampled three styles of mussels–Thai, Spartan and Maine. Thai style was all about the broth. Sweet, intense, bright. Lime cut through richness for a perfect balance. I went back with bread to soak up the goodness well after I was full. Spartan was the simplest preparation with olives, oregano, tomato and olive oil. I’m not a huge fan of olives, but I appreciated cleanness of the dish. Maine was probably my favorite. Basically a hearty chowder topped with a pound of mussels, the surprisingly light broth featured bacon, lobster, cream and corn. All those mussels with some fried calamari and crisp fries left me in a food coma for hours.
Mussels are a great canvas. Flex elevates and celebrates their star ingredient with flavors that are familiar and delicious. Next time you think about just steaming mussels in water, look at the Flex menu for some creative inspiration.