fireman's of brooklyn (in manhattan)
went to fireman's of brooklyn yesterday on 3rd ave. between 63rd and 64th (where hosteria fiorella used to be). i went mainly for the cool name but was pleasantly surprised with the food.
they have exceptionally fresh seafood there. in particular, the steamer clams are by far the best i've had in the city, better than grand central oyster bar, which are very good in their own right. for the longest time as i was eating them, i couldn't quite place the taste, but i knew it was something familiar. and then it hit me - caramel. they literally tasted like warm caramel melting in your mouth. my girlfriend tasted another after my revelation and agreed "or maybe even butterscotch" she said. the steamers were so rich and creamy i couldn't get enough - the sweet flesh dissolving in my mouth like some wonderful new candy.
but i stopped long enough to have some incredibly fresh kumamoto oysters. these little gems were also unbelievably creamy, enough so that my girlfriend proclaimed them the best oysters she's ever had, to which i could only agree. i usually tend to swallow my oysters pretty soon after popping them in my mouth, once i've had too much of the taste of the sea, but these i let linger, happy to enjoy every moment before i let them slide slowly down my throat.
entrees were not quite up to the appetizers, though it was probably not a good idea for me to get the halibut meuniere after all that butter from the steamers. my girlfriend's crabcakes were pretty good though. very light and flaky, with lots of chives and herbs mixed in. different from what i'm used to, but still quite tasty.
they also have an excellent banana cream pie. obviously homemade, with a great big layer of fresh sweet bananas, an excellent graham cracker crust and some fresh cream. very well-balanced, not too sweet - yummy is the word that kept coming to mind.
and for entertainment, there are a couple large tanks toward the bottom of the restaurant (it's on several levels) which house some huge lobsters and giant dungeness crabs. the water was really clean and they had to be the liveliest bunch of shellfish i've ever seen, jumping and crawling around seemingly ignorant of their fate.
for those who've never had steamers before, just so you know - pull the clam out from the shell by holding its handle, a little half inch protrusion on one side of the clam. then peel back the sleeve that covers the handle and anything attached to it - it's basically like some green or brown seaweed type sheath which comes off pretty easily - like the cover on your umbrella. wash off the clam in the hot water provided (though these were so fresh this wasn't even really necessary), dip it in the drawn butter, and bite off the clam to the start of the handle, leaving most of the handle in your hand. then close your eyes and enjoy. mmmm. wish i could be there with you.
The restaurant is owned by Shelley Fireman, who also owns Trattoria Del Arte and a couple of others.
I had lunch there on Saturday, and must be the only malcontent! My friend had the clams and loved them. I had the scallops, which were a bit too cooked, and came with a dry and overcooked baked potato. The tanks were all empty and there was no raw bar....must have been something about the time...1pm??
My husband and I ate there for the first time last week and I have to concur. We shared an appetizer of littleneck clams on the halfshell. They were perfect and indescribable. I had the lobster roll and it was superb: large chunks of fresh, sweet lobster meat, tossed and very lightly coated in a lemony mayonnaise, mounded atop a toasted and split white hotdog bun. My husband had the halibut meuniere and enjoyed it so much that I didn't have to share my lobster! We each had soft drinks and they brought them in full glasses, with a pitcher of each for refills, which I've never seen before and very much appreciated. Dessert was out of the question but the list was mighty tempting. Next time. And there will definitely be a next time.