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Mar 17, 2008 08:47 AM

Mary's Fish Camp (Review)

After being die-hard Pearl Oyster Bar fans for a couple of years now, my husband and I decided to try Mary's Fish Camp for lunch after a movie on Saturday. We walked over from 5th & 12th and arrived a little after 1pm, and, although there seemed to be a lot of people waiting (larger groups, maybe), we were seated right away. We opted for the bar, rather than a table, and sat at the two stools furthest from the entrance. This was also right under a speaker, which I only figured out when I realized that my husband kept having that look he has when I suspect he's not listening to me - turns out he couldn't hear me. The music was quite loud, but fun, and didn't bother us really.

Anyway, we got our menus and water, and proceeded to check out the menu. A number of items reminded me of Pearl (the salted shrimp), but there were also a lot of different items (fried clam sandwich - looked amazing). After waiting a bit for someone to take our order (a little longer than I'd like), my husband ordered an Anchorsteam (noted that he thought their beer selection was less interesting than Pearl's), and I got a glass of Pinot Grigio (a Riesling was the other white choice), which was served in a water glass. We finally decided to share the fried anchovies (a special) and I ordered the lobster roll, my husband the skate. The anchovies were wonderful - meaty and crispy, served on a bed of shaved celery and fennel, with chives and a lemon (Meyer lemon?) dressing. Another glass of Pinot Grigio for me, and the Riesling (v. nice - light) for my husband. He loved his skate, and I enjoyed my bite. It had a tiny bit of curry, which gave it this yellowish color, but barely a hint of curry flavor - not sure what it added. The lobster roll - lots of lobster, also lots of mayonnaise (more, I would say, than on a Pearl one, and more than I'd like), with the occasional bit of celery. Delicious. Some of the fries were a bit greasy, but overall, very good. We decided to skip dessert, since I was planning to cook a nice dinner at home. The sundae looked a little dull - two balls of ice cream in a water glass with some chocolate sauce. We took a look at the wine list, seemed somewhat shorter that the one at Pearl, but with interesting wines as well.

We, of course, spent the whole meal asking one another how it compared to Pearl (as you can tell from the above), as we tasted one another's food. Our conclusion - excellent meal, with Pearl just edging out on the lobster roll and the skate. But only just. No steamers was a minus in my husband's book I also prefer the bar at Pearl, where you can, from afar, see into the kitchen, but not feel as if you are almost in the kitchen, as I did at Mary's. Service was friendly enough, though not as friendly as at Pearl (I'd say that some of the people at Pearl recognize us when we go, but not such that I think they are any friendlier to us than they are to others sitting at the bar, as far as I've observed). The room looked to me as if they'd taken over another restaurant and thrown up a couple of paintings, but love the big windows looking out onto the West Village streets. We'll definitely go back - at least for weekend lunches when Pearl isn't open, and to try that fried clam sandwich.

The check was about $120 with tip - struck me as a little high (wines were $9/$10 a glass), until I asked how much the lobster roll was - $37 (the menu said M/P - it wasn't on the blackboard with the specials, though we were told that the price would be coming down - this was due to market conditions). I do think that if I'd known the price, I wouldn't have ordered it. Out of curiosity, I called Pearl, and theirs is $26 - $28 right now. Now I have to try Ed's, I guess!

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  1. god damn...$37 for lobster roll? thats just plain stupid.

    try ed's...ive made it known that i like it far better than either pearl's or mary's.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sam1

      I know - I couldn't believe it. Ed's was the other place we were going to try, but the movie was closer to Mary's. Next time.

      1. re: MMRuth

        I've eaten the lobster roll at Pearl's and Ed's MANY times. Pearl's is better--hands down. Ed's is good, Pearl's is great. Why? Pearl uses more tail meat, Ed uses more claw meat. Tail meat tastes better by most people's judgement. But, it is easier to get a seat at Ed's on most nights.

        1. re: Ora

          Thanks. We usually show up at Pearl when they open for dinner, as we tend to eat earlier, so for us the seating thing isn't an issue. Your post reminds me, though, there was one piece of mushy unpleasant lobster in my Mary's roll - a v. small piece, fortunately.

    2. Oops - adding Place link:

      Mary's Fish Camp
      64 Charles St, New York, NY 10014

      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I had lunch at Mary's today. The lobster roll was marked "M/P" on the menu, but was not listed on the blackboard. I have to say I was shocked when I saw the bill -- $30 each. The lobster was great, but the portion tiny and the fries were cold. We also shared the squid salad. You would think that there might be more than 3 pieces of squid in a portion, but no. Squid is pretty cheap, after all. Food: great. Service: friendly. Value: bad enough to take a pass.

        1. re: jcooper

          I have spent many summers in New England and $37 for a lobster roll is a smack in the face, I mean this isn't Masa?

      2. $37 for a lobster roll is instant justification for a table tossing imo. that is completely outrageous. maybe a bald eagle roll, but a lobster roll should NEVER imo run over $25. really, i dont like paying more than $20. use the extra cash and buy a jitney ticket and get yourself out to montauk for an equally bravo product. one of the few things i'd rather make at home if need be.

        if you end up going back, their fried clam app is divine (although light in portion)- still a must get, we had to order a second.

        for dessert, get the banana pudding. perfect complement for a clam-shack kinda meal (the other being a good bread pudding).

        mary's needs to fix their fries. how in this day and age you could serve fries that mediocre (borderline bad?) is beyond me. their are SO many good french fries out there right now, would rather get mine at some fast food chains that what they offer at mary's.

        1 Reply
        1. re: conordog

          there is no lobster roll in Montauk or the Hamptons that can even lay a hand on Pearl or Mary's. not even close. Please Please dont say Lunch, that place is garbage....for me, Pearl gets the edge...

        2. Despite being a huge fan of oysters and seafood in general, i've never quite understood the allure of either Mary's or Pearl...better *and/or* cheaper oysters are available all over town, and the long waits and cramped seating makes going to either place an incredible drag...

          the 37 buck lobster roll is just, i'd rather go to Cantoon Garden and get two (2) entire lobsters sauteed w/ ginger/scallions for 26 dollars, and not have to queue with a lot of hungry yammering yuppies...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Simon

            You could go to Chelsea Market and get their lobster salad which is excellent. Pay $37 and get enough meat for 2 nice size sandwichs.

            1. re: princeofpork

              I had a lobster roll at The Lobster Place there and wasn't so excited about it. I think it was about 16 dollars.

            2. re: Simon

              I particularly like the fried oysters at Pearl - is there a place that you like to recommend for fried oysters? I don't know about Mary's, but Pearl only has two kinds of oysters each day - one raw, one fried - so I agree that there are much better places to go for raw oysters.

              1. re: MMRuth

                i usually get my fried oysters at the counter at GCOB, though i have to admit that last time they weren't as good as usual...i also like the fried oysters&clams appetizer at Tides, but it's been a long time since i've been there...

                but i'll check out the fried oysters at Pearl sometime when i'm in the there any hour when Pearl doesn't have a wait? late at night?...

                1. re: Simon

                  I'm afraid we are early birds - usually get to Cornelia St. just a little before six and snag two seats at the bar. During the summer, we occasionally go for a late lunch on Fridays, as my husband tends to leave the office rather early then!