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M. Wells Steakhouse

M. Wells Steakhouse is open. The restaurant is fenced by minimalist wood slats that open to a courtyard. Inside, the decor is a mix of industrial flooring, metals and found-art chic. M. Wells is the most aesthetically cool restaurant in Queens and one of the most in NYC. The trough for live fish and open kitchen are not only visually arresting but also utile in design.

Bread buns are served deliciously hot with a fresh circle of butter. The bread is gorgeously browned, with a fluffy, yeasty interior and a salty pretzel flavor.

I started with M. Wells Caesar. The preparation of the salad is done at an open station. The salad is crisp romaine buried under a heaping snow of parmesan shavings. The lettuce is very lightly dressed in herring sauce with croutons. The herring is subtle and the dish as a whole is rather restrained but well executed.

The bone in hamburger is a hamburger patty with a long bone protruding from its center. The patty is an elegantly blended mix of top rounds (grass and corn fed respectively) and aged brisket. The housemade sesame bun is expertly baked with an airy moistness and thin crust. The burger was perfectly cooked, crusty sear, medium rare, almost bloody and bathed in remoulade. A very well composed, well presented burger.

I ordered a side of poutine. The fries are crispy and the cheese curds had a consistency of a fresh paneer with the creamy flavor of mozzarella. The gravy was a bit salty for me. I wish the gravy had a bit more meatiness or smokiness.

The meal concludes with a jaw dropping dessert cart. I ordered red velvet cake. The red velvet cake has a banana bread/carrot cake-like consistency and crumb. Not the typical tighter and airy crumb that you might find at Baked or Lady M. The balance of sweetness is quite judicious and pleasing, thankfully not cloyingly sweet as can be with some restaurants. The frosting has cream cheese mellowed by creme fraiche, which is appreciated as I don't care for the flavor of cream cheese. I prefer a tighter and smaller crumb, but lovers of fruit/vegetable cake will enjoy the texture.

The service is solicitous, informed and warm, although a touch leisurely. The owner and hostess Sarah Obraitis is charm and beauty. Hugue Dufour was dapper and media ready even as he was cooking, as there were photographers and camera crew documenting the opening.

My initial impression is, M. Wells Steakhouse is easily one of the best restaurants, if not the best in Queens. They have an interesting selection of oysters to explore. The lobster roll looked really delicious, given their expert way with breads, it looks like a must order for a next visit.

 
 
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    1. Let me be sure I have this right. This was the opening night of a steakhouse and you ordered a burger with a bone in it and poutine?

      It was initially reported that it was going to be friends and family Tuesday and Wednesday with the regular public being let in on Thursday. Was that the case?

      9 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Last night was strictly friends and associates

        1. re: Bob Martinez

          I'm really glad the OP ordered the bone-in hamburger since it is the item that piques my curiosity the most.

          Seriously, if the OP was part of Wells' friends or family, don't you think s/he would've ordered steak, knowing it would be comped? It appears to me that the OP took a chance and showed up, got what was appealing to him/her, and Wells gladly took in some money last night.

          1. re: foodiemom10583

            The steak for one is $55. I'm not ashamed that I couldn't afford it in my budget for this week, I have a budget. Even the salad, hamburger and dessert was a splurge for a regular weekday night. More than anything, I think the point was not to say I shouldn't have ordered a burger, his point was to make me feel bad.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              I read it as more of a "Why didn't you didn't order steak at a steakhouse" comment. I honestly didn't read any financial issues into it. I would have probably ordered the same for the novelty of it, regardless of the pricing.

              1. re: foodiemom10583

                Foodiemom, I always try to give people the benefit of a doubt. Let's just say I've been burned a few times and now I know better how to discern intentions.

            2. re: foodiemom10583

              The friends and family dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday were widely reported. I quoted Eater earlier. Here's an article from the LIC Post -

              http://licpost.com/2013/11/12/m-wells...

              And one from DNAInfo -

              http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131...

              My original comment was this:

              "It was initially reported that it was going to be friends and family Tuesday and Wednesday with the regular public being let in on Thursday. Was that the case?"

              The question was fair. He chose not to respond.

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                Yes, Bob, I read your original comment. But then, you answered your own assertion thusly:

                "Yep - confirmed. Last night was friends and family."

                The OP did, in fact, respond to your question downthread.

                1. re: foodiemom10583

                  Foodiemom, apparently my posts defending myself and addressing rudeness were deleted. Basically, the original article, dated 11/8/2013 on Eater NY said M. Wells Steakhouse was opening on Tuesday.

                  http://ny.eater.com/archives/2013/11/...

                  No mention of it being exclusive/friends & family. I went to the restaurant, was welcomed and asked how many in my party. No mention of friends & family.

                  It was only the day AFTER, that media reported the opening as friends & family only. A quick google check would have confirmed that. Moreover, the opening being exclusive was reported erroneously. About a third of the room when I was there were people unassociated with the restaurant. Friends and family were all milling together. Nor was there "rattlesnake" or "lion" on the menu as reported by some outlets.

          2. Hugue is so dapper, I understand he is under discussion for a GQ cover sometime in 2014..

            1. can i ask what's the point of a hamburger with a bone in it?

              5 Replies
              1. re: jon

                I think the "bone in" burger marks a new culinary trend. We've all heard about chefs deconstructing traditional dishes into their component parts. Here Chef Dufour is "reconstructing" the burger. The insertion of the bone cleverly reminds diners that the burger is made from a steer which originally had bones before they were removed by the butcher.

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  Sound like the rib samsy's they sell at the Uzbek restaurants.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    I got the deconstructed/reconstructed thing. But is there some other reason more related to food taste rather than food philosophy that would lead anyone to want a hamburger with a bone poking out of it?

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      Per Kenji at the food lab, the bone insulates meat while cooking but provides no notable flavoring during cooking:

                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/03/as...

                  2. re: jon

                    It's just playful presentation.

                    Not everything has a deep philosophical purpose behind it.

                  3. Just to clarify, the restaurant was and is open to public, I was not on a guest list and am just a regular patron. I read about the opening on Eater NYC and showed up when they opened, they did not turn me away nor did they turn away others.

                    There is no rattlesnake or lion on the menu. My understanding regarding the bone in hamburger is that it evokes the hunk of meat the patty was ground from. M. Wells Steakhouse is quirky and I appreciate that they are willing to be different.

                    7 Replies
                      1. re: kevin

                        There is no menu posted that I know of, I have photos of the menu that I can post.

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Any idea what "Topnecks by the Bottle" means on the raw bar menu? I'm coming up blank.

                              1. re: JonL

                                I have no idea, I had to have more than a few items explained to me.

                              2. re: Pookipichu

                                Wow, that's a really cool dessert cart too.

                        1. Great review and the exact meal I'd order there. (Of would have ordered -- I'd have been disappointed that it wasn't the excellent smoked mackerel Caesar served at the Diner.)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: lambretta76

                            I'd love for them to bring back fish and chips or their general tso fried sweetbreads, chicken stuffed with shrimp or their crawfish or their fried duck tongues, coconut cream pie among other things :)

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Or the tourtiere! Or the foie gras grilled cheese. (I shouldn't have liked that, but I really did.) Or the ... OK, I just miss the old M.Wells Diner.

                              1. re: lambretta76

                                Hopefully they'll have a specials menu and rotate their "greatest hits"

                          2. The lobster roll was really enjoyable. Very fresh, delicious, tender chunks of lobster in wonderful fresh bread. I only wish the bread had been heated or toasted. The lobster was a bit over dressed as the creamy sauce was dripping and a bit excessive. Also there were two bits of cartilage.

                            The gnocchi with foie gras was an interesting idea but the potatoes are too oily with no acid or strong herb to cut the grease, adding a cube of rich foie only compounds it. The texture of the gnocchi is more gummy than fluffy and although the concept is interesting, I would rather have smaller gnocchi with a fluffy texture.

                             
                             
                            1. Thanks for your report! By any chance did you see people order the seafood platter? I generally don't order them because I think it's pretty pricey for what you get. But I had the best seafood platter ever at Au Pied de Cochon -- great value and they actually did things to do the seafood vs shucking some clams, oysters and putting them on an ice bed with some mignonette.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                I didn't see anyone ordering the seafood platter and I didn't order oysters even though I love them (it's too chilly for me to eat raw seafood). But I did order the trout and it was really magnificent. If you like trout, there are few places in the city that could rival it. It's just so fresh and is cooked perfectly. Caveat, they do not de-bone it and it might be a chore for some people to eat.

                              2. The onion soup with bone marrow is ridiculously good. It's luscious, flavorful and the broth and cheese are perfect with a dollop of onion bathed marrow.

                                 
                                 
                                1. Probably my last post on M. Wells Steakhouse in a while.

                                  The good:

                                  Still the most visually stunning restaurant in Queens, lovely service, albeit a bit slow in taking your order. Excellent ingredients and high quality cooking. Interesting preparations and dishes that are hard to get elsewhere.

                                  Some dishes have improved. The M. Wells Caesar has a more assertive herring flavor now. The remoulade is more judiciously applied on the bone-in burger. The pretzel bread is just plain great. The buche de noel filling is really amazing. The lobster roll is dynamite and one of the best in the city (compared to Pearl's, Mary's, Ed's, Luke's, GCOB, etc. I've eaten a lot of lobster rolls...)

                                  The bad: Starting with minor things, the restaurant is cold because, well it's winter and there's no windbreaker at the entrance. The dessert portions have shrunk while the prices have remained the same. The burger has gotten $2 more expensive with the portion remaining the same. $8 for french fries means a burger with fries is $25.

                                  I ordered the tagine, 2 lamb chops and a small portion of lamb shoulder with a bit of couscous and vegetables was $45.

                                  Basically, M. Wells Steakhouse is not only the best looking restaurant in Queens, it's also the most expensive. Whether it's worth it, I will leave to others to decide. Slender women next to me ordered over $300 of food, not including wine and cocktail, so clearly there are those who would not bat an eyelash at the cost.

                                  For me, I'm disappointed at the size of portions relative to cost and that there are not more mid-priced items of reasonable size, like at M. Wells Diner (e.g. $14 fish and chips etc.) I wish they would bring back their pies and desserts under $11. The buche de noel had too much filling and not enough cake, the sacher torte sweats excessively with beads of moisture on the chocolate.

                                  There's so much potential but also many minor inconsistencies and flaws. More so than M. Wells Diner, which at least, with a lower price point, was easier to appreciate. While I still do believe that M. Wells Steakhouse turns out some of the best, if not the best food in Queens, the price point puts it above restaurants in Manhattan that serve food as good. For instance the USC burger is $16, a bigger portion and I assume the rent for Union Square is higher than LIC. While I'm sure every business adjusts according to their market and what they need for profitability, I hope that M. Wells Steakhouse eventually has more menu items for families that make less than $250,000 a year.

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                      My husband and I had dinner there last night. We started with cocktails: their version of a Manhattan and the Queens Cocktail, which had an Old Tom gin base, some herbal liqueur components, and a hint of pineapple. They were well crafted with high quality ingredients and at $10 apiece, a bargain. While we were at the bar, we had their version of Pimientos Rellenos de Atun, which was spicy pickled peppers stuffed with trout. $1 a pop.

                                      Everyone probably knows by now about the live trout tank. I had the trout and my husband had the brisket. We started with some appetizers from the seafood bar: excellent oysters, clams in a jar, and the geoduck. The clams were plump, tender, and juicy, but the novelty of the jar was lost on me. The geoduck was overpowered by a green tomato chow-chow.

                                      The brisket is served on a couple of pieces of French toast. It looked like an enormous amount of food. It had been cooked for 16 hours with many different kinds of pepper and was tender, with a complex flavor. I thought it was a little sweet, but my husband liked it. The trout was cooked in red wine, and served with a creamy sauce with chives, potatoes, and cabbage. It was excellently prepared, but I thought the trout flesh itself was a little bland. It was undeniably fresh--I saw the chef take it out of the tank and a few minutes later it was on the table. This was also an enormous amount of food and probably could have served two.

                                      The wine list had a lot of interesting bottles, with plenty of options south of $75. The sommelier was friendly and made a good recommendation well below the cost point we named as our limit.

                                      Service overall was great, the space is beautiful. They brought out a complimentary piece of red velvet cake for my birthday. It was huge and my husband and I were happy to share it--two desserts would have been too much food. I'm not a big red velvet fan, but this was less sweet than other versions and had an almost prune-y taste that I liked.

                                      All told, with tip, the meal was $220. Unless you're set on eating the steak, I think it's very doable to eat a good meal there without spending a fortune.

                                      1. re: versicle

                                        Very much enjoyed reading your review. I thought it was informative and nicely balanced. Thanks.

                                      1. re: sushiman

                                        What did you have there and what were your thoughts?

                                        1. re: sushiman

                                          The professional critics are weighing in.

                                          Last Sunday Adam Platt - 2 stars out of 5.
                                          http://www.grubstreet.com/2014/01/ada...

                                          Today Pete Wells - 1 star out 4
                                          http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/din...

                                          The reviews aren't hatchet jobs - they both go out of their way to find things to praise. It just seems that there aren't enough of them.

                                        2. I was weak for lobster roll last night. Menu has changed for the 3rd? 4th? time. Sweetbreads are now on the menu.

                                          Ordered poutine with my lobster roll. The cheese curds were warm this time, best poutine I've had there so far.

                                          New cake, it looks like an ice cream sandwich, the top and bottom are giant soft chocolate chip cookies sandwiching a rich dark chocolate layer cake. My mind was blown, seriously good.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                            Are the menus updated on a website ????

                                            Thanks.

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              Not that I know of, I just checked their website and there's no menu.

                                          2. Wanted to report on my meal. Beautiful room and very friendly service. Overall the food was good but there were a few misses, at least for me.

                                            The good
                                            Uni royale -- lobster custard with lobes of raw uni on top; wished there was a bit more salt but the custard was creamy and uni was briny and fresh

                                            Onion and bone marrow soup -- very rich, could very well be a meal by itself; loved the large chunks of oxtail

                                            Trout -- probably my favorite item of the night; very fresh as it was killed on the spot. I know some people may complain that it's a bit light and bland, but I think it's a good foil to the heavier saltier dishes

                                            Rolls -- one white and one pretzel -- they were both served warm hot and fresh. Beware of the mustard -- will clear your sinuses.
                                            Good but with some reservations
                                            Poutine -- the fries were really nicely fried but I prefer my curds melted and these curds were pretty cold. I think I would get the plain fries or perhaps the pommes aligot next time.

                                            Escargot and bone marrow -- I believe this was one of M Wells Diner's signature dishes. There was this really thick heavy sauce that occluded the taste of the marrow and escargot. Would have preferred something lighter.

                                            Cookie cake -- chocolate cake sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. I really liked the cookie part. But the cake was too dense for my taste -- it was like they made it with bread flour as opposed to AP or cake flour. I guess some people may like the heavy style. But I prefer my cakes fluffier.

                                            Not good

                                            Beef butter -- probably my least favorite dish of the night. There was so much gristle that I had to spit out my two small bites. I just stopped eating because I couldn't swallow it. This is not the first time I have experienced this in the States (with the exception of one restaurant). For some reason when I order wagyu beef in the US it's filled with gristle and is the opposite of buttery soft -- kind of like when you order otoro in a sushi place that doesn't cut it correctly where it's filled with sinews. I've eaten very fatty beef (different regions) in Japan few times and I didn't have the same experience. It was very fatty but very little gristle. So I don't know whether I got a bad piece or this is what it's supposed to be. Whatever it is, I didn't like it.

                                            I originally wanted to get the major seafood platter hoping it was going to be like what I got at Au Pied du Cochon. But after seeing some pics on the internet of the seafood dishes, I decided not to as I don't think it's the same thing. And it's also about twice as expensive. For about $60 at APC, I got this huge platter of seafood that would enough for a meal for two people.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              I agree about the poutine, I've actually mentioned multiple times to them that the curds are extremely cold. The last time I ordered them, they were perfect, soft and melty (that's after having had them with cold curds 4 or 5 times)

                                              I love the trout as well, I don't need every dish to smack me in the face with "flavor". In that sense it reminded me of Chinese preparation of live fish which can be subtle, which perhaps means bland to some.

                                              Regarding the cookie cake, I really love it but I can understand if it seems a bit heavy. I think the red velvet cake at M. Wells is the worst culprit with a really heavy, dense crumb. I think the cakey cookie is their best cake because the denseness at least makes more sense and it's playful, tasty and inventive.

                                              More than anything, my major issue with M. Wells Steakhouse is how expensive it is. There's a troubling trend of Queens restaurants serving very little food and charging Manhattan prices (e.g. $45 for two lamb chops, or the chicken leg at Venturo for $17). That being said, the last time I was at M. Wells it was packed so I'm guessing there are more than enough patrons that are not as sensitive to price.

                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                Or prolly people from Manhattan.

                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                  Yes, that's a pet peeve of mine when the curds are still cold. I'm not sure if that is the way it's supposed to be served because I've encountered that pretty frequently. But the poutine in Montreal I've had has all been melty.

                                                  The trout is great -- the silky smooth texture is what really does it for me. I also like those Chinese steamed fishes -- so the trout dish was totally up my alley. But I can understand how some people may feel underwhelmed by that dish -- though the waiter told me that the trout is quickly becoming one of their signature dishes.

                                                  Yes, M Wells Steakhouse is a bit dear. But it was packed when I was there. It is certainly a destination restaurant and doesn't seem to be hurting for any customers. Well, people keep talking about how Queens is the new Brooklyn. M Wells Steakhouse may be an example of why this may be true.

                                                  Oops, forgot to mention the sweetbreads. You really need to like sweetbreads to appreciate the dish as it's not deep-fried so you'll taste the gaminess a bit more. I was fine with a couple of bites. My husband had no problem finishing off the entire dish as he's quite a sweetbread fiend.

                                                  I do wish their menu was a bit more descriptive. I've never asked so many questions before. I wanted to make an informed decision about what to get so I probably took a lot more time than I usually take with waiters.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    Inre: cheese curds in Poutine, my many Canadian friends contradict each other on whether they should be cold or melted, so I really think it's a matter of taste!

                                                    Personally, I require them to be cold and squeaky! I love the added texture it adds to the poutine, and the contrast between the cheese curds and the hot gravy. But to each his/her own!

                                                    It sounds like M. Wells Steakhouse does them right (by me) and I can't wait to check it out.

                                                    Just had to weigh in not that point! Thanks all for the informative reviews!

                                                    1. re: BTaylor

                                                      That's really interesting :) Thank you for sharing. I actually didn't think that the melty curds were the "right" way, because I had no reference for what poutine should be like. It's good to know that there are those who prefer cold curd and that that's how they are intentionally being served.

                                                      I do prefer the melty curds though, it's gooey and so delicious.

                                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                                        Yeah -- I don't think they're supposed to be cold, but I don't feel that they shouldn't be melty. From my experience at many of the better poutine joints in Montreal they should be toothsome and have that "squeak".

                                                        To each their own, it sounds like their version would be more to my liking than the disco fries many places in the US pass off as poutine.

                                                        And let's face it -- fries + gravy + cheese no matter how it's done is pretty darned tasty.

                                                        1. re: lambretta76

                                                          I should be more clear, the last time I had the poutine, the curds were still intact, they were just soft. What I mean by melty is that they were on the verge of melting, but they were not melted. The previous times they were refrigerator cold and definitely squeaky. The last time I had the poutine, I thought it was the best because the cheese had warmed enough to have more flavor and the texture was perfect for me, soft and contrasting with the crispy potatoes as opposed to ice cold and rubbery.

                                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                                            Wells' review mentions the Tomahawk chop but I do not see this on online menus....is he referring to the bone-in Chateaubriand?

                                                            1. re: erica

                                                              The menu has changed 7-8? times since I first went. I asked one of the hostesses if they would post the menu online since it changes so much and she said they had no plans to do so at the moment. I believe there is a new item, Captain Korea Breakfast, for instance, and I have no idea, what that is. There may well be a tomahawk chop, or there may have been a tomahawk chop that is now gone.

                                              2. Tried a new dessert at M. Wells Steakhouse the other day. It's a cherry pie and it's the best dessert I've had at M. Wells Steakhouse and one of the top 3 slices of pie I've had in my life (better than 4 and 20 Blackbirds, Blue Stove, Baked etc. etc.)

                                                The cherries are fresh, ranier cherries, very concentrated in flavor, the filling is lush, bodied, not gloppy, syrupy or mushy, the crust is savory, but not over salty as is the current meme of "salted" everything, it has a richness from duck fat and is beautifully baked. The pie has a balance of being lightly tart, lightly sweet and very flavorful. As I gravitate toward desserts that are less sweet, it was perfect for me.

                                                If you like cherry pie, pie that's not too sweet, ranier cherries, THIS is the pie.

                                                 
                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                  This almost looks like a slice of apple pie.

                                                  how much is it per slice ????

                                                  thanks.

                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                    I was confused at first too, since I was expecting dark cherries. It's $10 a slice.