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Restaurant Openings

Week of November 24, 2008: Flex Mussels and Vinegar Hill House.


Flex Mussels
174 E. 82nd St., nr. Third Ave. 212-717-7772
Bobby and Laura Shapiro run two restaurants on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, and this week, they’re importing one of them to New York. Flex Mussels will occupy the Upper East Side space that formerly housed Zócalo, which has been furnished with artwork from P.E.I., plus an oyster bar manned by John Bil, three-time Canadian oyster-shucking champion. Chef François de Mélogue, a Robuchon alum, handles the rest of the seafood-centric menu, which spotlights P.E.I. mussels cooked in 23 sauces, for $16 to $18 a pound. Variations include the Dubliner (Guinness, toasted walnuts, and caramelized onions), the southern (bourbon, mustard, roasted corn, country ham, and cream), and the Peking (with Peking duck). The “not mussels” menu section is rounded out with such fish-shack archetypes as a lobster roll, a lobster dinner (including grilled corn, potato salad, and hot apple pie), and, for the stray landlubber, a few red-meat dishes made with California’s renowned Brandt beef.

Vinegar Hill House
72 Hudson Ave., nr. Water St., Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn 718-522-1018
Culinary frontierspeople Sam Buffa and Jean Adamson bring a seasonal menu and affordable wines to Vinegar Hill, the historic micro-neighborhood wedged between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pair met at Freemans, where Adamson was the chef and Buffa owns the affiliated barbershops—and discovered they both were drawn to the waterfront location across the river. The couple first took up residence in the nineteenth-century carriage house out back, and then built the 40-seat dining room using mostly scavenged and repurposed materials. Adamson describes her menu as Moosewood Cookbook–ish in its focus on grains, legumes, and vegetables, which are intended to supplement smaller portions of protein. Her fish will be sustainable and her meats broken down from whole animals procured from Fleisher’s, the upstate cult butcher, all cooked in the wood-burning oven. Also on offer: a raw bar, an American-cheese-and-homemade-cracker board, and $9 classic cocktails—liquor license pending.


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