The original M. Wells was like a drug in short supply. Just after we got hooked on its eccentric, carnivorous fare and riveting penchant for excess (a 24-ounce burger, a menu abounding with caviar and foie), the renegade LIC diner gave up its lease, and one of the most exciting restaurants New York had seen in years disappeared.
Quirk power couple Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis opened a more subdued venture—MoMA PS1 ‘s lunchtime cafeteria, M. Wells Dinette—in 2012. But M. Wells Steakhouse is their full-fledged return, with a big-ticket vengeance. Housed in a former auto-body shop, the spot splices class with irreverence; black-tie waiters and a besuited sommelier dart around a room where trout swim in a concrete tank and Canadian-lumberjack movies project onto the wall.
Sporadic bursts of flame from the wood grill illuminate sizzling slabs of flesh, seducing both downtown rockers and Queens families. Contrary to the going wisdom of savvy chophouse diners elsewhere, you should not skip the seafood and salad—the preserved jarred clams ($8) are firm and briny; the charred iceberg ($12), with creamy blue-cheese dressing and sweet dehydrated ketchup meringue chips, is a striking, whimsical wedge.
Service with high-end aspirations is clumsily slow, allowing too much time before the carnal blitz. Dry-aged Nebraska côte de boeuf for two ($130) smacks lustily of the barnyard, enough to pardon its fat-glistened meat for being one shade shy of medium-rare. Dufour’s fluency in foie gras—honed at Montreal mecca of excess Au Pied de Cochon—demands saving room for a side of massive gnocchi ($15) stuffed with luscious hunks of it; firm and crisp, the dough is less gnocchi than kingly knish.
While large-format meats recall the gluttonous communal spirit of the first M. Wells, an Alsatian fish dish captures the madcap opulence that made Dufour and Obraitis’s original restaurant so special. The fresh-killed, whole poached trout ($30) is bathed in white vinegar until its skin turns electric blue, then served with cabbage and potatoes, having been indulgently sopped with brown butter and tartar sauce.
You wish there were more dishes as debaucherous as this. But at a time when new steakhouses are all too often phoned-in, even a watered-down version of M. Wells’s gutsiness is a refreshing evolution.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meal highlights: Jar of clams, wedge salad, côte de boeuf, truite au bleu, foie gras gnocchi, dill carrots
Behind the bar: The French-leaning list has bottles for every budget, but don’t count on the rushed sommelier spending the time to walk you through it.
Vibe: More intimate and warm than most meat temples, it’s a place where both bearded Brooklynites and Queens musclemen happily wield steak knives.
Cocktail chatter: As a test run, Dufour and Obraitis kept 30 live trout swimming in their apartment bathtub until serving them at a dinner party.
Soundcheck: Even louder than when it was an auto-body shop.
|Venue name:||M. Wells Steakhouse|
43-15 Crescent St
|Cross street:||between 43rd Ave and 44th Dr|
|Opening hours:||Mon, Wed–Sat 5:30-11:30pm; Sat 5:30–10:30pm|
|Transport:||Subway: N, Q, 7 to Queensboro Plaza|
|Price:||Average main course: $28. AmEx, Disc, MC, V|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4.5 / 5
- 5 star:3
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
Had nothing but FUN here. Left insanely full and under my budget. Tasty cocktails and the cheese cake KILLED. I will be back to conquer the tomahawk!
Love the place, the quirky canadian sommelier has great recommendations and will sabre off champagne corks like the best of them. The pork chops are to die for. Not to forget the decadent pommes aligot, and a great foie gras terrine. Sea food appetizers from the raw bar are a must try. Warm pretzel rolls start you off just right, the Canadian sidecar cocktail is delicious. Try to nab a seat at the 5-stool "chef's table" for an experience like no other.
The gnocchi is actually one of the worst items on the menu. Interesting concept, but there's no textural contrast, the potato is gummy and too thick like a bad side of gluey mashed potato and the actual foie gras cube is tiny , doesn't stay in the gnocchi and adds nothing to it. Worse, the whole thing is greasy without anything to balance the grease. The trout on the other hand is fantastic. The marrow soup is great. The pretzel bread is great. The lobster roll is great. The bone in burger is gimmicky, don't mind the bone but it's overpriced. The côte de boeuf was overpriced. The stack of pork chops was dry. The red velvet cake was way too sweet and had a weird texture. It was all very hit or miss.