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!