Made my way to the Mermaid Inn last night with a friend in tow and gotta say that it got high marks from the both of us. It's on 2nd between 5th & 6th in the East Village, but once you walk in, it's hard to imagine that you're not in a quaint seaside seafood restaurant. (Apparently the owners fashioned the spot after a Liguirian tavern, but it felt like New England to me!)
Sat at the bar, where I was lucky enough to know one of the bartenders from another restaurant. He suggested that we dive in to (forgive the pun) their oysters. The list of oysters by the bar was huge, but we were quickly informed that they actually only had two types in house at present. No matter, the Martha's Vineyard oysters weren't a disappointment. Adored the lime vinaigrette that came alongside. It had a hint of chili spiciness and lots of shallots too.
The wine list was small, but very nice. And, even nicer, the restaurant only marks up bottles by $15, so most of the selections are in the $20 - $30 range.
We moved over to a table and perused the complete menu. It's short and all seafood. And, just as pleasant as the wine policy, the entree costs were also kept to a VERY reasonable price point. Most of them were in the mid to upper-teen range. Quite a bargain for fresh fish and seafood.
We passed on the appetizers, since we'd already dug into the oysters and taken too much advantage of the free pretzel fish at the bar. The diners at the next table insisted that we hold out for the appetizers the next time. In particular, we were told that the spinach and crabmeat dip "takes you to another plane."
Bypassing the plane (this time around) I ordered the dorade, grilled whole, stuffed with garlic and fresh thyme, perched on a fragrant tangle of stewed red cabbage. My friend had the cod, which came with a blood orange reduction. Both entrees were excellent.
At this point, the restaurant doesn't have a proper dessert menu, but they did end the meal sweetly, giving us a free dessert - espresso cups filled with a just decadent enough helping of chocolate pudding.
Topping it off, when they brought the bill in an old sardine can, "Fortune Telling Fish" were hidden inside. Hadn't seen them since my elementary school days. It's a small red cellophane fish-shaped cut-out that you place in your palm. Depending on how the fish curls in your palm, you can tell your fortune.
Apparently, according to my fish, I'm fickle. But, not about this place. I'm definitely heading back to The Mermaid Inn.