Friday, September 27, 2013

DOING DISHES: The Mussels Series, Part II of V - The Merry Monk

I like eating out with FF because she and I like to go splits on things and not over-order or overeat.  I overeated anyway. It was good.

We made plans for a Wednesday night because on Wednesday nights mussels are 2 for 1, and we like eating out on the cheap so we can order lots for less and feel a bit less guilty about eating out too often. Well, I do anyway.

We arrived just after 5:00 p.m. while the State office workers scrambled for an exit to the highway, but found free parking on Clinton Street, only a few blocks away from the restaurant. Nothing of value was visible through the windows of my car, FYI.

There are two doors to the Merry Monk, the main entrance on the left, the second one is on the right. Both were open when we arrived so we sauntered in the right-hand entrance. We couldn't figure out if it was okay to sit just anywhere, but we asked permission and did so, instructed that as long as there wasn't a RESERVED sign on the table to relax and find a spot. No hostess in sight was a bit odd, but we took a small booth that could seat 2 or 4 comfortably and settled in.

EVENTUALLY one of the waitstaff brought us menus. I poured over the list of draft beers, knowing, because I work at a university and one of my student workers is beer-literate and cheap-savvy as well, that draft beers are $2.00 off between 3 and 6 p.m., and, as you already know, some of us like it cheap. There is lots to choose from, so I read every entry in the very descriptive, beer-poetic listing, having a hard time deciding what might pair well with mussels. When then server came for our order FF told her we weren't ready because she didn't have a beer menu of her own and I'd obviously been hogging the one we had. So I'm an idiot. Anyway, because I am a dyed dark brunette these days (part of my disguise) Zena chose the Leffe Blonde, a pale malt. FF chose the Goose Island Matilda because it was "wild in character". Gotta love that girl. Both were great! The Leffe Blonde tasted just a bit smokey. It had a long finishing flavor and was not overly chilled, which I liked. The server tried to answer my question "What would go well with mussels?" but it didn't go anywhere; I think the lighter beers worked out well in the end.

P.S. They have lots of great beers listed in the bottled beer menu, including Belgian Ales and Lambics, as well as Fruit Beers and even Gluten Free beers. Go figure that one.

Feeling somewhat virtuous we ordered a house salad with a balsamic vinaigrette to start that we told the waitress we were going to split. Like Garden Bistro the salad wasn't divided in the kitchen for us, and we had no utensils at the table to facilitate the process, but we finally got the waitress' attention and, with a well-meant apology, she brought what was needed (e.g., side plates; we still had to use our forks to toss and dish up). We managed fine, and really enjoyed the salad. The dressing was sweet, strong, clingy, and the greens/cuke/cherry tomato/crouton delight held up to it quite well. A lot of pubs, which is what we would call the Merry Monk, don't do salads well as a rule, but this was lovely. It was a nice portion for $8.00 bucks.

MUSSELS. We ordered two types, the MM "almost" classic Meuniere (with white wine, butter, cream, celery and shallots), as well as the Beer Steamed (in Belgian amber ale, onion, garlic, tomato and fresh thyme). There were seven "Moules" to choose from, as well as a special for the day, but we wanted to stay with dishes that we could compare to other area restaurants. The combined flavor of the mussels and broth with our Beer Steamed selection was GREAT, the better of the two that we ordered, but the broth alone was a bit too salty. The combined flavor the Meuniere mussels and sauce was great also, BUT, the broth alone or dredged in the nice, solid baguette served alongside was absolutely perfect.  We liked the addition of the celery but weren't too sure about the cream - it had coagulated a bit on the shells and had separated from the sauce. The count was good: about 25 mussels per pound, with only one unopened shell. Too bad about half a dozen or more had a bit of grit. Even us cheapskate superheroes hate biting into sand (not that Zena is undone by a bitty piece of sand). Oh, AND there were more than a few mussels that had escaped their shells. Do mussels also have legs??? I am becoming suspicious. Anyway, most importantly all the mussels were tender and the presentation was low-key and simple. We were VERY happy with our dinner.

But Zena had to order another beer, this time an Ommegang Scythe and Sickle. It tasted almost lemony, a bit spicy, and very good. Too bad it was 6:30 and I had to pay full price, but I digress. Zena needed another beer because she was out-eating her foodie friend, including eating most of both hunks of sturdy baguette soaked in the two broths, and needed a drink. I easily beat off an "un-server" who attempted, at no avail, to remove the appearantly empty bowls while I finished things off.

Being cheap, I'm happy to report that a dinner of a salad, two pounds of mussels (for the price of one), and three beers came $46.00 including tip, and we were both satiated. We liked the pub environment, FF noting a nice mix of 20 something hipsters, suits, and middle-aged suburbanites, as well as a few superheroes. By 7:00 p.m. there was a lineup at the left door but no one rushed us along. Zena appreciated that she could finish her beer without being pestered by the waitstaff.

I burped my way home, happy, way too full, with plans to work it off out saving the innocent and fighting off dragons or whatever comes along that night, or, if I have to, at the gym the next morning. Not to confuse mussels with muscles, of course.

Yesterday morning I bought a half-off gift card for the Merry Monk through What a great deal!! I plan to return and continue to explore their menu. Also maybe link up with a few superheroes.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

1 comment:

LorreS said...

Here's the rundown from my score chart:

8-12 Sinker
13-17 Floater
18-21 Swimmer
22-24 Squirter

Number of mussels
Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Quality of mussels
Muniere: 2 Beer Steamed: 2

Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Mussels Flavor
Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Sauce Flavor
Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 2.5

Combination Flavor
Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Total overall yumminess
Muniere: 3 Beer Steamed: 3

Rating: Low-ball squirter