Two hours before 8:30 rolls around, the writer who is supposed to join me for dinner at Markt calls, she can’t make it. She sounds unseemingly fresh, but claims that she was starting to feel sick last night and should probably stay in this evening. I got a question for you, honey. If you were feeling sick last night, why didn’t you give me the heads up 24 hours ago, or maybe even earlier today? I must admit that the professionalism of most writers on the project is beyond reproach, and I’m usually pretty flexible.
You know who else is flexible? Alexandra Zoe Cohen (site). Yes, that was a double entendre and will serve as my only snark of the post, she’s got enough of that for the both of us. I met Zoe through my good friend Zach (link – her brother) on Christmas Day this year. I was going to all the Jewish Delis in the city to find out if they’d be interested in joining the project and we met between Katz’s and Russ and Daughters. They picked up Bagels, whitefish, Lox and this chocolaty swirled bread thing that starts with a “B” and we hung out in their mom’s newly refinished apartment on the UES all day eating and kvetching.
Zoe claimed that she wouldn’t make it to just any old restaurant and had been impressed by Markt in the past, so we were on the right track. I’d been in here once before a Fantasy Football Draft. I was living paycheck to paycheck back then (as if I was better off today), but when walking into a place that has Chimay on tap, what is a man to do?
And if you think that sounds pretentious, you’ve obviously never had Chimay on tap.
We started with the Mosselen met Hoegaarden (left), mussels with garlic and cream. Not taking away from the mussels at Bistro Les Minots, these are just a completely tantalizing mussel experience. I am a bit fastidious about my moules; I remove all the mussels from their shells and leave them in the broth. When all the shells are gone, I dig in. I feel like this allows for a more consistent mussel dish, not drying out in the air, staying hot in the broth, giving your spoon easy access to mussely heaven. I equate it to cutting a grapefruit.
If they served this mussel broth as a drink, I would have ordered it immediately. The sliced onions dripped creamy, garlicky goodness from the pot to my mouth. I needed a shamwow for my place setting when I was done. For some reason, I’d moved my plate to the side and didn’t return it when I started to dig in. Probably because I was entranced by the dish. If you only order one thing here (besides Chimay on tap) it needs to be these mussels. My friend who lives on 20th took me to this all-hours French place nearby over the summer, she raved about the mussels there, and it has a four star review on Yelp and people talk about how great the mussels are. Those didn’t even hold a candle to the Mosselen met Hoegaarden.
The chef sent us a Liejeoise Salad (pic) appetizer. Remember my vegetable jones (link)? To say that I only had four bites of this salad is a tribute to how fantastic the mussels were. Lardons, sauteed green beans, red onions and roast red bliss potatoes over mixed greens in a red wine vinegar dressing. The green beans were a great addition to the salad, but I skipped the potatoes in favor of more bread in the mussels.
I’ll stop talking about the mussels; I promise.
The highlight of the main course was the Carbonades Flamandes (pic), a beef stew prepared with Leffe Brown. Our waiter brought us that same beer to pair with the stew and it was a great choice. It’s a simple dish (just beef and the reduction sauce), but the beef was tender and juicy, the beer’s malty character complimenting the meat well.
I asked for a beer to pair with the Gentse Waterzooi (pic), a light and creamy chicken stew. I don’t remember the name, but it was full-bodied and fruity; it helped cut the saltiness it slightly, but the salt was still just a bit too much for my taste. It was the dish I wanted to love the most. My absolute favorite food memory is a creamed chicken I had at the base of the Alps in Switzerland when I was five years old. Over the last two plus decades, of eating, the Waterzooi at Markt is the dish that has come closest to this flavor. It is what I will order for my main course when I go back to Markt, but I’ll ask the chef to send out some broth to try first.
The Roodbaars met Boterbonen, a pan-seared red snapper with Basil stoemp (like a basil infused mashed potato) with a tomato beurre blanc was moist on the inside and had a crispy, flaky crust. The reserved acidity of the tomato balanced the oil in the fish nicely.
For dessert, The Warm Chocolate Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream (left) and the Berries Gratin with Hoegaarden Zabayon Sauce (above) were a great finish to the meal. The chocolate tart broke open and spilled its treasure like an over easy egg. I’d had one bite before our GM, Michael, brought us a Framboise Lambic to pair with it. Glorious! The berries satisfied my vitamin C fix for the day; I ate half of this dessert and Zoe, the chocolate fiend, had half the tart. If I hadn’t appreciated the complexities of the framboise/chocolate combination so much, I’d have eaten all the berries.
I think I’ve figured out why Belgians are so renowned for beer. Every brewmaster I’ve ever known has said that brewing is “an art and a science.” Belgium is located between countries that are known for two distinct excellences: the French for artistry and the Germans for precision. Those sensibilities arrive together in a delicious conflux of beer and food at Markt. Get the mussels and make sure you try a framboise with your chocolate tart.
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Markt for providing this meal.
676 6th Ave
New York, NY 10010