When you walk into Mollusca, you pick up all the vibes of the Meatpacking District that it is located in. It is arty, open and you can even sit at a table in the front window that I would call “half inside and half outside.” There are velvet chairs and banquettes, industrial lighting and dark walls but at the same time it has a homey, comfortable feeling. The service is warm and friendly and you will find that the waitstaff is completely on the ball at all times without being intrusive. The list of seafood is endless but there are numerous pasta/vegetarian choices.
Since Mollusca is a modern fusion restaurant that seems to be mixing Modern American, Italian, Japanese, Greek and Mexican fare, you can always expect unusual taste sensations. The most popular starter is the empanada which is available stuffed with cheese, crab or shrimp. (My dining guest and I got the crab and shrimp as pictured above). Fillings are hot and generous and be aware that this are especially satisfying (only eat a couple or else you will not be able to eat your entree). The empanadas are served with a lightly spicy mustard sauce.
The Wagyu Filet in Cacio e Pepe Sauce with Cherry Tomato Salad is completely stellar even though Mollusca is known for its seafood (much of which is included in classic Asian dishes like sushi and potstickers). It is a generous portion (about seven ounces) which makes it well worth its $80 price tag. If you bought a cut of this quality and cooked it yourself at home, it would cost even more. The marbling is something unsurpassed and the meat is well-seasoned without being spicy. I wonder if it actually comes from one of the six or seven near purveyors still left in this ultra trendy and affluent neighborhood. If you are in a particularly lavish, you can get your wagyu filet with a lobster tail sitting in lobster bisque. It is out of photo range but the salad is served in a half circle on the top of the plate and features field greens and edible flowers that appear to be pansies.
The Gyoza with Crab Filling, Teriyaki Glaze and Fresh Trufflework works as both an entree or an appetizer and many people order them as an entire lunch. They are pan fried to crispy perfection and have a large quantity of crab in the filling along with numerous fresh herbs and scallions. The crab is actually a mixture of different types from different parts of the Northeast. The teriyaki glaze is light, not sticky and the truffle adds a sophisticated touch.
The Tri-Color Cauliflower is an extra large portion so it serves as an entree for one or side for two. The wasabi cream gives it a real kick but there is a balsamic dressing on the bottom section of this cauliflower concoction which is actually formed into a beautiful cake shape. The cauliflower taste very freshly picked and each color seems to have a slightly different texture and crunch. Again, there are edible flowers scattered on the plate to make for an artistic presentation.
The crispy Popcorn Shrimp are served in a lightly spicy sauce with a touch of cream–and the portion is exceptionally generous (you get about 16 shrimp). It has a dusting of homemade bonito flakes that look like they have been toasted to a golden brown on a cookie sheet. The outer layer of each shrimp is flaky and slightly sweet. This is probably the real bargain of this classy establishment and it is one of their most popular dishes.
There are usually only three desserts on the menu and they are all classics done with a modern twist–Tiramisu, Profiteroles and Creme Brûlée. My guest and I shared the Profiteroles as you can see and the “gold dust” on top of these stunners is a bit of a kitchen secret but I believe that the base is softer confectioners’ sugar. The custard inside and the outer puff pastry shell are definitely from classic French recipes and are perfectly fresh and inviting without being overly sweet.
The royal blue velvet chairs and coordinated cloth napkins and plates just put a smile on your face as you eat your meals. There is just something so comforting about this shade of blue. The gold fixtures and trim are a lovely contrast. The high ceilings accented artistic industrial ceiling lamps make this large space seem even larger and give it a dream like quality.
Put Mollusca on your bucket list. It is even more “sophisticated and spirited” than is stated on their website but it is not intimidating. You feel right at home from the minute you walk in and they have some of the most comfortable chairs of any restaurant in town. Mollusca has a very stylish looking crowd but diners are really foodies from all different backgrounds. You can actually dress casually if you wish. Learn more about Mollusca and even make a reservation at www.molluscanyc.com. (As you can guess from the name, there are plenty of mollusks served and I have friends headed there to try Mollusca’s famous mussels in a giant red logo pot.)