Pier 9-Great Martinis, Sinking Service

You know when the menu look awesome and the meal just…doesn’t quite measure up?
This is a woebegone tale of a night such as that.
Pier 9 is a brand new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant that is like an upscale version of a seafood shack. VERY seafood focused menu with lots of interesting options. The space is trendy but not stuffy, and we were seated quickly, right by the oyster bar. So far, so good.
The By Land Martini: Karlssons potato vodka, black truffle brine, blue cheese & truffle stuffed olives. This is now one of my favorite martinis in NYC. Served chilled but not icy cold, the vodka’s bitter, acidic taste was tempered by the earthy, deep black truffle brine. I tend to prefer VERY cold martinis, but this one was really better a little less frigid, so the truffles could come through. The vodka was smooth and the olives were THE BEST STUFFED OLIVES I HAVE EVER HAD. Meaty, juicy, and just salty enough to temper the vodka. It was stuffed with the MOST smooth, and tangy blue cheese, It was as fluffy as goat’s cheese and was lightly pungent, so as to compliment the vodka, not overwhelm it. This was a hell of a cocktail.
Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits. It took a little while to get these, but when we got them, they were dynamite. Dense but not heavy, with a tight crumb and a great balance between sweet corn and kicky(though not hot) jalapeno. Some honey butter would have put these over the top, but they were still delish.
And then we waited for about 15 minutes, in the not very busy restaurant. Not long enough to affect the meal in a big way, but long enough to remind me that the restaurant was new and still working out kinks.
Mini Laughing Bird Shrimp Tacos with Tomatillos & Cucumber Salsa. These were kinda disappointing. The shrimp were well cooked, and were amazingly tender and sweet without being mushy, but it was more of a ceviche than a taco filling. Tacos are hot, right? These were cold. Not room temperature – cold. Like ceviche. But I didn’t want ceviche. I wanted tacos. The pickled onions and tomatillos were tangy and delicious but not quite zippy enough. Some extra heat or a bit of creaminess from avocado or sour cream would have mixed up the flavors and textures here. The shells were wonderfully fresh, but this was just not Latin tasting enough. And…once again…tacos should be hot. Right?
I got the Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Stewed Tomatoes, Olives & Piquillo Peppers. This took awhile to come, but the tuna was perfectly cooked and rubbed with a wonderfully spicy and flavorful, though not salty, rub. That little dish with the sauce? Lukewarm. I like hot food hot and cold food cold. This just seemed like it was sitting out for awhile before I got it. The flavors were all right, with the sweet tomatoes, salty olives and smoky peppers, but the temperature was just off putting. The veggies on the side were also incredibly cool. Not to my liking at all.
Here is the good news: I managed to steal a bite of my friend’s lobster roll. This was good, almost shockingly so. I mean, it was real good. The lobster was cooked perfectly-tender but not stringy or mushy, and just dressed in the barest coating of mayonnaise possible. Tiny dices of celery and the right amount of salt and pepper brought the lobster’s natural sweetness shine through. Mild, buttery, with the right amount of snap, and served in a top split hot dog bun. Served with piping hot(THANK YOU!), liberally salted fries, it was a really great rendition of the classic dish.
S’Mores Doughnut-Holey cream® Doughnuts, Marshmallow Filling & S’Mores Ice Cream.
This should have been perfect – a warm, perfectly buttery but none too sweet yeast doughnut (p.s., be sure to check out Holey Cream if you live in Hell’s Kitchen – they have insanely good doughnuts that they make into ice cream sandwiches), topped with intensely sweet and gooey marshmallow cream, smothered with deep, dark chocolaty ice cream. But…as you will see…the ice cream had melted all over the place by the time we got it. It was still delicious, just not perfect. And the taste was great, but if it wasn’t so goopy and soupy, it would have been a PERFECT dessert.
And the truth is, I want Pier 9 to be perfect. It has some wonderful ideas, but a few big service issues, involving wait times and getting food out so it is still hot enough. It had some delicious dishes, and some that needed work, but the whole concept has big potential. It is just a wee bit pricey to have these issues…if they could fix those issues than I think this could really be a knock out restaurant. 
But until then…you know I will be back for that martini.
Pier 9 on Urbanspoon


  1. denise, the prime magpie says:

    Holy cheeseballs, Batman — those cheddar biscuits look gigantic! I'm glad you were able to enjoy a restaurant, appreciate it for its strengths and see where it needs improvement, but not cast it aside if it doesn't fit some impossible standard. I think it's too easy to just write places off, far more interesting to revisit places and see how things evolve, as restaurants are really like living entities, always in flux!

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Denise-I totally agree with you! There is usually someone in the kitchen who loves what they are doing, and it is a shame not to recognize the good things along with the inevitable flaws. And that martini was a VERY good thing!