Ed’s Chowder House – Do You Get What You Pay For?

You get what you pay for. Haven’t you heard that your entire life? And yet, there are times when you really don’t. You overpay and get crap, or you pay a little and get something so great. What would Ed’s Chowder Bar bring?
Ed’s Chowder Bar, located in the Empire Hotel, is not a place I would normally frequent. It is 
1) In a hotel
However, it was open Christmas Day. And had reservations and its normal menu. So we went. 
The space was extremely upscale without seeming fussy or stuffy – Ina Garten meets Carrie Bradshaw. Sleek and elegant with nautical touches and a bright, airy feeling. Also very spacious – a huge plus for any NYC restaurant. 
Oyster Crackers and Horseradish
Have you ever wanted to go to heaven? Just split open an oyster cracker with your thumbnail, heap on some horseradish, then replace the top. Then eat. It will clear your sinuses and awaken your tastebuds.
Bread Basket
We also got a bread basket filled with white rolls, cornbread sticks, and jalapeno-cheddar bread. Though it all sounded great, it was merely okay. The rolls could have been yeastier, the bread could have been spicier, and the sticks were a touch too sweet. Best to stick to the oyster crackers here. 
Iceberg Salad with Tomatoes, Red Onions, Pumpernickel Croutons, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk or Balsamic Dressing
My sister wanted this salad. So we got it – way she wanted it: with almost everything on the side. And, you know what? The server delivered our order perfectly without once making her feel like she was Sally Albright. And the salad, albeit a simple one, was perfectly prepared. Crispy croutons, fresh veggies, light and flavorful dressings, and some of the best blue cheese I have had in a restaurant. Really – it was funky and umami but without having any of that stinky foot taste to it. Instead, it was bright and almost electric tasting. 
Needless to say, I ate it with my oyster cracker sandwiches. 
All the oysters at Ed’s Oyster Bar are flown in daily, and they offer a larger or smaller selection according to what they can get fresh. That’s great. What isn’t so great is that while 3 of the 5 oysters we ordered were delicious, the remaining 2 were not. They weren’t “off,” but they were totally devoid of flavor and that minerally, complex taste that oysters should have. When I am paying $3 per oyster, they should all be spectacular. If the oysters don’t taste great that day, just don’t put them on the menu. The best oyster of the bunch was the Mystic. It tasted like summer in my mouth – light, bright, and salty, just like the seashore. The mignonette sauce was a little bland, but the cocktail sauce was spicy, sweet, and fantastic. I would recommend Connecticut based oysters here. 
Golden Snapper
Having never seen golden snapper on a menu, I had to order it. It was fantastic! If you like snapper, striped bass, or any light, flaky fish, you must get this! It had the crispy skin of char but the delicate texture and mild flavor of striped bass. It was lightly grilled until moist, and with just a squeeze of lemon, was fantastic. 
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
It was a big horseradish day for me. 
While I tasted only a hint of the spicy, pepper taste of horseradish in these potatoes, they were phenomenal. Creamy, but with a few large lumps, and the red skins mixed in well with the fatty, luscious taste of butter. These were great (and yes, a few spoonfuls of the horseradish mixed in did kick the whole thing into taste nirvana).
So, the food was great, the service was even better, and the surroundings were lovely. What’s my only hangup  about this place? The price. It ain’t cheap. It is going to cost you upwards of $40 here for an appetizer and entree at brunch. And I’m just not sure that a plate of fish and a salad is worth that price, no matter how delicious. Now, that said, I would absolutely come here for a few Connecticut oysters and that terrific bowl of mashed potatoes. And if I were headed to Lincoln Center, I would eat here in a flash.
So, do you get what you pay for here? 
You tell me.
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