How to Eat the Grape's Mussels

Categories: Eat This

Grape Mussels.jpg
Pardon my forks
Offering mussels on a menu is a lot like offering a burger. You see both everywhere, and each is highly dependent on the primary ingredient.

Mussels are especially finicky -- they're only as good as they are tonight, and tomorrow they may be a complete disappointment in the same dining room. It's a matter of freshness but also ingredient sourcing, which can vary week-to-week or even day-to-day.

Take the mussels I had at The Grape last summer: perfectly un-remarkable. I even called them small.

Then, just last night, the same dish bordered on transcendence. The mussels were huge, with meaty flesh that filled out their shells almost completely, keeping the promise offered by their onyx exteriors. Sadly, there's no real way to tell what you're going to get until the steaming bowl comes to the table.

At the Grape, though, it helps that they're flanked by not one but both of the great mussel starches: bread, perfect for soaking up as much of the delicious brine liberated from the bivalves as possible, and french fries, which must be served with mayonnaise or nothing at all. Order yours with a Saint Ann's Lawnmower and enjoy them like this:

Ask for some bread on the side if it's not already at your table. When the mussels arrive, remove enough of the shells from the the top of the bowl to get access to the broth beneath. Grab a piece of bread and let it sit for a second. Be patient and let it soak up that salty brine like a candlewick, and then watch it drip onto your shirt as it's quickly shuttled to your mouth. Now squeeze a little of the lemon that's forked on the side into the brine and repeat the process with your bread. Watch how it wakes up.

Next siphon off a little more broth and add it to the aioli. You can use an empty mussel shell as a scoop, or just carefully pour from the bowl. Stir this up with a french fry and enjoy the greatest fried potato condiment of all time. The Grape's spuds here are worthy of the decadence, with crunchy, salty exteriors and warm, pillowy insides.

When meals get this good you start to wonder if it's just the food or if some other variable must be responsible. And then you quit wondering because you're too busy wiping the aioli from your face.

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The Grape

2808 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

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9 comments
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primi timpano
primi timpano

Never gave mussel size much thought, though I generally prefer small oysters and clams to larger sizes.  I usually prefer smaller fish (speckled trout, snapper, etc.) to larger species (halibut, swordfish, etc.).  To me the key factor for all seafood is freshness and storage.

Steve
Steve

Saint *Arnold* Lawnmower

Mervis
Mervis

No, he had gender re-assignment surgery thus the new name.

CitizenKane
CitizenKane

Absolutely one of my go-to entrees;  and The Grape does it as good or better than Les Halles, Balthazar's, Raoul's , or other fine NYC bistros.

jon from TJs
jon from TJs

you are absolutely right-  mussels can be sublime one night, mediocre the next.

but you know what's weird?  mussels being aquafarmed year round are one of the most consistent seafood species.

and when stored correctly, have a great shelf life.  they are alive - its easier to keep a live animal live than it is to keep the flesh of a dead animal fresh.

i'm a monger, not a chef or a restauranteur - i'm sincerely curious as to why mussels can be hit or miss.

that said, I'VE NEVER HAD A MISS AT THE GRAPE.  Brian and now Danyelle are fantastic in that kitchen.  used to live walking distance and go all the time.

twinwillow
twinwillow

I had mussels at Nova in the OC last week that were very large and most delicious! Best mussels I've had in Dallas in a long time. But, I will try the mussels at The Grape next time I'm there.

I did enjoy a fabulous, braised breast of veal at The Grape last Saturday night. You don't see that on many restaurant menus. The Grape is my go-to "first date" restaurant.

CitizenKane
CitizenKane

Yes....The Grape makes a great first date impression, while not being too ostentacious...plus it can be romantic and private......

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