The running joke about me and M. Wells Dinette is that if I had an editor they’d tell me not to write about the place so much. Since I don’t, here goes. Yesterday I stopped by to check out their pig roast and petanque scene in the courtyard of at MoMA PS1. Finding myself in the mood for neither, I headed into the restaurant.
“I kind of want beef tartare, but can’t justify having it since I ate my body weight in red meat last night,” I said to Aidan O’Neal. “You should try the beet tartare,” he said. I flat out refused claiming somewhat hyperbolically that it goes against everything I believe in. It sort of does since I am no fan of mock meat and veggie burgers. “Try it, I think you’ll be surprised,” the chef persisted. Eventually I caved and ordered the $14 vegetable tartare. And I am glad I did.
A disc of ground yellow beets sat atop a layer of goat cheese crowned with a poached egg, and girded with purple amaranth leaves. As I dug in smearing the mixture on a bit of baguette I was truly amazed. The combination of earthy beets shot through with crunchy mustard seeds, tangy goat cheese, and egg was the best vegetarian dish I have had in a long time. It was utterly unexpected and refreshing, everything a beet tartare should be.
“We treat it just like the meat,” O’Neal said describing how the beets are put through the meat grinder. There is one difference, though. When calling orders in the kitchen, the staff say veggie tartare because “beet tartare” sounds just a little too much like “beef tartare.”
M. Wells Dinette, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, 718-786-1800