03/18/15 11:39am

Carbohydrate love, Italian style.

“It’s kind of like a banh mi,” the waitress said of the roast lamb sandwich at M. Wells Dinette. As I scanned the menu my eyes darted between the lamb sandwich ($12) and the spaghetti sandwich ($12). Lamb and Vietnamese sandwiches sit pretty high in my culinary pantheon, but ultimately I went with the spaghetti sandwich.  It bears pointing out this kooky sandwich predates, that other noodle-based mashup, the ramen burger. (more…)

07/28/14 2:08pm

Beet tartare, as refreshing as a summer’s breeze.

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. (more…)

01/06/14 9:57am


As much as I love eating my way around the world without ever leaving Queens, I have a huge soft spot for the psychedelic Canadian bistro/diner/art project that is M. Wells Dinette. Hugue Dufour’s combination of bistro classics, with nose-to-tail and sheer Quebecois farmboy whimsy keeps me coming back. Beef Wellington, along with, escargots, foie gras, caviar, and Dover sole falls into a class of foods that this product of a suburban lower middle class Italian-American home thinks of as luxurious. (more…)

12/05/13 10:57am
VZW Food Crawl - Tour Group

The Verizon Food crawl ended at one of my favorite spots , M. Wells Dinette.

When it comes to technology, I’m what you might call a late adopter. As for food, I am quite the opposite, living to discover new cuisines and flavors. So when Verizon contacted  me to help organize and participate in a Queens food crawl on November 23 I was quite excited. Not only would I get to spend a day eating in Queens and pregame for Thanksgiving, I might learn a thing or two about technology.

Our day started at the new Verizon store in Astoria where we were each outfitted with a smart phone. Once I’d managed to set up my e-mail and social media accounts on the snazzy new LG G2, I immediately started testing out the camera. Soon we were using the Uber app to callup a car and take us to our first destination. (more…)

10/21/13 1:03pm

This ethereal goat leg is part of the Goatober specials at M. Wells.

Every now and then I have a dish that revolutionizes the way I think about a particular foodstuff.The goat leg ($26) I ate at M. Wells Dinette last Friday is such a dish. Served over a bed of chanterelles and sunchokes it was phenomenal. So phenomenal I immediately took to the social media with a picture of the half-eaten portion captioned, “Saddle of Unicorn.” Fine grained and slightly sweet with no trace of gaminess whatsoever, it might as well have been the flesh of that mythical beast. (more…)

08/07/13 10:20am
Surf and turf for French philosophers.

Surf and turf for French philosophers.

“Is it a sandwich?” I asked of the jambon Paris ($14) which appeared on the chalkboard menu at M. Wells Dinette beside the word croissant. “It’s a deconstructed sandwich,” the waiter said, explaining that it involved a torn up croissant and mayonnaise made from the fish escolar. As a friend reminded me last night deconstructed is a phrase that was once more commonly used to describe philosophy or fashion, not sandwiches. In any event a croissantwich would be too ordinary for the M. Wells crew. Deconstructed or not the slices of rosy French ham drizzled with escolar mayo and topped with torn up pieces of croissant made for a tasty snack. Each forkful—buttery and sweet croissant, silky ham, and mayo—was like a little sandwich in itself.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

06/28/13 11:06am
Thankfully, it tastes nothing at all like soap.

Thankfully, it tastes nothing at all like soap.

“We’re going to make you something.” Sarah Obraitis of M. Wells Dinette said to me last week. I’d just consumed a decadent plate of boudin blanc, with scallops and sweetbreads along with an herb salad. I mumbled a refusal thinking the only thing I could possibly eat was a wafer thin mint à la Mr. Creosote. “This is the type of thing you get at Le Bernardin,” she continued brightly. “It’s inspired by soap candy that Hugue ate as a kid in Canada.” Sarah walked away leaving me to ponder the notion of soap candy. (more…)

04/11/13 9:55am
A dish fit for a modern art museum.

A dish fit for a modern art museum.

I am a big fan of monkfish liver, or ankimo, as it’s called at the sushi bar. The season for this marine foie gras is coming to an end. I am especially saddened because recently I had a deliciously over-the-top rendition of monkfish liver, at M. Wells Dinette, a restaurant whose raison d’être is over-the-top deliciousness. If the ascetic Japanese presentation of monkfish liver—in a shallow lake  of ponzu sauce with a bit of green onion on top is a study in restraint then Hugue Dufour’s monkfish liver torchon ($14) is a study in hedonism. Thick rounds of creamy orange monkfish liver sit astride a pancake that’s been fried in duck fat, which sits in a lake of maple syrup. Crowning the whole affair is a tangle of mustard root tempura. It’s the type of dish that seems right at home in a post-modern museum cafeteria. If you get there and it’s not on the menu anymore don’t sweat it too much. There’s sure to be something equally delicious and over the top. I’m still holding out for the foie gras enriched shwarma Dufour once told me he was thinking about making.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

02/18/13 12:09pm


Canadian-Italian surf and turf by way of Long Island City.

“It came to me in a dream, this dish,” Hugue Dufour of  M. Wells Dinette said of his oysters Bolognese ($8). It consists of two oysters topped with a good tablespoon  or more of  Bolognese sauce that have been baked momentarily and then showered with Parmesan. The first time I tried it, I found it rather odd. Perhaps it was because I consumed it immediately after a rich, sweet bowl of oatmeal and foie gras. Or perhaps it was because I accidentally mistook the sea salt that anchored the oysters to the plate for more Parmesan and ate some of it. “Aidan and I were worried someone would do that,” Dufour said. “Figures it was you.”

A few weeks later I tried the dish again this time as a starter. The Bolognese was absolutely wonderful, meaty and rich, but it completely overpowered the oyster. When it comes to oysters I’m a purist. As for Dufour’s Bolognese,  I’d gladly eat two or more tablespoons of it any day of the week.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

02/11/13 10:36am

Andrew Zimmern is crazy about the bread at  Rokhat Bakery in Rego Park.

Andrew Zimmern’s TV show “Bizarre Foods” has its season premiere tonight on The Travel Channel at 9 p.m. with a visit to Washington, D.C.  While I’m excited to see Zimmern eat a blackened snakehead sandwich in a boat on the Potomac, I’m more excited about the past several days  he’s spent eating his way around Queens. Especially yesterday, when I had the opportunity to take him on a global food crawl that started in the Himalayas and ended in Liberia.  Before I gave the bizarre one a private food tour I  caught up with him at M. Wells Dinette and asked him Seven Questions.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten thus far on this trip to New York City?
I’m just gonna go right out with the bread at Rokhat Bakery [in Rego Park]. I’m just going with the thing that I’ve been talking to the most people about. The Golden Mall? Fantastic. Fu Run? Ethereal. To stand in the kitchen [at M. Wells Dinette] and have Hugue make little tasty tidbits for me? Glorious. And on and on and on. I had dinner last night at The Dutch. Carmellini was just killing it and sending out all kinds of great things. The moment he came out to say hello the first thing I did was take out the picture of  Rokhat Bakery and say, “You have to go try this bread place.” I’m still captivated by it. What a special unique thing they have out there. Those samsa, those meat pies, the breads, the cabbage pierogi.  I’ve never tasted its equal.

What’s your favorite way to eat bone marrow?
With my fingers. I put it up to my mouth and I suck. It’s the way I was taught when I was a little kid. The very first bone marrow that I had was osso bucco at Trattoria Sostanza in Florence in 1969 with my father. I remember my first visit there.

Where did you learn how to use chopsticks?
I learned how to use chopsticks from my mother. My mother went to Mills College in the ’40s in San Francisco, her roommate was Trader Vic’s daughter. Vic Bergeron taught my mother how to cook in the original Trader Vic’s in San Francisco. Ethnic dining in America, especially in New York, was not what is now back then. In the early ’60s, yes, there was a chow mein restaurant on every corner. There were a couple of good Cantonese restaurants around and there were your various Chinatowns in the five boroughs. We actually had a home where my mother would make certain Polynesian specialties. And, we had chopsticks. So, I learned from my Mom.