At Hav & Mar, you won’t end up grinding on a Buddha statue like you might at Tao. You probably won’t text your ex at midnight—a dangerous consequence of the unlimited sake at Sushi On Me. But make no mistake, this Chelsea spot, inspired by chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish and Ethiopian backgrounds, is a party restaurant.
To be clear, Hav & Mar closes at 10pm. But partying means something different to us these days. Being at the club just reminds us we’re no longer on our parent’s health insurance, and our “after-parties” consist of a nightcap and watching Fallon doing karaoke with Ric Flair. Which is why we like the fact that no matter how early we arrive at Hav & Mar, we end up staying much longer than planned. This place isn’t just the buzzy restaurant you go to before the function. It’s the pre-game, the party, and the after-party.
If you’ve been to Samuelsson’s other New York restaurant, the perpetually mobbed Red Rooster, you’ll know that he prioritizes a good time. But while that Harlem spot is all about gospel brunches, soul food and fried chicken towers, Hav & Mar is a seafood-focused restaurant, with spacious blonde interiors that look like they came from IKEA’s most competent designer. Black mermaids with patchwork-patterned tails swim across the walls, and on livelier nights, it feels like the grinning sirens are hosting a big rave.
People file in around Happy Hour, fleeing Midtown office buildings for somewhere with a discernible pulse. A big, circular bar in the center is the restaurant’s beating heart, where patrons down enough Bunna Martinis to keep conversation swirling around the room. Pretty soon, the rest of the place fills out, with people wearing outfits straight off the runway, and speaking in more accents than there are countries on the menu.
For the most part, the menu's transcontinental experiments work well. You’ll find a lot of Scandinavian-inspired seafood dishes, lit up with Ethiopian flavor from awaze, dawadawa, and berbere. But Thai basil, salsa verde, and andouille sausage also make appearances. This kitchen has wide open borders.
Hav & Mar’s proof-of-concept is a dish called the “Swediopian,” but don’t feel like you have to order the forgettable slabs of salmon, cured with barely perceptible berbere. Instead, get the Addis York, doro wot-stuffed rolls of injera, served with fried drumstick in a sweet, sticky sauce. Even if you’ve had the chicken stew before, switching up textures adds a whole new dimension to the dish.
Bring a friend who’s up for exploring the world through fish tacos with berebere crema, drinking a couple extra cocktails, and still getting to bed before tonight becomes tomorrow. As the Ethiopian folk music transitions to house, and the room registers a higher bpm, you’ll swear the mermaid’s tails are moving.
Hav Bread Basket
Start your meal with this bread basket. It comes with teff biscuits, blue cornbread, and injera crisp, along with honey butter, shiro hummus and tomato chutney. Slathering the honey butter between the teff biscuits is your main objective, but the other two items are good for snacking on between courses, and transporting hummus and chutney into your mouth.
We might call this take on doro wot a “deconstructed” version of Ethiopia’s classic chicken stew. That sounds annoying, but it’s our favorite dish on the menu. Rolls of injera are stuffed with the flavorful stew, browned to a slight crisp, and served with a fried drumstick on the side. Ethiopian cheese, pickled red onions, and chili peppers make it pop.
You’d think this would be an obvious order, but it’s actually kind of boring. The salmon is cured with berbere, served on a fennel salad, and topped with mustard seeds and a fruity sauce. You can only slightly taste the Ethiopian spices, and we’re not sure why fennel is in the mix. It’s a decent enough small plate, but not a must-order.
Banana Leaf Snapper
This entree is kind of a wildcard, but it's one of the best. The creamy dill salsa verde sauce makes the dish, which is served with coconut rice that actually tastes like coconut, and crisp brussels sprouts.
Dawa Dawa is an umami agent that should be getting the same play as miso, with its everything-all-at-once flavor that comes from fermented locust beans. Like miso, this Ethiopian ingredient goes great with fish, including this halibut, which comes with tamarind broth and green beans.
This bowl of bucatini comes in a shallow pool of uni butter, with crab meat and chopped shrimp on top. It isn’t the most exciting thing on the menu, but it’s still a perfect pasta dish, worth trying on a second visit. And we’ve personally made a habit of hitting Hav & Mar’s Happy Hour for Bunna Martinis, followed by a Havatini at the bar.
Hav & Mar also does weekend brunch, and yes, it is also a good time—but the real reason to go is to try some great dishes that aren’t on the dinner menu, like this waffle. A nod to Red Rooster, the Belgian waffle is served with fried shrimp and calamari (instead of fried chicken), and maple chimichurri.
For parties that need a little something extra, Hav & Mar has a couple of impressive seafood towers. The Garden Tower (pictured, $110) comes with poached lobster, blue shrimp, mussels, little neck clams, oysters, and Greenmarket crudité. The other option is the Black Mermaid Tower for $145—no crudité, but plenty of other luxe additions, like two types of crab. Truthfully, there’s enough seafood in the entrees to satisfy us, but these are great for a splashy group dinner.