NYCReview

photo credit: Kate Previte

M. Wells image
8.6

M. Wells

FrenchExperimental

Long Island City

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial OccasionsImpressing Out of Towners

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There’s a tinge of Willy Wonka at M. Wells, if the candymaker made a mid-career pivot from sugar and chocolate to offal and foie gras. Every meal at this Québécois bistro (yes, there is poutine, and yes, you should get it) is playful, decadent, and a little unhinged.

M. Wells has been a neighborhood presence in Long Island City for more than a decade, and we’re so glad it’s stuck around—first as a diner, next as a dinette inside MoMA PS1, and then as a steakhouse in its current location in a converted auto-body garage. Through 14 years of block parties, pop-up shops, and grand Thanksgiving traditions (frozen French-Canadian pies stuffed with beef, chicken and pork), they’ve kept up an irrepressible undercurrent of weirdness, which coexists with a homey, unpretentious charm. 

M. Wells exterior.

photo credit: Kate Previte

M. Wells dining room.

photo credit: Kate Previte

A view of the M. Wells kitchen.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The rear dining room at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Decor details at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

M. Wells exterior.
M. Wells dining room.
A view of the M. Wells kitchen.
The rear dining room at M. Wells.
Decor details at M. Wells.

There’s something strange and wonderful everywhere you look in the improbably gorgeous dining room, which has chandeliers and brick walls painted scarlet. It’s like the lyrics of “My Favorite Things” crossed with an oddities shop: a clog, a comically large vermouth bottle, a tiny chest of drawers, a pair of hockey skates, a two-headed rabbit.

The minimally descriptive, constantly changing menu is full of surprises too, like the juicy, appealingly gruesome tête de porcelet. When was the last time you saw a pig head grinning at you from across a dining room? Even their celebrated caesar isn’t quite what you might expect, made with smoked herring and so much parm that it would seem like a joke, if the salad weren’t so delicious—not a dusting, but enough for the entire school district to declare a snow day.

Poutine at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Chicharron at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Bavette steak at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Rhubarb pie at M. Wells.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Poutine at M. Wells.
Chicharron at M. Wells.
Bavette steak at M. Wells.
Rhubarb pie at M. Wells.

You can still order steak, if you’re so inclined: The bavette is quite good, and the fries and shiitake butter it comes with are even better. But it’s also one of the least exciting things on offer at a restaurant where you can, and should, be eating very exciting things. When a date night or special occasion could benefit from a meal that's as unpredictable as it is delicious, M. Wells is your golden ticket.

Food Rundown

Milk Punch

M. Wells serves plenty of thoughtfully curated drinks, but whenever we see this delicately spiced, crystal-clear clarified cocktail on the rotating menu, it’s an automatic order.
Mortadella mille-feuille.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Mortadella Mille-Feuille

Absolutely beautiful, absolutely perverse. This savory mille-feuille is such a convincing imitation of a dessert that it could be a pastry chef’s elaborate, cruel prank on a child. The flavors here are very grown up, with tart whipped goat cheese counterbalancing glorious dollops of semi-liquid mortadella.

Asparagus And Chicharron Salad

Salads do not, as a rule, inspire us to poetry. This is an exception. Chicharron (the promise of which was, let’s be honest, the reason we ordered this in the first place) is a supporting player in a truly stacked cast: batons of crisp-tender asparagus, frisée, hazelnuts, pickled onions, and a jammy duck egg. We look forward to repeatedly trying and failing to recreate the maple-mustard dressing at home.
Duck tartare.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Duck Tartare

This dish is well seasoned and deeply, satisfyingly meaty, but it’s the tartare’s unlikely sweet notes that make it so difficult to stop eating.

Le Burger Des Rêves

The burger “of dreams” deserves the name. It’s an engineering marvel, with a firm disc of potato cleverly tucked beneath the two patties to ensure structural integrity and absorb all the juices, so the bun won’t dissolve into mush. And between the gruyère, foie gras, and mushrooms (duxelles, really—this thing is basically a beef wellington on Rumspringa), there are juices aplenty.
Montreal smoked meat ravioli.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Montreal Smoked Meat Ravioli

A delightful French-Canadian wonton, filled with brisket. You are hereby advised—strongly advised—to order a baguette to sop up all of the herby butter sauce.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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