Restauranteurs move to East Village with seafood fare


By Francis r. Angelino

Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams, successful restaurateurs in Chelsea and Tribeca, recently opened the Mermaid Inn in the East Village. It is an all-seafood restaurant, with very simple recipes and fish of the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

“It has similar Mediterranean accents to the Harrison, but it is more dressed down,” said Bradley referring to his restaurant in Tribeca.    

The Mermaid Inn, located on Second Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets, debuted this year. It is decorated in a minimalist black and white color scheme with New England and modernist accents. It seats 85 people and its chef is Mike Price, formerly the sous-chef of the Harrison.       

“It is very much foot-traffic oriented,” said Bradley. “It’s different from Tribeca or West Chelsea,” said Bradley.

Bradley’s maternal ancestors emigrated from Italy to run their Bartolomeo Pio Wine Company in the United States so accessibility to wine is important at the Mermaid Inn.      

“To me, the most intriguing part of the program is wine,” said Bradley. “We have a well-chosen wine list of the ‘greatest hits’. Every bottle is only fifteen per cent over mark up (the wholesale price). My idea was to offer our brand of hospitality, together with a chef-driven, chef- inspired menu, with the real hook being the wine bargain.”    

As an example, Bradley cites a Cotes du Rhone, (Coudoulet de Beaucastel, 2001), that he sells for $38, which “Everywhere else sells for $75,” he said. Bradley was familiar with East Village dining habits, having both cooked and lived in the neighborhood. He didn’t want to have an eatery with cheap food, but one that offered real value.   

“The reason I felt I could do this wine program here is because we do other things to compensate, like having no reservations at the Mermaid Inn.” Just about every dish on Bradley’s menu reveals his thinking — to elevate familiar foods to a higher, more interesting level.  The Harrison’s popular entree of Skate with grapefruit emulsion studded with green olives, is reinterpreted on the Mermaid Inn’s opening menu as a pan crisped skate sandwich with grilled red onions and citrus remoulade.  Currently, skate is prepared sautéed with a gazpacho of cucumber, grapes and toasted almonds.       

For appetizers, there are clam fritters with a lemon caper aioli; skillet roasted mussels with drawn butter, and blue crab and baby spinach dip with Old Bay croutons.  Bradley mentions his truffled Arctic Char tartare that is eaten with celery root chips.

“We make fresh sardines crispy and serve with cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta and black olives,” Bradley says. Mermaid Inn has a raw bar that can turn out briny clams, oysters and shrimp, as well as chilled barbeque shrimps. The skate is one of seven entrees on the menu.  When the restaurant first opened, Grilled salmon filet was first offered with asparagus-leek home fries and grainy mustard. Now, on the summer menu, the salmon is served with a corn salad and a basil pan sauce. Whole grilled dorade royale is paired with wilted greens and reds and a zinfandel vinaigrette.  Lobster sandwich comes on a grilled bun with Old Bay fries.

 A novel take on the familiar New York staple, spaghetti with seafood, is spaghetti with a salad on top — spicy shrimps, scallops and calamari.

Bradley and Abrams’ restaurant in West Chelsea is the Red Cat on 14th Street and the one in Tribeca is the Harrison on Greenwich Street.

“For my business, I wanted to have seafood down market and what better place than here,” said Bradley.  “I lived in the East Village for eight and a half years and felt like I knew the neighborhood.”