Catches of the Day

Interior designer Shasha Bikoff sets the tone with Cambria’s Kendal™ quartz countertops in chic NYC Upper East Side seafood spot, Flex Muscles.

Written by:Paul Hagen
a bold kitchen bar with a teal and cream diamond pattern on the front face of bar and backsplash, beige quartz countertops, wicker and wood barstools, orange pendant lighting and giant plant on the bar.

Cambria design shown: Trafalgar™ Photo by Lesley Unruh

Flex Mussels | NEW YORK, NY

With its dense blocks of soaring buildings, Manhattan can make it easy to forget that when you’re there, you’re rarely far from the water.

In-demand interior designer Sasha Bikoff reminds visitors to Flex Mussels restaurant with nautical touches including whale tail door handles, a shell-like reception stand, and surfaces in Cambria Trafalgar—a seafoam- and sand-colored design reminiscent of the shoreline. But these are grace notes in a cosmopolitan design that ideally complements NYC’s chic Upper East Side, where restaurant co-owner Bobby Shapiro and his staff ensure guests are welcomed with enthusiasm and insight into the flavor-filled menu.

They might recommend craveable opening dishes such as an aguachile that infuses light fluke with the zing of citrus and jalapeño, or whipped ricotta on sourdough with a mouthwatering caramelized onion marmalade. You’ll definitely want their expert input when choosing from among eight amazing mussel preparations. Options include Thai with coconut curry and lemongrass, Parma in a creamy parmesan broth, and Fungi with wild mushrooms and double smoked bacon.

You could also consult oyster sommelier “Shucker Paddy’’ McMurray, who can explain the varieties on offer and suggest cocktail pairings when he’s not offering special experiences like Shucking 101. Plus, don’t miss their latest flex—making enjoying caviar more accessible and ethical.

various plates with fruit and caviar, and a glass of champagne on top of a white quartz table.

Cambria design shown: Kendal™ Photo courtesy of Heather Nicole Johnson Link Restaurant Group

A Deeper Dive

Want to continue your shellfish explorations at home? Keep these tips in mind when purchasing, preparing, and sharing fresh shellfish.

  • Discard any with shells that are cracked or broken. Problems outside spell trouble inside.
  • Live clams, oysters, and mussels should close when tapped. No response? Do not purchase.
  • Live shrimp and lobsters should exhibit leg movement. If they’re not still kicking, you should keep moving.
  • Are they done? The flesh of cooked crab, lobster, shrimp, and scallops should become firm and opaque. Clam, mussel, and oyster shells should open during cooking; throw out those that don’t.
  • Keep it cool—store raw seafood in a refrigerator set below 40°F (or wrap tightly and freeze).
  • Follow your nose. Any seafood that has a sour, rancid, or fishy smell, or a scent that reminds you of ammonia should not be eaten.
  • Serving? Keep cold seafood dishes on ice while on offer, and don’t leave it out for more than two hours. That ticking clock shrinks to just one hour if the ambient temperature is over 90°F.
  • Pregnant women are at greater risk for foodborne illness and should avoid raw or undercooked shellfish altogether.

Cambria design shown: Black Rock™*

More Fresh U.S. Catches

Coupes | Dallas, TX
Incorporating the traditions of an elegant champagne bar with tantalizing small plates like deviled eggs and caviar or tuna tartare with tater tots, this space encourages raising a glass to celebrate any occasion.

Sugarfish | Los Angeles, CA
Choose their “Trust Me” option for a parade of sashimi, sushi, and hand rolls that bring its owners’ over 50 years of experience serving the freshest fish in Japan to this side of the Pacific.

167 Raw Oyster Bar | Charleston, SC
Channeling the spirit of a New England style oyster bar, 167 Raw showcases the fruits of the Atlantic from Canada to the local waters of Charleston. Bring friends to tackle the “Big Boy,” an ample selection of oysters, clams, and shrimp.

The Walrus and the Carpenter | Seattle, WA
Offering décor as playful as the Lewis Carroll poem from which it’s named, this Pacific Northwest spot changes its menu daily, so keep an eye out for preparations like Hama Hama clams with cabbage cream, leeks, and aged balsamic.

*Gensler Product Design Consultant

[Updated on 12/05/2023]

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