Back in February, acclaimed seafood spot Flex Mussels suffered a brutal fire that forced them to close their UES location at 174 East 82nd Street. Just six months later, Flex is back with a new lease on life, right across the street at 1431 Third Ave. between 80th and 81 streets. An Instagram post from August 24 indicates they’ve begun a soft opening, welcoming walk-ins while serving a limited menu. The grand opening is on September 6.
In a 2009 New York Times review, Frank Bruni wrote “Flex approaches mussels the way Baskin-Robbins or Ben & Jerry’s approaches ice cream: as a starting point, a canvas, a vehicle for a pleasantly hyperactive imagination.” Flex’s full menu is guns blazin’ with mussel variations, like the Fra Diavolo with San Marzano tomato, olive oil, basil, red pepper and garlic. The bisque mussel comes equipped with lobster, brandy, tomato and cream. From chorizo to prosciutto and scampi to Thai curry, Flex pumps it up and you don’t need a spotter.
Flex is run by veteran restaurateurs Bobby and Laura Shapiro. Their daughter, Alexandra, was instrumental in opening their New York City locations while keeping their Prince Edward Island flair. “The Shapiros have worked closely with mussel farmers on PEI and assure the highest quality ingredients hand-picked just for this NYC bivalve mecca,” states their website.
For those who like to entertain at home, Alexandra shared some tips for serving oysters at summer parties in a 2018 Forbes story. “There’s nothing more refreshing than oysters on the half shell on a hot summer day,” said Alexandra. “They are light, so you don’t feel weighted down by heavy, fried or hot food.” She advised not using Tabasco and lemon, opting for white wine vinegar. Other tips include not pouring out the natural liquids inside the oyster to enhance its flavor. She passes on serving Champagne with oysters, instead going with Sake, saying it “pairs perfectly with oysters.” Oh, and don’t put them in the fridge.
Flex’s hours are Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.