Les Moules Tapas & Mussels Offers French Cuisine
Les Moules Tapas & Mussels is a new and welcome addition to the rejuvenated Astoria neighborhood it now calls home. Pronounced LAY-MOOL (“mussels” in French), Les Moules Tapas & Mussels opened just two months ago and is sure to be a hit. Whether you got away for vacation this summer or not, a visit to Les Moules is like a trip to Europe. The impressive corner location at 35-02 Ditmars Blvd. has lots of windows hung with lace curtains, reminiscent of so many bistros in France. Cobblestone terra cotta floors, sleek tables with black chairs and an inviting, well-stocked bar, topped off by soft lighting and art deco prints, add to the overall ambience. The cuisine is simply and expertly prepared French-Mediterranean, with influences from Italy, Greece, and the Middle East. The result is a great meal of the very freshest seafood, fish, poultry and meat, in a lovely setting with excellent service.
Owner Mounir Hannah’s years of experience as a hotelier, tour operator and world traveler spurred his liking for good food. His experience and graciousness are evident at every turn. He is currently offering a free bottle of Italian wine to those ordering a meal, and diners will receive complimentary tapas as well. These appetizers can include fresh bean salad, hummus or caviar dip accompanied by crunchy wheat bran crackle bread.
Start with a cocktail or one of their signature martinis while you munch on the free tapas. I suggest you try a traditional French seafood soup called petit bouillabaisse, a mélange of fresh shrimp, scallops, calamari and clams in a light cream and butter broth ($8). Homemade bisque of the day is thick, creamy and oh, so good. Les Moules serves only the freshest, cleanest mussels on the market, prepared in more than a dozen ways. Some are available as appetizers, while others are main courses. I had never tried a mussel cocktail, but was very impressed with this martini glass full of shelled, chilled mussels and shrimp with a zesty cocktail sauce ($7). Mussels with saffron, diced potato, sweet peas and diced carrots is another tantalizing starter. The salads at Les Moules are not to be skipped, so share a generously sized arugula salad with Roquefort cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries and cloves of sweet, honey-roasted garlic ($9). Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken, shrimp or swordfish is a meal in itself.
On to the entrées. The stars of the show are the wonderful mussels, prepared using recipes from many parts of the world. Each mussel entrée includes one and a half pounds of tender mollusks, served in an individual pot that holds all the delicious juices. You can choose linguine or couscous as your side dish to help soak up all those juices, or order crispy pommes frites (French fries). Traditional French style mussels mariniere are cooked in white wine, parsley, butter, lemon and shallots for a taste that you won’t soon forget ($17). Put your pasta accompaniment right into the pot and you’ll be in heaven. Mussels Habibi, steamed with tomato, basil, olive oil and a touch of cumin for a Middle Eastern kick, was one of my favorites. Mussels Athenea, cooked with black olives, feta cheese, peppers and thyme is out of this world. Les Moules’ mussels fra diavolo packs a powerful punch of hot pepper, so be warned. Those who like it hot will adore this dish. Thai-style mussels are prepared and served with yellow curry and coconut milk.
Even if mussels aren’t your thing, you should still try Les Moules for tender, juicy charcoal grilled skirt steak, flanked by morcilla sausage. This dish was beautifully presented too. Filet mignon kebabs ,marinated overnight and served with vegetable couscous, make for a satisfying meal. Melt-in-your-mouth baby lamb chops rest on a bed of homemade ratatouille and sweet potato.
A nice variety of fish and seafood, such as Moroccan salmon with a crispy crust served with lentil casserole and leek sauce, completes the menu. King crab legs broiled with melted butter and cut open for easy eating, are sweet and meaty. The seafood kebabs served over couscous make for a light and healthy meal. Fresh tuna, cod and sea bass are also on the menu, each prepared in a simple, delicious recipe in the restaurant’s open kitchen. There’s even a kids' menu, with entrees for $5.
Feel free to stop in at Les Moules Tapas & Mussels any time for lunch or dinner. Beginning September 15, they will be open seven days a week. They have a terrific lunch special for just $5.99. You can also stop in just for a drink at the bar or a cappuccino or espresso with friends. Tuesday and Sunday nights are Ladies Nights—ladies purchase one drink and get two free. That would be a great time to sample their Passion Peach or Emerald Martinis, mixed with melon liqueur. Downstairs, a private lounge can accommodate up to 40 people for a private and intimate party. Book now for the winter holiday season.
Visit Les Moules Tapas & Mussels for a taste of the sunny Mediterranean. The ambience, fresh food, wine and excellent service will make you feel as if you’re vacationing in the south of France, right here in Astoria.