If we had to give a New York anchor to the nation's current raw-bar renaissance, we'd drop it in the Flatiron District, where newcomer seafood joints Millesime and the John Dory Oyster Bar have opened mere blocks apart.
The two make for a delicious Venn diagram: The traditional French service and preparation at Millesime are in marked contrast to the pubby informality of the John Dory, but their menus cover similar ground beyond shucked oysters, making them ripe for comparison.
Below, a breakdown of our favorite dishes:
Millesime: The Plateau Chaud ($39) boasts three tiers of shellfish done right, from bacony clams casino to fluffy bite-size crab cakes. And oysters Rockefeller, which come as part of this decadent parade, are brimming with gratinéed spinach and lemon butter.
John Dory: Coming three to a plate, April Bloomfield's oysters Rockefeller ($10) have highly focused flavors. All the components--the briny salt of an East Coast oyster, the vegetal spinach and puckery lemon butter--are equals in a well-tuned bite.
Millesime: When it comes to quenelles ($14), chef Laurent Manrique defers to his chef-friend Jean Louis Palladin--and with good reason: The late chef's recipe makes a renewed case for the classic dish, in which feathery pike cakes, barely bound by egg, are poached in a lush tomato-cream sauce.
John Dory: In a stroke of genius, land and sea meet inside a mussel: Each shell is stuffed with a blend of mortadella and pork shoulder, then closed and braised in a rustic tomato sauce heavy with chile and parsley. The dish ($14) satisfies on every level--especially when you soak up the leftover sauce with sourdough-rye bread.
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