Maison Premiere has long been one of our favorite places in Williamsburg. We first fell in love with their 1/2 price oyster special, which they offer Monday-Friday 4pm-7pm. Their raw bar is unmatched in the city, irrespective of borough. We’ve also always appreciated the lovely design, that’s reminiscent of a New Orleans-style, classic cocktail bar with a touch of old-timey Parisian flare. In recent years, they’ve expanded their menu to include more entrees as well such as Swordfish and a Lobster Roll. It’s all a bit pricey but worth the splurge.
Maison Premiere is both exactly the same and very different than it was when it first opened. It’s still an adult fun house of raw seafood and absinthe, but it’s added other elements as well. There’s now a full menu of cooked food, a sleeper brunch situation, and an amazing patio out back.
This ultra-retro tavern may feel dark and old-timey, like a watering hole where the Founding Fathers would have stopped for fortification before fending off the British. But, the massive, U-shaped bar is particularly coveted, so arrive early or prepare to wait for your absinthe drip. To accompany the stellar sips, a vast selection of oysters, clams, and group-friendly seafood plateaux seem to pop up on every table. The kitchen’s talent is equally clear in such preparations as luscious sea urchin served in a chilled shellfish consommé with fragrant lemongrass and thin slices of sweet grapes.
The food is impressionistic, best appreciated as a series of lovely, fleeting moments rather than the sustained arc that typically constitutes a meal. From the raw bar come thin slices of sea scallop with rosy pickled rhubarb and a drift of shaved horseradish ice, hot and cold at once. Razor clam, sweet and almost squidlike in texture, is punctuated by crisp, clean radish. A spoonful of lobster dressed with mayonnaise, celery and tarragon, anchoring a cracked tail shell, suggests a stolen bite from a New England lobster roll, with buttered bread crumbs in lieu of the roll.