You know those evenings that you will never forget? Where everything is just perfect? I must classify a marvellous meal at Flex Mussels in Charlottetown P.E.I as just such an evening – one where everything is ideal, and all the more so because nothing was planned.
We arrived in Charlottetown in the late afternoon/ arly evening, thinking that we’d likely order a pizza and “begin” our vacation the next morning. Though not the sort of trial that requires pity, traveling can be exhausting.
Perhaps it was something in the salty sea air, or the relief of getting away from at all. Most likely it was the knowledge that fresh Atlantic seafood was merely steps away from our hotel. Far from feeling like calling it a night, we took the easy stroll down to the waterfront, not two minutes from our lodgings at The Great George.
The waterfront area was smaller than we had imagined, but in an easy, quaint way that reflects the whole experience of Prince Edward Island. The eclectic shops, homemade candy and ice cream parlours, and handicraft shops were charming. And before we knew it, we were standing at the entrance of Flex Mussels, a harbour-side seafood restaurant which we had heard great things about. In fact, we had reservations there for the very next night.
But there were several outdoor tables available on this gorgeous August evening. The stars were out, a faint breeze whispered through the air, and strings of white lights glittered above. Besides these picturesque details, fresh mussels were being steamed mere feet away. We requested a table. Surely there are worse fates than eating mussels by the pound two perfect summer nights in a row.
We were well-rewarded by our willingness to accept serendipity and to add an additional seafood dinner to our itinerary. The service was exceptionally friendly; professional, yet laid-back and comfortable in a truly Maritime fashion. And the menu is straightforward and tantalizing: mussels. Any which way.
Of course, there is more to Flex Mussels than just mussels, although they certainly steal the show. We began our meal with a tasting of oysters, also caught locally, and shucked by champion oyster shuckers on right site.Though I’m sure my palette has yet mastered the nuances of Colville, Carr’s and Raspberry Point, I’m quite willing to continue my schooling. They were all delicate, exotic and delicious, accompanied by a half a dozen homemade sauces, including a tasty fresh-grated horseradish, and a variety of other flavours.
Then the real fun began as we tried to decide which “flavour” of mussels we wanted to savour. We decided that we couldn’t go wrong with the “traditional” – mussels prepared with celery, pale ale, fresh garlic. But the “medusa” sounded equally intriguing, with its lemon, oregano, virgin olive oil, and feta, to say nothing of the “funghi”, “parisienne”, and “phantom”. In the end, we ordered the “traditional” and the “provençal”(sweet herbs, garlic, fresh tomato), and rejoiced that we had a whole other evening to sample something else (we came back and had the “thai”, made with green curry, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, coconut milk, and the “maine”, with baby clams, cream, fresh parsley.) They were scrumptious! As fresh from the ocean as possible, and as hot as can be, the mussels were tender, sweet, and the tasty sauces and fixings were perfect. Flex Mussels earns its reputation as having the best mussels in P.E.I. in our books – at least, it’s hard to imagine tastier fare. Wash it down with a crisp clean Canadian wine (Pelee Island – a Chardonnay of night one, and a Sauvignon Blanc the next), and you are experiencing Atlantic seafood fare at its finest.
Though the mussels are of course the piece de resistance, the story of our perfect evening at our chance meal would be incomplete without mention of the homemade French fries. I am personally not a fry fanatic. I rarely order them with burgers, the most traditional of fry contexts. But P.E.I. potatoes are legendary, and so are there fries –at least those served up at Flex Mussels.
We finished our perfect evening with perfect desserts, made on site. I had a heavenly lemon meringue pie with a buttery, crumbly graham cracker crust served in a personal cast iron pan. My dining companion, chocolate afficianado, had a tempting dessert called “the chocolate one”, made with white, dark, and milk chocolate, described aptly with the words “it’s all good”. That’s how we felt about our whole meal, from the casually romantic outdoor atmosphere, to the friendly service, and most especially to the marvellous food: “it’s all good”.
I would like to say our second evening was just as perfect as the first. Though there was nothing to complain about, the service was much slower, and some dessert items ran out by the time it came the moment for sweets. Still, what else did we have to than wait for fresh, hot mussels and chilled white wine? And the memory of the previous evening was still reverberating with its own seafood karma. You can’t always repeat those perfect evenings that you don’t plan, but you can come close. And when it’s this good, close is rather enjoyable.