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MIMI in New York City

Rating: 83.
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MIMI is a tiny, 27-seat bistro in New York City's Greenwich Village, opened in October 2015 by young restaurateurs Louis Levy (son of French novelist Marc Levy), Camille Deterre, and Daniel and Even Bennett. Behind the stove is 25-year-old Liz Johnson who's trained at Rene Redzepi's Noma in Copenhagen en David Chang's Má Pêche in New York City, amongst others. 

In the last few months there's been quite some buzz around MIMI, with Liz Johnson being selected for Zagat's "30 under 30", a three out five star review from New York restaurant critic Adam Platt, and GQ naming the restaurant one of their "12 Best new restaurants of 2016" ("sexy, tiny, Parisian-style bistro in Greenwich Village"). MIMI was also a finalist for Bon Appetit's annual "America's Best New Restaurants top 10", but didn't make the top 10 in the end.

MIMI is open for dinner Monday through Saturday and for brunch on Sundays. The daily-changing, handwritten menu, features classic French dishes, often with a modern twist, and with Basque en Japanese influences. Appetisers/starters are priced between $10 (Fromage de tête) and $31 (Kokotxa), mains between $26 (roast chicken) and $43 (lobster), and desserts at $12 ($22 for a souffle for 2).


As per usual I had dinner with my husband and our meal started with a Pâté en croûte to share, but first let me tell you about another guest that was in that night. MIMI is indeed a tiny bistro, the kind of bistro where you almost sit on your neighbour's lap, and on the night I was there, the place was packed and noisy. After my husband and I were seated there was a voice that easily cut above the din, a loud voice, the kind that's hard to ignore. I thought I recognised the voice, and when I looked to the left I recognised its owner, a well-known international blogger (whom I have never met in person).

I said to my husband "his voice sure carries", and our neighbours (also a couple), you know the ones whose laps we were almost sitting on, immediately chimed in  "YES IT DOES", and added that it had been like that for the last half hour and that they were glad to leave the restaurant. They even told me that they had considered taping his voice, because "otherwise our friends will never believe us". 

But back to the food. The pâté en croûte with pig's tongue, pork fat, bacon and blood jelly was beautifully made, tight with no air pockets. Flavourwise the pâté was more meaty than livery, and personally I would have preferred the latter. 


 
Next up was "Tuna ventreche" topped with shisito pepper marmelade. The tuna belly was meltingly tender and the mildly sweet and spicy marmelade enhanced the natural flavour of the tuna nicely. An attractive and well-executed dish, but the presentation could have done with a touch of refinement.


(apologies for the quality of the photographs)
 
My main course was "Roast chicken, potato dumpling, mustard, escarole". A very promising dish that turned out to be poorly executed. The breast meat was seriously overcooked, the leg meat was also overcooked (but less so) and lacked succulence; the delicious mustard sauce and lovely escarole (endive) couldn't make up for that. Also disappointing were the neither-here-nor-there tube-shaped dumplings, which at best were a bad attempt at German Schupfnudeln.


Dessert was "Tarte au Chocolat" with milk sorbet. An unevenly cooked, slightly dry tart without gooey smoothness. The milk sorbet was nice in flavour but unfortunately it had a lumpy texture.

Oh MIMI, what went wrong tonight? MIMI, you clearly have everything going for you. You have a talented and ambitious chef, your menu is original and delectable with lots of good sounding dishes, your location is charming and authentic, your staff is friendly, but tonight your kitchen didn't manage to deliver the great food I had hoped for. Perhaps you're currently a victim of your own success, or maybe your were a bit overwhelmed by the presence of such a colourful blogger?

In my life there's always a place for simply cooked chicken, but not for overcooked and dry chicken. Maybe I should have ordered the beef? Oh no wait, there was no beef on the menu today, but clearly it was on offer as a hidden menu item, because a large piece of raw beef on the bone was presented to the aforementioned blogger "en plein publique". When you look at the restaurant's Instagram feed, you get the impression that the beef often makes its appearance when the restaurant knows a VIP guest is in the house.

That said, I do understand that a young gun restaurant like MIMI wants to show itself in the best light possible, and may be tempted to offer a different service to non-anonymous bloggers or journalists, than they would to commoners. As New York Times' critic Pete Wells pointed out in his 2013 review of Daniel Boulud's eponymous New York restaurant: "a restaurant can't be blamed for trying to impress a critic".

In this situation I'm not sure if it was a case of "eager to give" different service or of "happy to accept" it (or both). How ever this may be, the interaction between the blogger and the staff did affect the atmosphere in the restaurant. Who knows, in the end it may have even affected the quality of the food on my plate.





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Posted 28-09-2016




 
 
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