At first glance, when I walked in the door of Irving Mill, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. Did I make a wrong turn and end up at Gramercy Tavern? Maybe they had just given GT a face lift and I hadn’t read about it on Eater. Irving Mill could be GT’s sister, born 15 years later.
Irving Mill is really beautiful. Warm colors, lots of wood, beautiful floral presentations, comfortable booths, an old tavern feel, well spaced out seating and most important, good acoustics. The owners and chef, who came straight out of the Danny Meyer empire, have learned well. We have seen restaurants all over the city sprout up after learning from the best. Hearth is another Danny Meyer group, as well as Craft. A big compliment to Danny based on the success of Hearth and Craft and I am sure the success that Irving Mill will have. The service at Irving Mill is terrific. A total number one in the Danny Meyer handbook. You feel like you are special. The staff makes you feel the same way at Irving Mill and at Hearth.
Now for the food. We were a group of six so we tasted a lot. Some good, some great. There is something missing and I can’t put my finger on it but I really believe with time the restaurant will become better. Believe me, the food is really good but it just isn’t as good as GT which is sort of what you expect, well at least I did. There is probably a curve somewhere out in there in the restaurant world. One your kitchen staff gets humming and you have made the dish 182 times, is when the flavors begin to meld differently because you have figured out how to make it perfect. The menu is wonderful so like fine wine, I think the food will age well.
I had the marinated mushrooms with Sheep’s milk ricotta. The mushrooms were delicious. Buttery and full of flavor served on top of ricotta and a frisse salad and a few pieces of grilled bread. The concept is great, the balance is not quite there. I also tasted the grilled baby octopus. This was always one of my favorites at GT. Slightly charred baby octopus that is sweet and buttery served with a red pepper caponata, shaved fennel and a preserved lemon which gave the whole salad just the hint of citrus. A real winner.
For dinner, I went with the Grilled Pork Chop. I like how the whole plate looked. They had already sliced up the pork chop and served it over a mixture of red cabbage and spatzle and a pickled mustard seed. The salad could have had more oomph but the pork was quite good. The spicy duck breast was interesting. Spicy with perhaps cloves served with whipped sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and pearl onions. Very good, very autumn. Others went with the beef short ribs which looked beautiful and the roasted monkfish. Didn’t taste it but the consensus was the same. Good, really good but not omigod. We had a few sides which I didn’t care for. Roasted cheese pumpkin puree which was a bit bland and the cheddar cheese grits and corn relish which was interesting and broccoli rabe which was just basic. This was an area that they could have really had fun with but didn’t.
Dessert, of course. Chocolate bread pudding which was really rich and gooey served with bourbon roasted bananas and a little bit of cinnamon anglaise on the side. The pudding was more like the chocolate pudding that oozes in the middle vs. a bread pudding. Pistachio Semifreddo shaped like a big cylinder was light and refreshing. The two best were absolutely the Zucchini Cake which is something you generally make at home so I liked that. Dense yet moist served with an orange marmalade that was nice and tart and worked well with the cake. The peanut butter and milk chocolate parfait was a total winner. Lots of flavor. Whipped cream incorporated into the different textures of ice cream, meringue and peanut brittle totally worked.
Once we were done they brought us over a piece of what looked to be a chocolate pudding brownie coated with nuts on the top and bottom. Pop in the mouth bites but they weren’t good. It had a strange texture and tasted like a sour plum pudding. Couldn’t really put my finger on it but it completely ruined the dessert flavors I had lingering in my mouth. That should be changed asap. It was really not good.
Perhaps I am being highly critical but my expectations were high. The restaurant is absolutely lovely and inviting and I will most definitely be back, even for a drink at the long bar in front. As I said earlier, I imagine that Irving Mill will get better as the paint dries. I can’t imagine why this restaurant won’t be around for many years to come.