Having heard a lot of local buzz about Il Mulino I started thinking maybe we ought to check it out. I then went through a host of food snob misgivings including the overall quality of food on LI which I think has lowered the bar in all of our minds, the fact that I never really equated Italian with haute cuisine, the fact that its location sometimes allows overpriced and pretty to triumph over unique and special.
A few recent trips to del Posto knocked any 'anti-Italian as fancy food' bias out of my mind and the recent hiring of James McDevitt, a James Beard winner from Restaurant Hapa in Scottsdale at Four Food Studio (right guy, wrong room - build him a new store!) is giving me hope that some innovative food may be coming to the 'burbs, so when friends said that's where they wanted to go I was ready.
We got there early and the initlal reaction was good. The sense of service began as you walked through the door as we were enveloped in a wave of staff, each performing their assigned duty in welcoming us. A brief, if pricy, stay at the bar (our choice, the table was ready) was, likewise, an ongoing demonstration of the quality of service that would be displayed throughout the evening.
An assault of amuse bouches (sorry, what is the plural in French?) began almost as we sat down. They weren't good, they were great! Chunks of cheese, thin sliced saussage, marinated veggies and bread (including a spicy breadstick that's worthy of note) made a statement that this would not be business as usual on LI. A decent, if young, wine list presented enough options to allow us to put all into allignment.
The specials list was overpowering and required a course in expanding your memory to take it all in. The menu itself was ample, containing all the old friends that reminded me of why I had the bias that del Posto destroyed. Our group traversed from specials to menu and back as we put together a fair sampling of the offerings (how was the Dover Sole prepared, again?). We were giving it a fair shot!
The food began to arrive and no frowns arrived with it. Sadly my wife and I ordered the same app, a ravioli with black truffle special. Sadly, because it was the most distinctive dish of the evening and we wondered what other stuuners had lived on the specials appetizer selection. The entrees were all well executed no one had a bad word to say.
The deserts were, sadly, just OK, The Zabaglione a real dissapoinment, out of synch with the balance of our evening, cheese cake OK as well. They brought around a champagne tub of infused grappas which were a nice exclamation point to the evening. All in all a positive experience and one that can be judged by any standard not just an LI standard. Now, to complete my comments you do need to understand that the meal cost as much as our meal at Gordon Ramsay did the week before. When you charge at that level you'd better produce.
We had a great evening and have no reservations about reccommending it to friends who want a good meal on LI and don't mind the price tag. For us, since we, unlike many out here, enjoy NYC and don't find it an imposition to make the drive for dinner, we will continue to dine the Apple whenver we can. As you may have guessed, our new standard, del Posto, was a far greater experience, with food that was so innovative (even if just traditional Italian but not the Americanized Italian food served in the US) and well executed that it continues to draw us back. I think, in the end, Il Mulino showed itself to be head and shoulders above most of the LI competition, even those getting high ratings elsewhere, but so much offered is standard stuff, no matter how well executed, that the challenge and excitement that sets the great apart from the really good was missing. For some, this doesn't matter, hell, for some it doesn't even make any sense. For those with whom this concept resonates, we hope these comments help.