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Restaurants & Bars 32

Il Mulino

cabrales | Feb 11, 2004 09:37 AM

I had a poor-plus meal at Il Mulino recently. As members had described, the portions were humongous and I left feeling too full, but not necessarily impressed with the style of the cuisine experienced. But that should all be taken against the background of my knowing very little about Italian cuisine and not necessarily preferring it in general.

Our reservation was at 9:45, but we waited, not unexpectedly, until about 10:15 before being seated. I asked for a glass of Proseco, but the bar team member indicated there was only champagne. I opted for a glass of Chianti, given that my dining companion was treating and I felt unsure about the champagne prices given the various reports on the board about IM. As I waited, I observed the large buffet island (only for the dining room team members to utilize) with desserts, the chunk of parmesan regiano, and various pans at which finishing touches were added to dishes by the dining room team (not necessarily within the sight of seated diners). The spread looked good. Various hams hung near the coat check which was to the left of this spread, with the bar area to the right.

The tables are closely set, and the atmosphere at some adjacent tables was very macho. Some men apparently were entertaining clients, for example. When we were seated, there was already a plate of the olive oil-infused bread bits with thin slices of zuchini ready to be sampled. There was a bit of red chili connotation to the olive oil. This was appropriate. Then, slices of salami arrived. Chunks from the large parmesan piece were dislodged by our dining room team member onto our bread plates. Some diced tomatoes and a single mussel (room temperatur preparations) were ladled onto our plates. As noted by members, these items alone were very filling. I ate with some moderation, but started feeling full.

A dining room team member arrived to recite the long list of specials, which have been most ably described by Caseophile and other members in recent and older posts. If I had not received information from the board, it would have been difficult to digest the information.

I ordered as appetizer three half-pastas to be split between two people (i.e., 3/4 of an order of pasta in total for each person). The dining room team served all three pastas to each diner on a single plate. The plate was heaping full.

-- Sphaghettini bolognese: An on-menu item for approx $25 (?) for a full portion. I have a special interest in spaghetti, spaghettini or fusili bolognese, which probably dates to certain childhood memories of a well-executed (at least, as I recall it) bolognese sauce at a certain restaurant that no longer exists. I almost always order this type of dish if it's available at a gastronomic-type Italian restaurant.

Here, the bolognese was probably all-beef-based, instead of a mix of beef and other meats. That gave it a certain matteness in the mouth. The other obvious trait of the bolognese sauce was the suppression of the tomato components by the significant amounts of cream included (a negative, in my mind). Still, the spaghettini was something that was interesting to taste.

-- Fusili with a tomato-based sauce, with sausages. This pasta was very poor. First, the fusili was overcooked to the point of being limp. Second, it seemed soggy, having retained some of the wateriness that affected the way the sauce clung (or did not, in this case) to the spirally nooks of the fusili. Third, the tomato-based saucing was ineffective. Fourth, the onions incorporated into the pasta were too soft and they had been overcooked and imparted no "lift" to the pasta. The sausages were not bad, and there were about 2 meatball-like servings on my plate.

-- Porcini ravioli with cream-based sauce. This pasta was also very poor. The ravioli felt very densely-packed on the inside with the porcini, such that there was a feeling of heaviness. This feeling of heaviness was exacerbated by the dense nature of the ravioli skin, making each ravioli too "hard" and harsh to bite into it. The dense packing also prevented the sampling of the diced porcini inside. The cream-based sauce was over-the-top, for my tastes. There seemed to be a bit of alcohol in the saucing, but that did not help it. I did not taste any black truffle components, which have been described by other diners.

Overall, a copius, poor pasta appetizer. The spaghettini bolognese was arguably appropriate, but the other two pastas were in significant need of improvement.

My dining companion and I shared a veal chop cooked with sage. The restaurant was kind enough to separately plate the chop for us. Even my 1/2 was humongous -- literally about twice the volume of my closed fist just for my piece. It was thick too, so that the meat towards the inside was protected from being overcooked. When the dining room team member had originally asked me what level of cooking I sought, I had asked for his recommendation -- medium rare, which is the way the chop came. Refreshing for veal in the US that it was not overcooked. And the veal was more flavorful than most veal in the US. But that's about it. I literally ate three forkfuls, and have to wait until the chop is reheated before being able to provide a fuller assessment. I was literally so full I was feeling slightly unwell at this point. The potato, in "stick"-like shapes but not fried, accompanying the veal, was appropriate.

We ordered one of the least expensive bottles of wine on the IM list -- a 1/2 bottle of Chianti, Ruffino (sp), at $30. I sensed an odd satisfaction from feeling like our dining party was experiencing IM arguably "on the cheap" (for IM, that is). :) With coffee, a bottle of Pellegrino and two coffees, the total after tax and before tip was $186 for the two of us combined. A very good outcome price-wise for IM :) I received a free sampling of grappa -- that was quite nice.

However, I doubt I would visit IM again, unless on occasions where I have no input on the restaurant chosen :)

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