Ever since she opened Lilia in 2016, Missy Robbins has been one of the hottest chefs in New York City. Lilia is still perpetually packed with long stretches of lines for chef Robbins’ simple yet satisfying Italian food, although I have had some hits and misses with generally positive experience on my visit to the restaurant (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2016/04/16/lilia/). This year, chef Robbins decided to open up a second project with a more focused menu concentrating on vegetable starters and pastas. Since its opening, Misi has received surprisingly mixed reviews from critics, but that hasn’t stopped it from being the hottest table at the moment. Knowing that securing a reservation is virtually impossible, I persuaded my wife Jun that we try the walk-in route when the restaurant opens up at 5:30. We were lucky that Jun’s friend was living five minutes from the restaurant, so we were just chilling at her place in the afternoon until we braved the chilly night (it’s already becoming dark so quickly!) to head over to Misi. The hostess said a bar table for two won’t be available until 8 p.m. so we put our name, headed back to the friend’s apartment to sip some wines. Fortunately Jun got the text that the bar seating was ready slightly after 7:15. Well, was all that trouble worth it? Disappointingly, no.
The core philosophy of Lilia that made it such a beloved restaurant is in putting simple ingredients in a familiar way without trying too hard. Misi’s approach is not much different but it didn’t have the same magic that Lilia had. We definitely liked grilled baby artichokes with mint salsa verde that had fresh texture and overall balanced flavor; on the other hand, the roasted eggplant which I was very high on from the menu had too much Calabrian chili that totally overwhelmed the soft texture of the eggplant. The stars of Misi are supposed to be the pastas, but again here the two dishes we ordered fell flat. I don’t mean to boast, but Jun is a pretty mean pasta cook herself, and she can prepare tomato-based pasta that is more delicious than the mezze rigatoni with pomodoro and basil. While we liked the al dente texture of the noodle, the overall flavor from pomodoro and basil was bland and lacked the kind of impact that I was looking for. Sheep’s milk filled agnolotti is one of the star dishes at Lilia, but the occhi with the sheep’s milk ricotta inside was not that impressive; rather, the citrusy lemon actually distracted the soft and hearty feel of the ricotta cheese. Compared to these disappointments, the gelato at Misi is definitely worthy trying. Jun was a huge fan of the espresso flavored gelato, while I slightly preferred the one based on olive oil that was not overly sweet just the way I liked.
As noted above, Misi is one of the most difficult tables to secure these days. If you are inclined to go, make sure you get there when the restaurant opens so you can put your name down, kill some time somewhere else before you get the coveted seats. There is full bar with Italian-centric wine list and standard cocktail menus. I’ll give credit to the aesthetics of the modern and sleek dining space that is likely to ensure the restaurant’s place in the neighborhood favorite categories, filled with hip diners on the younger side coming from all over the city. Ultimately, it was an underwhelming second act by chef Robbins. I get that it is replicating the model of Lilia in a more simplified way with limited food categories, but it was hard to see the same appeal of Lilia where the kitchen generally knows how to make the most out of ingredients. I felt Misi was playing a little too safe in that regard. Not sure if I will come back unless there are dramatic improvements over time.
KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.25/10)
- Creativity: 7.0/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 329 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Telephone: (347) 566-3262