In the topsy-turvy New York City restaurant scene, a chef’s turnover is not that unusual, but when a restaurant has received a lot of praise here and there only to see its head chef leave the kitchen shortly after all the reviews were in, that becomes news. MIMI has become a hit with then chef Liz Johnson at the helm, but out of nowhere she left. After I first visited the restaurant three years ago (coincidentally with my wife Jun when we were still friends then https://kenscale.com/2016/04/30/mimi/), I was looking forward to visiting again soon after a solid meal that ended with a life-changing soufflé, so I was not very happy with the news. Since then, MIMI has fallen off my radar until recently when I heard of a new chef Efrén Hernández taking over the kitchen at the restaurant along with another restaurant named Babs (which I will make sure to visit in due course with Jun). I was certainly intrigued what the new chef can do, and when an out-of-town friend was visiting, decided to use that occasion to check out MIMI 2.0. It turned out to be a better meal than the last one Jun and I had had.
The formulation from MIMI 1.0 of giving slight modern twists here and there to classic French bistro dishes still endures in the new iteration. I found the overall execution, though, to be more consistent and there was no bad dish that we shared. The sea trout tartare with aioli made of Espelette pepper showed very nice balance of flavor and the texture of fish itself was quite optimal. The grilled octopus, accompanied by corn, tomato, peppers and smoked pork belly, was also a strong appetizer dish that was ideal for sharing among three diners. For the main dishes, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Poulet roti (roast chicken). It came with Burgundy truffle that greatly enhanced the flavor of the poultry without overpowering it. Dip a piece of chicken onto the rich creamy sauce on the edge of the plate, and you have one very satisfying French chicken dish. The grilled NY strip steak was also a winner, with outstanding texture of the meat (accompanied by arugula, spring onion and lobster mushroom) that was quite properly seasoned. Because we were scheduled to meet with our friend’s boyfriend elsewhere, we didn’t get a chance to order a dessert (to my surprise, I didn’t see a soufflé on the dessert menu that I took a peek at) but all the savory dishes were spot on and actually fun to eat.
Getting a reservation at MIMI on a Tuesday evening wasn’t too difficult but the modestly-sized dining space was nearly full during our meal so I do recommend booking in advance, especially if you are looking for weekend tables. There is full bar with (not surprisingly) French-centric wine list; we split a bottle of solid Gigondas from the Rhone Valley. The restaurant still retains the cozy, intimate vibe that makes it particularly a good option for date nights. I highly recommend checking out the reborn MIMI if you have a craving for French bistro food in a casual setting without feeling like you have to dress to impress. I certainly will come back next time we book a French dinner with friends.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 185 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 418-1260