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The Third Time's the Charm for Pete Wells and Mimi

It wasn’t love at first sight


Many of the savory dishes are terrific, and the baba au rhum dessert is lavishly creamy, but Mimi wasn’t always this good, according to Pete Wells. The Times critic notes that it took three dinners at the small Greenwich Village restaurant before he saw "the restaurant that had other people so excited." Of his earlier visits, Wells felt it was as if the food at Mimi was coming out of two kitchens, one far less experienced where "the clocks were broken." It wasn’t until his most recent visit that Wells felt Mimi was finding its footing. Here are some of his favorites from that visit:

At the start of dinner there were crisp spring peas in a creamy and stealthily spicy sauce. Above this were three raw spot prawns, as good as I’ve had in any sushi bar. Their heads had been fried and lined up on a plate like helmets at a biker bar. This was one of the stranger meetings of French and Japanese cuisines I’ve tasted, and I liked it very much.

A hunk of foie gras had been sautéed with peaches, and then the contents of the pan had been more or less dumped onto a plate. Many chefs swaddle and spoil foie gras as if it were a high-strung show dog. Ms. Johnson seems to understand that it performs better when it’s allowed to roll around and get messy.

The kitchen often runs out of food at the beginning of service, and sometimes dishes don’t look quite right. Still, Wells believes chef Liz Johnson has something many experienced chefs don’t: "a clear and personal vision of French food as a celebration of appetite, an occasion to eat with joy and lust." He gives Mimi one star.