Mimi

Have you noticed all the attention that introverts have been getting? It is not hard to find a book, website, or article these days that describes or celebrates them. We’re everywhere! As a card-carrying introvert, I was thrilled when the onslaught started. I’ve always had unease about being a loner and the inability to enjoy parties or regular socializing despite how they’re “good for you.” Scheduling time for myself and/or declining invitations are acts that have made me feel bad or guilty—selfish is a dirty word. This wider recognition of introversion gives me the vocabulary to finally be honest about my need for and love of alone time. It’s not about being shy or anti-social. I mean, it is, but not because of fear or snubbing friends. Self care.

But how many different ways and how many times does this need to be said? I’ve done a fair amount of sharing via social media (an introvert’s preferred mode of communication) that I’m the big I. Every one of my real or virtual friends, acquaintances, and perhaps now even strangers know. I should move on. I feel I’ve got caught up in a bit of navel gazing, reading all these articles and reassuring myself that it’s okay to be me. The extroverts must be getting a little tired of us.  I’m not the only one who’s noticed our over-presence. There was an OpEd this weekend in the New York Times pointing out how introverts’ insistence on self care can border on rudeness. That’s where my unease has typically crept in: Am I allowed to be selfish? Understanding and accepting my introversion means YES; I’m cleaning that word.

Accepting my introversion also increases the ease with which I can dine solo and explains why I enjoy it; it’s the whole alone, not lonely, situation (e.g., blogging instead of conversing). It also explains why I prefer to dine solo at a table rather than the bar: The chance for socialization is low. I’ve dealt with a lot of insecurity about being a solo female at a bar, and tables have offered more comfort. It doesn’t always work out that I get one. Being more comfortable in my own skin has muted the insecurity to the point where I really enjoy when I talk to others at the bar*.

This was certainly the case during my recent visits to Mimi. With no reservation for a tiny table in the tiny restaurant, my only chance at trying the muchtalkedabout menu was to arrive early and grab a seat at the bar, much like Olmsted. With early dining not being my favourite, I settled into a cocktail. This was probably the critical moment when I threw my identification card out of Mimi’s late summer open window and started gabbing to those on my left and my right.

The liquor could take its effect and release my inner extrovert because I spent a lot of time on both occasions trying to decide what to order. Though rarely indecisive, I am paralyzed by a list of attractive and interesting dishes. The menu changes daily and few things stay the course. Although there are French leanings at Mimi with rilletes, sliced baguette to start, a simple Bibb salad, and it’s described as a bistro, this is not where I’ll be going for takes on onion soup or steak frites. For example, one section of the menu is devoted to raw preparations, mostly fish, but that’s where you’ll find a tartare if you need one. A dish from that section that came recommended from the bartender and is now the dish I tell all around me to try is the madai with brown butter and lemon curd. I would eat brown butter on anything, but the surprise of having it with raw fish and further accented by not just lemon, but rich lemon, was intense. My recommendation to others was borderline pushy, but as everyone I spoke to seemed equally enthralled with their meals, my enthusiasm was not rebuffed.

It was hard not to order it again, but it was easy to try the uni with remoulade. The mustard in the dressing was perfect against the sweetness of the sea urchin and bits of crab. Mustard also draped the finger-like dumplings that came with the roast chicken. They were on the leaden side, but that didn’t seem to matter to me given the mess of juicy bird and crisp skin on the plate. Sitting too close next to them, the escarole salad wilted and warmed when I might have wanted it to stay crisp. But a bite of everything together had that Thanksgiving plate quality; the parts have their charms, but the sum brings the pleasure.

That imperfection is what has drawn me to Mimi. There is exciting creativity and interesting juxtapositions, yet there are also questionable moments. The eel stuffed with more eel and foie gras was delicious, but I didn’t quite get its plating next to a slab of eggplant. That plating seemed so much more deliberate than the chicken, which felt more, for lack of a better word, rustic on a too-small plate. I’ve read that the head chef is only twenty-five, and she presents as gutsy and confident. Sigh. At my station in life, that sounds so young.  With so much potential and freedom. And that is what the food at Mimi represents to me. It is full of ideas and confidently presents them, but they’re not always as refined as or executed as they should be. I said to someone the other day, it reminds me of colouring outside of the lines. It’s that slippage that intrigues me and has me wanting to return. The fact that I could sit at the bar for hours with not a hint of the restaurant wanting the seat despite the crowd also it endears it to me.

Of course, there is then dessert. After the first plate of baba au rhum I had, there was no question about a repeat. The slightly chilled brioche is soaked in condensed milk, vanilla, and rum. It’s then topped with softly whipped cream and more rum is splashed tableside. The bottle is left for you to continue splashing if so desired. I was reminded of one of my favourite desserts, tres leches cake. The brioche was soaked long enough to become like pudding but short enough so as not to fall apart. The soaking liquid didn’t burn your throat from too much rum, and it didn’t hurt your teeth from unbalanced sweetness from the milk. The cream was thick, but it didn’t finish heavy. And like all desserts with whipped cream should, it was served with a spoon. I don’t need the buzz of a cocktail to talk your ear off about the improper serving of forks with certain desserts. Introversion is fantastic for cultivating opinions.

 

First visit

Seelbach – Bulleit bourbon, Angostura bitters, Peychaud bitters, Perrier Jouet

 

Madai (red seabream), brown butter, lemon condiment

Boudin noir, pomme rosti, piment d’Espelette

Merou (grouper), brandade, Manilla clams, shishito, cuttlefish

Baba au rhum

 

Second visit

Maine sea urchin, celeriac remoulade, stone crab

Grilled eel, pear, foie gras, eggplant, crushed green peppercorn

Roast chicken, potato dumpling, mustard, escarole

Baba au rhum (with husk cherries)

*Although I feel this might be an age thing. In addition to barmates, I’m becoming the old lady who makes random comments and asks questions to the person next to her on the subway or in line at Trader Joe’s.

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