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Irving Mill
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Irving Mill

Address: 116 E. 16th St., between Union Square East & Irving Place 

Phone: (212) 254-1600
Dinner: Fri., 5:30-11 p.m. Sat. 5-11 p.m., Sun. 5-10 p.m. Lunch:
Mon-Sun., noon-2:30 p.m.
Cuisine: Seasonal American
Vibe: Sprawling farmhouse chic
Occassion: Group dinner; family affair.
Don’t Miss Dish: Cauliflower ravioli; roasted Arctic char.
Drink Specialty: Impressive wine by the glass offering.
Price: Appetizers, $10-$16; entrees, $24-$30; desserts, $9.
Reservations: Recommended

Capsule: A diluted brand of seasonal American crops up at Irving Mill.

It’s not enough for restaurants to showcase their greenmarket
produce on the plate anymore. They are wearing this season’s harvest as
if it’s the hottest fashion accessory – a culinary badge of honor.

Just
follow the trail of fruits and vegetables to your table. A
pomegranate-stocked wheelbarrow greets you at the entrance of Union
Square’s Irving Mill.
There’s a “harvest table” – strewn with squash, chestnuts and gourds –
that separates the bar from the main dining room. It’s just past a
large millstone that stands in the middle of the sprawling space.

Owners Mario, Sergio and Suzanne Riva have reconceived what was formerly Candela as an homage to the nearby Farmer’s Market and chef/partner Jon Schaefer‘s
pedigree. After 12 years at Gramercy Tavern, Schaefer practically has
rustic New American cooking coursing through his veins. Thus, the menu
enlists the greenmarket’s usual suspects: butternut squash with
chestnuts; duck breast with quinoa, autumn beans and Swiss chard.

This
is seasonal American for the masses: Both the farmhouse-chic decor and
the familiar strides of the plates evoke a diluted brand of cuisine. On
this level, Irving Mill successfully appeals to a mixed bag of patrons.
A domesticated set currently populates a sea of tables, while a more
youthful crowd collects around the up-front bar.

Chicken liver
crostini is nicely balanced by quince and aged balsamic vinegar. Though
a hearts of palm salad – consisting of avocado cream, frisée and orange
segments – was prettier to look at than actually consume, it still
served its seasonal function on the menu. But too many dishes failed to
reach extraordinary heights.

Grilled octopus with pepper
caponata neither sparked delight nor outright displeasure. While the
octopus was sufficiently tender, the caponata lent the dish little in
the way of tang or punch. Other than a crusty exterior, a dull cod fell
into neutral territory – a veritable Switzerland of plates.

Other
dishes proved combinations with little rhyme or reason, resulting in
flavors that canceled each other out. A haphazard collection of
chanterelles, spinach and Jerusalem
artichokes amounted to an earthy overabundance swallowing a fillet of
sea bass. A runt-sized quail battled against paprika-smothered grits.
An emasculated pork chop arrived in dainty slices, its juicy essence
stifled by bitter cabbage and tart mustard seeds. A tasty
mustard-spiced spatzle was the dish’s sole saving grace, and easily
worthy of better placement on the menu.

But when Schaefer gets
it right, he hits high marks. Superb cauliflower ravioli get a shower
of hazelnuts, capers and Parmesan cheese. Cabbage, lentils and
cipollini set a vibrant stage for a deftly cooked Arctic char.

Though dry gingerbread was ill-paired with salty squash and kumquat marmalade, pastry chef Colleen Grapes
(The Red Cat) executes a decadent parfait. It’s layered with peanut
butter and chocolate caramel mousse, separated by crunchy bits of
meringue and peanut brittle. It may seem like a slightly generic
finish, but that’s exactly what Irving Mill is serving here.



Grilled octopus with pepper
caponata neither sparked delight nor outright displeasure. While the
octopus was sufficiently tender, the caponata lent the dish little in
the way of tang or punch. Other than a crusty exterior, a dull cod fell
into neutral territory – a veritable Switzerland of plates.

Other
dishes proved combinations with little rhyme or reason, resulting in
flavors that canceled each other out. A haphazard collection of
chanterelles, spinach and Jerusalem artichokes amounted to an earthy
overabundance swallowing a fillet of sea bass. A runt-sized quail
battled against paprika-smothered grits. An emasculated pork chop
arrived in dainty slices, its juicy essence stifled by bitter cabbage
and tart mustard seeds. A tasty mustard-spiced spatzle was the dish’s
sole saving grace, and easily worthy of better placement on the menu.

But
when Schaefer gets it right, he hits high marks. Superb cauliflower
ravioli get a shower of hazelnuts, capers and Parmesan cheese. Cabbage,
lentils and cipollini set a vibrant stage for a deftly cooked Arctic
char.

Though dry gingerbread was ill-paired with salty squash
and kumquat marmalade, pastry chef Colleen Grapes (The Red Cat)
executes a decadent parfait. It’s layered with peanut butter and
chocolate caramel mousse, separated by crunchy bits of meringue and
peanut brittle. It may seem like a slightly generic finish, but that’s
exactly what Irving Mill is serving here.

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