For over two years I have had Mulvaney's on my dining to-do list. So many people have said that it is wonderful and equals The Waterboy, which I love. Lately I've been adding some higher end restaurants to my Meetup's calendar, so tonight we had a group of eight willing to pay up for a nice meal.
Mulvaney's is located in an old brick firehouse on 19th Street. I'm sure it used to have a pole somewhere, although it is not evident now. Prior to Mulvaney's it had been a coffee shop/bakery where I would indulge in fantastic black bottom cupcakes and cinnamon rolls. It is not very large. Part of the kitchen is out in the dining area with stools at the chef's block for four diners. In the back is very small bar area. I found that a little surprising because my BFF's brother-in-law is a head bartender and I would have thought it would have a big bar. There is additional dining out on the patio, which I've also heard much about, but the weather is getting too cold for that now.
We sat down and were presented with the day's menu. Each day is a fresh menu because M's is known for locally grown, organic produce and meats. They have both small plates and a selection of entrees. Small plates range in the $teens ($14, etc) and the entrees are in the $20-$35 range. On this day none of the entrees jumped out at me as being truly unique or different whereas quite a few of the small plates did. I ended up with a salad, small plate, and dessert. Eileen got three small plates and dessert! The thing is, the small plates are definitely ample entrees for lil ol me.
The server came out with an amuse bouche for us. It consisted of raddichio with some duck confit and apple chutney. I love getting amuse bouche. It's like you get a little something extra for free.
I got to try something new with my salad. I ordered the Frissee Salad with Duck Tongue and Poached Quail Egg. The idea of poor little ducks being plucked tongue-less is not a good one, but sometimes you need to put such thoughts out of your head. There were quite a few tongues and I was surprised to find them rather soft and salty versus what you would assume to be chewy. Not sure if saltiness is a trait or not. Anyway, the salad had plenty of those and homemade croutons with a perfectly cooked egg atop. Although I did enjoy the salad, I found that the addition of the egg made it just a bit too rich for me.
Sue was kind enough to share some of her house smoked salmon. It was served with a whole grain toast point that was rather disappointing to me. It wasn't toasted, for one, and it overpowered the very thinly sliced salmon. I had to bunch the salmon to the end of the point so that I didn't get too much bread. I was not impressed with the salmon either. I guess I just like it a bit more smoked.
For my main course I would have liked to try their homemade pastas, but the dishes were heavy with mushrooms. Yuck. I opted for the sweetbreads. Both Biba and Waterboy have sweetbreads that I would consider equal in deliciousness. This version was not in the same league. First of all the serving was about half of what you get at the other two. Then these were fried and then served with a polenta and mushrooms. So on their own they were dull. Perhaps if I had made a forkful with polenta, mushrooms, and the sweetbreads the flavors would have blended well, but on their own - dull.
Looking at everyone else I could see quite a variety of dishes. Sue and Christine ordered the cioppino which was full of seafood and gigantic scallops. Eileen and Rhonda had ordered the pasta with the mushrooms and it definitely looked delicious and rich.
Sue Ann was nice enough to let me taste her dish. We both couldn't remember the exact description but it appeared as kind of homemade raviolis stuffed with duck confit and then in a rich sauce with finely chopped veggies. I wish I knew more from the description because there was a wonderful blending of flavors that was a bit unusual, but delicious.
There were quite a few tempting things on the dessert menu. I was really drawn to the Ding Dongs, but opted for the Sticky Toffee Pudding. I've been wanting to make a sticky toffee pudding because it has become quite a popular flavor lately. I've never had an authentic English one, but from the descriptions it sounds like a pretty decadent dessert. I was a bit disappointed but am unsure as to whether it is to my ignorance or to a bad version of the dessert, so I'll refrain from too much comment. I'll just say that the 'pudding' was just a cake and had just a little toffee sauce on top. My impressions had always been that it was a moister and stickier (more sauce soaked in). I guess I'll have to wait til I try making my own.
Update: I did. Here is my version. Based on this, I would say Mulvaney's version is a sorry excuse for sticky toffee pudding.
The Ding Dongs certainly looked beautiful. But after seeing them I was glad that I had passed because it was just a mini-cake like the kind I've been baking so many of lately.
Rhonda had the pumpkin brulee. 'Brulee' means burnt and so it is the burnt sugar topping and has nothing to do with what is underneath. I make this distinction because Rhonda said that the filling wasn't what she usually associates with a creme brulee. Apparently it wasn't as creamy custardy. She still liked it, though, and said the accompanying huckleberries added a nice contrasting flavor. Certainly the presentation was nice.
We all enjoyed our meals very much and even though I wasn't overly impressed with my individual orders, I was impressed overall with the table's worth. I look forward to going again.