When I started thinking about how I was going to draft my review for MIMI, the words that would come to mind were basically gasps of superlatives, ovations and abounding adjectives. After each of my meals there, I was on such a foodgasm high that I had to take the time to digest (literally and figuratively) before accurately writing up my ode to MIMI.
MIMI opened in the early summer of 2016, and has since kept a safe spot in this year’s best new restaurants. To say this contemporary bistro was a welcome addition to the Village area is merely an understatement. In a city that is inundated with insipid European-inspired restaurants, MIMI and its unparalleled menu is a breath of fresh French air.
MIMI is located in a tiny, quaint restaurant space on Greenwich Village’s Sullivan Street, with a charming neighborhood feel. The atmosphere at MIMI is cozy and intimate, with (very) cramped bar and banquette seating (and a couple of street-side tables on warmer months) – claustrophobics avoid, or favor the bar counter. The vibe is cool and trendy, but very low-key. The dim lighting, the dark plush seats, the attractive waitstaff and crowd, make a night at MIMI a sensual dining experience. But the biggest turn-on is the food.
The most impressive thing about MIMI is its audacious and ambitious menu. This is not your typical steak-tartare/quiche-lorraine brasserie – MIMI offers New Age French cuisine unlike anywhere else. The handwritten, daily changing menu was different at every one of my visits, but always left me jumping in my velvet banquette with excitement. The precocious 25-year-old chef Liz Johnson (the trio of owners are all under 30!) takes old-school, traditional French recipes and goes on a creative frenzy with them. Every dish becomes an elaborate version of French comfort-food classics, with the most unexpected and memorable flavor profiles. Chef Johnson (who’s not even a Frenchie!) nails the certain je-ne-sais-quoi that makes every bite feel like grand-mère’s home cooking, but with a whimsical, bold mix of flavors. Along with quintessential hearty French recipes, the chef grabs inspiration from all over. Her worldly culinary stints include Noma, but the most notable is the Japanese influence, especially in some ingredient choices.
Book in advance if you want to avoid 5pm or 10:30pm seatings
To truly enjoy MIMI, one must be an adventurous eater. Sure, you’ll get great pleasure from the wholesome chicken à la moutarde served with potato dumplings, or the lobster with escargot butter, which is one of the best (and affordable, all things considered) lobster dishes I’ve had in the city. But where Chef Johnson seamlessly excels is in the fascinating combination of unusual, high-quality ingredients – we’re talking monkfish liver, veal brains and cod sperm anyone? 😯 Test the menu out, ask for recommendations and get out of your comfort (food) zone. If there is blood sausage on the menu – order it. Same goes for the sea urchin dishes, eels, the sweetbreads…
Plates aren’t really visually pleasing (it’s all about the flavor – hence the very mediocre food pics 😐 ), are very rich and are neither vegetarian nor cholesterol-friendly, but every bite is oh-so arousingly satisfying.
Leave room for dessert if you’re lucky enough to have the Speculoos Soufflé or the Baba au Rhum on the menu. The desserts are the only dishes showing a particularly aesthetic flair. The restaurant also has a full bar with some nice French-centric wine selections.
Order the dessert Soufflé as soon as you’re seated – they sell out fast and require prep time
I’ve always ended up with a rather hefty 3-digit bill – but maybe that’s because I always wind up ordering 4-5 dishes per person! Prices are of average “New York hot-spot” standards, i.e. around $15-$20 for appetizers and in the $30s for main plates. The service is relaxed but professional, very personal and intimate (again – sensual!), although the food arriving from the small basement kitchen can be slow.
Dinner at MIMI is an outstanding culinary experience that always leaves me utterly satisfied. I tried toning down the superlatives in this review, but one can only have the profoundest respect for Chef Johnson’s impressive dexterity and originality. Come to MIMI for a casual, yet sultrily gourmet date.
Open for Dinner Mon-Sat 6pm-2am / Sunday Brunch 12pm-5pm