Mulvaney’s has been on my “to do” list for some time. After hearing much about it, I knew it was a place I had to get to at some point. Up until recently, the only experience I had had was for a lovely wedding that included some truly delicious food. So I was thrilled when I was surprised with dinner there. Located at 19th and L, the front door is a single door that barely registers there’s a restaurant in the building. But once you walk through, the sounds and smells of a busy restaurant let you know you’ve gotten to the right place! A heavy curtain separates the hostess area from the dining room, keeping the hot air out in the summer, and the cold air at bay during the winter.
I ended up there on St. Patty’s Day. The room was mildly festooned with garlands of green shamrocks. To me, it kind of looked like a half ass way to decorate, but whatever. It’s not like it’s De Vere’s. At any rate, we were immediately seated near the window and next to a table with a very fussy infant. But, because of the ambient noise, I didn’t even notice the poor baby who was crying like there was no tomorrow. She was also ridiculously cute, which never hurts. Nor did her very thoughtful parents and grandparents, who took stabs at calming her down by walking around outside and out of diners’ earshot.
They modified some aspects of their menu to celebrate the holiday. We started with some sparkling wine and the Irish cheese platter. There was Cashel blue, Porter cheddar, Kilbeggan whiskey, and gubbeen. On the side were a tangerine marmalade and roasted nuts. All the cheeses were great, but the stand outs were the Kilbeggan whiskey and the gubbeen.
And there was an amuse bouche. Boiled Yukon gold (I think) potato with Irish cheddar and a bit of corned beef (I think).
As a second course, we got a great pasta: Pappardelle with yellow foot, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms, made with leeks and asparagus and topped with Fiscalini aged white cheddar. They split it for us and the portion was very hearty. After this, I was no longer hungry for the main course! I definitely enjoyed this, but it doesn’t quite stand up to the pappardelle at Ella.
While I really would have liked to indulge in the special corned beef and cabbage special they had that night, that was, obviously, off the table. So the two fish dishes were it. This is grilled Hawaiian walu with asparagus from the Delta. It included beans from Galt, and made with lemon and tarragon. There was also some kind of mousse, but the menu didn’t say. It tasted like it was probably also asparagus, or possibly even avocado. For me, there was too much of it. The asparagus was perfectly done, and the fish expertly grilled. The beans were an odd addition, in my mind. Although I can see adding it for a textural balance to the crunchy asparagus, the mushiness of beans, which I love, didn’t pair all that well with the fish. From a taste perspective, this dish lacked overall flavor. It definitely needed more seasoning.
The other fish on the table was Canary rock fish on a bed of wild rice from Sutter Rice Co., fennel, sea beans, and saffron, all with a lemon verbena coconut sauce. This was rather bland. The fried plantains, which, like the mouse in the above, weren’t listed on the menu. Luckily there were no aversions to them! Luckily so, because these were delicious and the best part of the dish. The sauce was boring and lacked punch, while the pilaf was meh.
Dessert was at another location, so I can’t speak to that. There was a panna cotta that sounded yummy, but gelato at Devine was on the docket.
Overall, this was a disappointment. The fish dishes lacked flavor, interest, and needed more seasoning. I really hate having to reach for the salt or pepper at any fancier place, but especially a restaurant that calls themselves “culinary specialists.” I expected more, particularly after the great food I had had at the wedding, and the recommendations from friends. Were said expectations too high? Perhaps, but it’s not like this was built up like Episode I of Star Wars, or something. Well, nor was it George Lucas, but that’s an entirely different subject, more fit for my Rants, Raves, and Various Sundries… blog!
It was rather noisy, as mentioned earlier, but it also was somehow not difficult to carry on a conversation. If you’re like me, you also will need to know where the restroom is. You have to walk to the rear of the restaurant and down a hallway to find the single-person ladies’ room. No, not “single person” as in “If you like it, you better put a ring on it.” Haha. And if you’re wearing the wrong shoes, you might end up slipping. The heels I wore slipped on the slick floor and I nearly had an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment in the middle of the restaurant.
While I wan’t bowled over this time, I would like to give it another try and see what happens.
Overall: 3/5 stars
Food: 2.5/5 stars
Ambience: 4/5 stars
Service: 4.5/5 stars The service was excellent.