A few hours before going, I called Irving Mill to ask about their comfort level with the Allergic Girl sitch. Mario, one of the owners picked up the reservation line, lucky me.
He said in a deep, reassuring baritone: “We are VERY comfortable handling food allergies.
“Yes, we get a lot of requests and are very familiar with how to handle such requests.”
Nice way to start a conversation--Irving Mill gets good marks for initial awareness and no perceived telephone-eye-roll! We then discussed the particulars, which he wrote down. I mentioned which dishes I was thinking of trying, either the rabbit or the lamb shoulder. He checked with the chef about the stock [they make their own], whether flour was used in anything or if nuts were an issue. Those dishes got the all clear. He did mention that there were nuts at the bar for drinkers but those could be swapped for olives and I’m not so sensitive that a bowl of nuts three seats away will bother me.
Of course one look at the Irving Mill menu and I thought, eek nuts and fish everywhere. Here I go again. However, the Chef/co-owner John Schaefer’s pedigree includes a 12-year jag at Gramercy Tavern, taking over for Tom Colicchio. Gram Tav is one of the best places to eat in town if you have any issue. It’s a Danny Meyer restaurant and they are careful about allergies, make everything in house, the staff is knowledgeable about what’s in their dishes and service is their number one priority. So with the Chef’s education in mind and the recent reviews by both New York Magazine and Andrea Strong’s The Strong Buzz [she looooves these guys], I figured I’d give it try.
My dining companion, fellow foodie and Allergic Girl safe chica, Shari and I sat at the bar. As soon as we sat I noticed the bald pate of Mr. Top Chef Tom Colicchio sitting near us, at one of the bar tables in the front room. Who was he sitting with? Shari made the call recognizing the man’s bald spot [she got high points for that]. It was none other than Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill.
At the bar, we were taken care of by Paul [another one?!] who was sad for me that I’ve had allergies my whole life. Don’t cry for me Paul-gentina! Really, those of us with food allergies can lead normal lives I promise you. OK, I didn’t say that but I did tell him that it wasn’t so bad, just make sure there are no nuts in my food! Which he did happily.
Before we ordered Mario presented himself and again went through the whole menu with me dish-by-dish to ensure what was definitely Allergic Girl safe. He couldn’t have been more gracious, understanding and polite about taking care of my needs; he said they were very happy to do so.
Thank you Mario and the Irving Mill team!
After getting some suggestions and insight into the menu as a whole,
I had the fresh garbanzo bean salad, fresh as in green raw chickpeas, with the lemon vinaigrette on the side. Shari had the cauliflower ravioli to start with hazelnuts. We both enjoyed our starters. My salad was a simple affair but tasty, frisee, shaved radish, Parmesan, raw garbanzo with a dollop of garbanzo puree. Shari said her pasta portion was generous, the cauliflower filling quite light. For our mains, Shari had the quail app, which Bruni mentioned in his review. She said the grits were delish and the quail perfectly cooked. I had part of the Winter Prix Fixe menu, lamb tenderloin with rutabaga puree, apricot both pureed and preserved and roasted fennel. The lamb was well-seasoned, tender and paired so well with the sweet tang of apricot. I’d like to try that combo at home--apricot glazed lamb chops...
The atmos is a different story. The crowd on Thursday, the New Yorkers night, was decidedly non-New York. And it was also the 40 year old and above set, which there’s nothing wrong with, some of my dear friends are over 40, but it gave an already corporate pre-fab feeling place feel even more corporate and well, pre-fab. Here are some pix of the rooms, courtesy of Zagat’s. Shari said she’d feel comfortable bringing her parents there but not a date. I’d have to agree, although the lighting was flattering enough for date, and they are very clearly service oriented, I wasn’t bowled over by a sexy vibe.
So the upshot: food was decent if a bit pricey; they took care of my allergic needs excellently; they are service oriented and everyone was gracious; however, the vibe was a yawner.
Irving Mill, NYC
116 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003