63 Main St, Irvington, (914) 591-1300; mimarestaurant.com
Hours: lunch, Tues to Fri noon-3:30 pm; dinner
Mon to Thurs 5 pm-10 pm, Fri to Sat 5 pm-11 pm, Sun 4 pm-9 pm
Appetizers: $9-$11; entrées: $18-$29; dessert: $6-$9
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good
How unfair would it be if your entire career were judged by your performance during your first six weeks on the job? Oddly enough, this is precisely how restaurant reviews work. In order to serve readers (who want to know about a restaurant while its debut is still newsworthy), critics generally review a chosen restaurant within its first few weeks of life. Of course, any stars earned (or lost) during the crawl-to-walk period are forever shackled to the restaurant’s name, online and in listings, unless it’s one of the few restaurants prominent enough to merit a re-review. This new feature, “Review ReWind,” revisits restaurants that might not be notable enough for a full re-review. We factor one more visit, a few years down the road, into the ultimate rating.
Mima Vinoteca in Irvington is a prime example of how early reviews might not anticipate the quality of a mature restaurant. In August 2008, I reviewed Mima Vinoteca and gave it 2 stars, which translates to “good” in the Westchester Magazine ratings. To set the scene, in 2008, Red Hat on the River had just moved down the hill to its current One Bridge Street digs, having vacated the small, sweet spot at 63 Main Street for newcomer Mima. On the upside, Mima’s service was a hit in the review. “Our servers were all friendly and even solicitous—in one case offering, unprompted, to split a pasta dish between two diners. This thoughtful gesture saved us money and…won our gratitude. Mima’s infectious, spontaneous friendliness is winning.”
On the down side, my review took issue with several dishes, including a starter of burrata with panzanella: “icy cold—a definite buzz kill with burrata. This Puglian cheese…is all about the texture: its firm skin yields to a bursting, improbably soft interior, like a grape. When served cold…burrata’s textural beauty is compromised.” Of the mushroom polenta, I wrote, “seriously over-salted, and the mellower notes of sautéed mushrooms were overwhelmed by acidic tomatoes.” And I was disappointed with a veal involtini with pine nuts, currants, breadcrumbs, escarole, borlotti beans, and vino cotto, which “sounded great on the menu, but the dish’s balance was skewed; it was too sweet.”
But here’s the thing: A lot can happen in four-plus years, and, since writing that review, I’ve been back to Mima several times. That awkward newcomer has matured into a suave adult—in fact, Mima is now a neighborhood standard, an inviting rest stop on Main Street’s precipitous slope. On any night of the week, you’ll find Mima thronged with locals, many commuters walking from the Metro-North station. They’re unwinding with reasonably priced picks from Mima’s 25+ available wines-by-the-glass. Mima offers a democratic Italian menu that works for local diners. And not many Westchester restaurants have Mima’s inherent architectural charms—its vintage, split-front doors; pressed-tin ceilings; and homey hex tile. Plus, Mima’s staff is still winning. Regulars are spotted and welcomed, while newcomers are tucked into the fold.
And the food? It is possible to eat very well at Mima. Wooden boards of sliced meats and cheeses are the ideal companions to that first de-stressing glass of wine—and no one will blink if you order a board before raising your menu. (Don’t miss the pale, impossibly tender porchetta.) When you get down to the meal, starters of delicious meatballs, fragrant with Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil olive oil, should not be skipped. That salty mushroom polenta that struck an off note in the 2008 review has been revised with truffle oil and Gouda. It’s a winter warmer that, for lighter appetites, might make a meal.
As with that tweaked polenta, some of Mima’s dishes have improved over time. In the original review, I complained of a dish “listed as trecce with egg, onions, smoked bacon, and black pepper (I’d have called it gemelli carbonara). [It] was a delicious soulful pasta standard, sexily presented with an unbroken yolk…marred by un-drained pasta: the hollow tubes of double-helix-shaped gemelli poured water into the silky, yolkbaxsed sauce.” I had no such complaints this time about orecchiette, again dressed with a sexy, unbroken yolk, black pepper, onion, smoked bacon, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The resilient, ear-shaped cups were a better match for the classic sauce.
Sadly, two of Mima’s dishes, after five years, generated the same complaints from my guests. The veal involtini (with pinenuts, currants, breadcrumbs, escarole, borlotti beans, and vin cotto) was still overly sweet and the fritto misto still needed salt. But some specials revealed fresh inspiration, particularly a coddling kale stracciatella soup. This dish struck the perfect balance between something that your grandmother might make, and something that your yoga-loving media friends in Irvington might order.
To end, don’t miss dense panna cotta—like dreamy, cow-based fudge—served under a tumble of blueberries in a pleasantly tart sauce. More traditionally, you could opt for the bombolini with ricotta fresca (a hit in 2008) or the tiramisu, still fluffy, still light on chalky cocoa, and resonant of fresh cream and mascarpone. Five years on, Mima is a better restaurant—good heading toward very good. But Mima’s stature on Main Street is far more important than any stars.