The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Italian @ Il Mulino, Tokyo

The other weekend was Date Day, and we were happy to enjoy some time together while leaving our 21 month old son in my sister's capable hands (thanks Hon!). Rob and I headed into Roppongi to have lunch at Il Mulino, and afterwards watched Toy Story 3 (in 3D) at a nearby cinema. (The movie, by the way, was pretty good.) Il Mulino is a sister restaurant to the popular Italian restaurant of the same name in New York, and one of Rob's colleagues had eaten and raved about the food. Apparently the New York restaurant has been voted by the ZAGAT Guide as NYC's best Italian restaurant for almost 20 years, so we were quite looking forward to our meal at the sister restaurant in Tokyo.

The restaurant was cool and posh, and service was formal yet friendly. Two lunch courses were offered in addition to the a-la-carte menu, and we were informed that the "special dishes of the day" were Scampi Risotto and Porcini Ravioli with Truffle Sauce. Even before the tray of beautiful fresh scampi were brought to our table to entice us to order the risotto, there was already no doubt that one of us would be ordering that dish (we had a delicious previous encounter with the shellfish a few weeks prior). Complimentary Zucchini Marinato (marinated zucchini) and Crispy Focaccia were served for us to enjoy while we deliberated over the menu. Rob ordered the Special Lunch Course which included the special ravioli dish, and I got the Pasta Lunch Course with the special risotto dish (for an additional extra cost), so we managed to fit both the special dishes in our choices.

The complimentary zucchini and focaccia were pretty good and very more-ish, but also quite salty:

Rob's Antipasto Di Il Mulino contained a nice variety of cheeses and cured meat. For my starter, I chose Insalata di Frutti di Mare (seafood salad), which was delicious with a generous portion of seafood including salmon, shrimps and mussels.

Rob's antipasto - (clockwise from top) resh tomato, grana padano cheese, dried salami, prosciutto, bruschetta, buffalo mozarella and roasted bell pepper (centre); and my seafood salad:

Rob's pasta course contained two types: Ravioli Tartufo (porcini mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce) and Perciatelli alla Amatoriciana (perciatelli with prosciutto, pancetta, onion and tomato sauce). I adored the porcini ravioli for all its earthy mushroom flavour, and the perciatelli was quite good although I remember it being a little too salty. Good idea to balance out the creamy ravioli with the tomato-based pasta. My Risotto di Scampi was beautiful but also on the salty side. The risotto had a lovely creamy texture, but not from cream so it wasn't too rich for me. The scampi had been fried, and while it was quite nice, we don't think it's the best way to serve scampi. That subtle sweetness which we love was overpowered by the light coating of batter and strong seasoning.

The creamy porcini ravioli and tomato-based perciatelli on one plate; and the scampi risotto:

The special course included a meat course, and Rob chose Saltimbocca (veal sautéed with sage and prosciutto). I'd often wondered about the translation of the dish's name from Italian (saltimbocca = "jumps in the mouth"), and it clicked when I recalled that the word sauté is French for "jump". The thin pieces of veal were very tender, and the heap of wilted spinach the meat sat upon added nutrition to the dish, but overall the dish was very salty which made it quite difficult to eat. At first I thought it was just my tastebuds on overdrive because this wasn't the first overly salted dish I ate, but Rob affirmed that the dish was definitely too salty. It brought to mind all the strongly seasoned food we ate during our few months in New York in '07 and '09, and I guess it makes sense since this restaurant hails from NYC too.

Rob's dessert was a trio of Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Raspberry Sorbet with a chocolate wafer stick and generous dollops each of cream and custard cream. The cheesecake was crustless and creamy with a fluffy texture like ricotta cheese (it most probably was a ricotta cheesecake). The tiramisu was generously flavoured with coffee, and it was mostly cream with a small amount of cake. The sorbet was refreshing and tart. For my dessert course, I went with the Pear Tart (the designated tart of the day), which was quite good. Lovely buttery pastry, yummy soft pear filling and finished with a crunchy sugar crumb topping - it went very nicely with the custard cream.

An assortment of dessert; and the pear tart:

It was a nice experience, even with the overly salted food. Il Mulino certainly does dessert well, perhaps better enjoyed on its own and not at the end of a full meal. They do a pretty good cup of cappucino too!

We're grateful being able to have dates sans toddler kinda regularly, made possible only when Honey came to Tokyo last October. We'll no doubt miss her help when it is time for us to part in a couple of months time. Speaking of which, we will be pretty busy with our upcoming move over the next couple of months, which means less time for this journal; but I will still try to write once a week so that I won't fall too far behind with photos and experiences.

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