Friday, May 28, 2010

Mie N Yu

Mie N Yu is one of those restaurants that had always intrigued me but, for one reason or another, we had never made it through the front door. That changed this week when Mie N Yu invited us to try (gratis) their new Blind Tiger Menu. The concept of the menu is very cool. Apparently, Blind Tiger is a prohibition-era name for a speakeasy, and Mie N Yu has created this "social underground" menu that is only advertised online. For $25 (cheaper than Restaurant Week!) you get a three course menu. They also offer 50% off on certain bottles of wine.

Stepping inside Mie N Yu is like being transported to a Moroccan bazaar. It is an eye-popping blend of textures and colors, with some private tables hidden behind drapes and one even perched in a bird cage. When a place has such unique decor and is located on such a busy street, there is always a fear that the food won't be good. Further fueling my fear was that Mie N Yu's claim to fame is that it was voted "Best Bathroom" in DC. I was a bit wary that Mie N Yu would be glitz over substance, but went in with an open mind. Could the food match up to the unique bathroom?

We got off to a rough start when the hostess couldn't find our reservation, but a manager jumped to her rescue and led us to our table. I was glad to be seated at a cozy booth because I'm not a fan of dining while sitting on chairs with no backs.

Our very friendly waiter brought us the Blind Tiger menu and the cocktail list. He recommended the White Tiger martini for me (an $12 ginger-infused drink served with candied ginger) and the Smoke & Silk for B (a $17!! blend of cognac and expensive scotch). It is a good thing the drinks are strong because you'd go broke ordering too many of them. To their credit, the drinks were made with top-shelf ingredients and were very tasty. We were served edamame to go with our cocktails. Since the table next to us also received edamame without asking, it appears that edamame is Mie N Yu's version of the free bread basket. Nice touch.

The first course of the Blind Tiger menu features a choice between Zataar Hummus with Ful and Sunomono Blue Crab Salad. To get the full experience, we ordered both items and shared. The hummus was topped with ful (braised Egyptian fava beans). It had a smoky flavor that paired perfectly with the cool hummus. The bread was deliciously doughy (B compared it to 2 Amy's pizza dough - very high praise) and we asked for more bread to scoop up the huge portion of hummus.

The Sunomono Blue Crab Salad wasn't as memorable as the hummus dish. It was a blend of cold soba noodles, cucumber, asian greens, pickled quail egg, and jumbo lump blue crab. The crab was a bit sparse, but maybe that's because B stole most of it. This would be a good appetizer on a hot, humid DC summer day.

We were feeling good after our cocktails and appetizers and happily snacking on the extra bread when we realized that there was a rather large gap between the first and second courses. It gave us time to check out the famous bathroom. I'm glad B went first because he warned me that there was an attendant sitting in the huge unisex bathroom waiting to turn on your sink and pump the soap into your hands. I always find the bathroom attendant exchange to be quite awkward. I'm pretty competent at hand washing and paper towel grabbing, so I never know quite why I need help... and the tip expectation in a restroom setting is just weird. Mostly I was just happy that it isn't my job to sit in the basement of a restaurant and wait for people to finish using the restroom, but I digress.

If you think that took a long time to explain, you should have seen how long we waited for our second course. Let's put it this way: when we parked, we put an hour and a half on the meter. That hour and a half ran out before we got the second course. As B returned from feeding the meter, course number two hit the table. Apparently there was some sort of mixup in the kitchen which led to the (at least) 30 minute gap between courses. The staff (including the manager) was extremely apologetic and we definitely understand that mixups happen. I just hope they are as kind and apologetic to the non-food blogging diners.

Part of course number two was definitely worth the wait. We loved the Beijing Style Laquered Duck with mandarin pancakes, hoisin sauce, scallions, cucumber, and chilis. The duck was tender and the hoisin sauce was just the right salty/sweet blend that I love. One small point off for biting into a bone in the shredded duck.

The Char Masala Lamb Kabobs were not my favorite dish, but I'm not a lamb fan. It was an interesting presentation with the lamb kabob doused in a roasted coriander yogurt sauce served over charred vegetables.

The next dish ranks as one of the most surprising/unique dishes I've ever eaten. It is described on the menu as Pakistani Cinnamon & Ginger Striped Bass (sustainably raised striped bass, greens, and spiced yogurt casserole served with tamarind-scented basmati rice). Seeing cinnamon and ginger, I expected something on the sweet end of the taste spectrum. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I took a bite of fish. It was so tart that I wondered if I was eating a lemon wedge instead of a fish dish. After a few more bites, the complex flavors began to emerge, but my palate was in sour-shock and it was hard to recover. I suppose the yogurt in the dish should be described as tart yogurt instead of spiced yogurt. Prepare to pucker up!

The second dish was Indonesian Scallop "Kare" (seared scallops, yellow coconut curry, "gado gado" salad - green beans, quail eggs, potato, shrimp chips, and peanut dressing). This was another completely unique dish and not your run-of-the-mill coconut curry. It was tangy, spicy, and sweet all at the same time. Very hard to describe but very interesting to eat.

After the 3 course Blind Tiger menu, it was nearing 11pm (which is way past my Tuesday bedtime) and I wasn't sure I could sit still or stay awake long enough for dessert. However, I really wanted something sweet to balance out the tart fish dish, so we ordered the pecan and chocolate croustade. It was served with chocolate gelato from Georgetown's Dolcezza Gelato. The gelato was a smooth, chocolatey dream and the croustade was a flaky pastry basket packed with gooey pecans mixed with a honey bourbon sauce. The waiter also brought out a champagne toast to apologize for the long wait.

I went in worried that Mie N Yu would be most memorable for its restroom, but was pleased that the totally unique dishes and flavors left the biggest impression on me. While I didn't adore every dish, I truly felt transported to another place. It was Tuesday night and I was on M Street in Georgetown, but I felt more like I was in a Moroccan desert. While Mie N Yu isn't an every week sort of place, I think we'll be back when we're looking for a brief escape.

Second Thoughts from B

I know what you're thinking. "They bought you dinner, of course you're going to say you liked it." It is a valid point and I'm not going to say that it doesn't affect our comments. But the fact of the matter is that an hour after the final course was served, we were still talking about the dishes. Love it or hate it, that is worth something for the adventurous eater.

I'll also freely admit that we got a little extra attention on this Tuesday night, which makes me doubly question whatever happened between courses one and two. But other than that, the service was very good, enhanced by a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable waiter.

But let's move on to the things that they couldn't change for "special guests," most notably, the decor. Some might call it gimmicky, but it was done so well that I would instead choose the word magical. It really had a Disney-esque quality to it, which for those who don't know us, is saying something.

But back to the food. Some things, like the hummus and the duck were beautifully done. The drinks were top-notch (although I'm far from expert) and the dessert was a perfect ending to a lovely night. Still, I'll be honest, there were things that we ate that I would not normally order. Believe it or not, my palate does play favorites. But to the great credit of the chef, even those things that were out of my box were well prepared, of good quality, and always very interesting. Going back to the tart and sour fish, it was like Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstopper. The more you let it sit on your tongue, the more interesting it got. After the punch of the sour, you felt the heat of the spices, followed by the taste of curry and lemon. I've been fortunate to have tasted a lot of different things in my short time on this Earth but that was a first.

So here's the $100 question: would we go back and pay for a meal at Mie N Yu? (drumroll, please) Absolutely yes, especially for a deal as good as the Blind Tiger menu. In my mind, it is a perfect gathering spot for a group of friends to enjoy each other's company in a completely unique atmosphere, with food and drinks to match.
Mie N Yu on Urbanspoon

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