Probably one of the worst meals in recent memory has to be the one I had at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. I really love Mindy’s latest book on Cookies, and I prefer her style to that of the hipster-pastry poster girl Christina Tosi.
In her book Mindy seems to seek the best method possible for her pastry, and pay a certain homage to the techniques of the masters. She gives a lot of credit to those who’ve paved the way for the pastry renaissance in America. I was hoping to have a better experience at Hot Chocolate then I received at Dominique Ansel, which suffered from and an unkempt appearance and felt more like a Starbucks than a shop producing haute pâtisserie.
Mindy won the James Beard for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2012, yet nearly everything about this meal suggest that she’s cashed out or lost interest in her restaurant.
The problems started with our reservation, which despite the fact that the restaurant was half empty was not honored immediately leaving us to wait just outside in drizzling and cold Chicago evening. I could see almost instantly that the hostess team was lacking polish and training, especially after a prime time reservation like ours was given an uncomfortable table facing the window in a corner of the aforementioned half empty dining room. I couldn’t figure out why we were facing the sidewalk, looking at the side of a building rather than the restaurant. I kept vigilant eyes on the floor but noticed no reservations arriving.
I found it hard to find anything interesting on the wine list, which had the residues of an old version of Microsoft Word, featuring annoying margins and inadequate spacing so we elected to try cocktails. Further our server was unable to offer any advice about the selections.
The best thing about the meal was the charming bread service, served warm with a nice herbed butter on the side. The butter was also spreadable, though I doubt this was planned. The butter vessel seemed counterintuitive, but the taste here was delicious.
After a long wait for a server to return for our main order, we were told the kitchen likes to have the complete order all at once. Again I glanced around the room; it did not appear that the demand for our cramped confines would be required again anytime soon. Yet we relented in ordering a few dishes.
The asparagus salad was all effort and no execution. Must of taken some poor prep cook hours to assemble the sadly presented and listless dish that arrived. The flavor here wasn’t bad nor imbalanced, just unremarkable.
The cocktails finally showed up after this first course. I was unable to find a glass of wine appealing or even harmonious with the dishes presented on the all over the map menu.
The domestic abuse that must have occurred behind the bar to produce the battered and disheveled looking mint garnish on my not full / watery cocktail was heartbreaking. Just uninspired all around here.
The plateware was also all over the map, and this agnolotti dish wasn’t warm by the time it arrived. The flavors were muted and lacking a good deal of spice and salt. Further, the pasta was a bit over cooked.
The fish course actually would have showed promise had it be hotter than lukewarm. I immediately glanced at the pass to see if there were heat lamps, wondering if it was our proximity to a frigid window that reduced the temperature of all the dishes to room. I thought I was enjoying it, then I realized that’s just because I was eating the components separately. Hard salami with fish was a first for me.
I generally don’t order much by way of dessert, but I’m easily impressed by it. I was anticipating great things on this menu, but I found a mild obsession with pouring sauces, and excessive amounts of sugar. Can’t really say I liked anything here.
Surely I thought, the hot chocolate here must be fantastic. We ordered two after pushing the deserts around on the plates for a few moments. Kind of like this entire meal they never arrived, and our leisurely server removed them from our check. Next time I’ll order cookies.
I would work at this restaurant for a month if I could. There were flashes of promise here, but a complete lack of direction.