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Irving Mill

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Irving Mill seems to be flaunting the genes of Gramercy Tavern in the autumn-farm-stand pumpkin display at the door, the vintage touches of its vast tavernlike space, and that familiar genteel and friendly style of service. Waiters in suspenders look vintage. Bare wooden tables have been sliced and gouged for an unconvincing veneer of age. What’s new and exciting is chef-partner John Schaefer’s delicious food on a trim but tempting market menu: The citric, preserved-lemon sparkle of grilled baby octopus with shaved fennel and sweet-pepper caponata. His lush and savory New Zealand cockle stew with chorizo, mustard greens, and roasted tomatoes. The reasonably rare arctic char under a crisp of skin, riding atop an intriguing toss of lentils, Savoy cabbage, speck, and cipollini onions roasted in red wine. Pleasantly surprised, I don’t find myself thinking, Oh, yes, Tom Colicchio, even though Schaefer did twelve years at Gramercy, rising to executive chef, reeling in honors from Zagat, Michelin, and the Beard Foundation. Tonight we’re at a friends-and-family tasting, but the flubs seem minor: The char could be rarer; the pork chop tricked out with red cabbage and toasted spaetzle could be juicier. The place is double-staffed and some are oversolicitous. Colleen Grapes (perfect name for a pastry chef) avoids cliché. Black-currant-tea chocolate mousse is a first for me. And I love her sweet zucchini bread with orange sorbet, marmalade, and toffeed walnuts.

Irving Mill
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116 E. 16th St., nr. Irving Pl.; 212-254-1600


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