December 2, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
Now It’s The Milling Room
I remember when Robert Quinlan did his first rehab on Columbus Avenue and later, The Endicott.
A parade of chefs coming and going have drawn me to the Milling Room on Columbus Avenue since it opened in November 2014 with its arched vault framing the sky and warm oak echoing terra-cotta tile. But none of the recent pot-stirrers have been especially memorable or even close to the thrills of its starry launch at the DDL Foodshow in December 1982. (Click here to read my report of that $3.5 million circus of gastronomia with Dino Dilaurentiis himself handing out bread samples on opening day.)
It was fun reading my piece on Dino’s Foodshow and recalling Murray Klein’s unique charm.
Limousines were double-parked along Columbus Avenue, Ed Koch was there. James Beard. Perry Ellis. Even Zabar’s Big Cheese, Murray Klein got a preview tour of the 5000 square foot kitchen. "Of course I went there,” Murray reports. “Didn't I read Mein Kampf? I'm a Jew. Hitler is my enemy. I should know what he's doing. Not that Dino is my enemy. It's the best thing that could happen to Zabar's.”
“The pushing here makes people want to buy. At Dino's it's 'Don't touch me, I'm too beautiful.'" Dino tried to hire him, Klein confides. “On a Saturday he came to Zabar's. I should take time to talk on a Saturday?" asks Murray, flamboozled. "I said, 'Buy Zabar's and you can have me.'"
I usually get to the Milling Room each time they hire a new chef.
Dino’s Foodshow was a glamorous interlude in what had originally been built in 1890 as the Endicott Hotel. It opened as the Milling Room in November 2014. Executive chef Phillip Kirschen Clark moved into the kitchen in 2018, creating the current menu and launching the new lunch last June.
I’m not the first to discover the talents of chef Phillip Kitschen Clark. The room is full.
I can’t remember the last time I ate here, but on this recent November evening I’m with a friend who’s just come back to town from falling in love in Canada. Both of us are impressed by the silkiness of his pan-roasted salmon with a tangy confit of tomato, fava beans and pomegranate vinaigrette.
It’s true, I loathe kale. But I hoped it would be less offensive in a Caesar salad.
The olive-oil poached pear and fig salad with stracciatella, pomegranate and arugula.
We’ve shared the fall market salad with baby lettuce, roasted beet, sliced radishes and apples in a pear vinaigrette and the unusually tender grilled octopus with coco beans, arugula, Serrano pepper and a classic sofrito of sweet peppers.
On Women’s Night Out, we shared the rigatoni with veal Bolognese and a touch of gremolata.
I chose cavatelli cacio e pepe as my main course, but I actually like the super crisp fingerling potatoes with aioli even more. I’m in carbonara heaven.
The Milling Room’s tuna tartare comes with avocado, watermelon and shiso in a ginger vinaigrette.
I return two weeks later in a quartet of women seated in the far corner sipping martinis and cool Sancerre wine. I suggest we start with the fig and pear salad, tuna tartare and a kale Caesar. “I thought you hate kale,” my niece Dana observes.
We’re excited to see these caramelized little bay scallops with cauliflower nubbins in a citrus vinaigrette.
“But I like the idea of kale in a Caesar,” I say. Maybe the corner seclusion is not such a great idea. We have to shanghai a server to clear our dishes and then it seems a long while with nothing but a few crusts of bread before she finally returns with rigatoni veal Bolognese and our caramelized bay scallops tossed with cauliflower bits, and celtuce in a citrus vinaigrette.
The 60-day dry-aged strip loin is rare and chewy, meaty and delicious. My pals urge me to take the leftovers.
We take turns carving savory chunks of the dry-aged sirloin with kale, sprouts, eggplant, pine nut caponata and smoked potato chunks. But the pasta is filling and so are the scallops. My friends insist I take the leftover steak home for lunch.
Not everyone wants dessert but Belle and I are happy with the berry vacherin and raspberry gelato.
Belle and I pluck the ripe summer berries from the vacherin of Swiss meringue with gelato. Then Belle and Diane decide they must have an after-dinner cocktail, a Brandy Alexander. It comes with two short straws for sipping.
Given assorted cocktails, entrees priced from $29 for salmon to $39 for branzino or steak, dinner amounts to $80 a person including tip. We slip out of our corner through the domed dining room under the skylight past the antique wagon wheel and the lively action in the Tavern. Dinner is served there too. I wonder if I can still fall in love.
446 Columbus Avenue between 82nd and 81st streets. 212 595 0380. Open daily from 5 pm to 11 pm. Happy Hour in the Tavern only Monday through Sunday 5 pm to 7pm. Specialty cocktails $7. Wines by the glass $7. Beer $5.
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