Food without memory is just digestion

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Il Mulino - an alien plot?

One wonders, Gentle Reader, what the collective noun might be for a group of waiters (suggestions welcome!). Perhaps a "condescension" or a "scorn" of maitres d', a "distain" or a "sniff" of sommeliers, and certainly a "clatter" of busboys. Maybe an "acquiescence" or an "obeisance" of doormen. But waiters?

A "bustle" of waiters comes to mind for your Humble Correspondent, having recently visited Il Mulino [Map] on Keyakizaka in Roppongi with The Once and Future Blonde. Il Mulino in Tokyo - as this establishment is quaintly and very informatively titled - is operated under license from the famed Manhattan icon and has graced these shores for more than six years. For some obviously dubious reasons which do not come immediately to mind, it had never come to my attention despite the fact that it is located in the adjacent apartment block to one's suitably humble pied-a-terre.

It would only be a slight exaggeration to suggest Il Mulino boasts a battalion of floor staff. Within seconds of being seated, 4 plates of antipasta and a veritable panetteria of breads had been deposited on our table ... none of which had actually been ordered. Truth be told, we were at the point of gently suggesting that they had possibly delivered another table's victuals when two more people popped over with the menu and wine list. Another materialized brandishing a tray of fresh scampi in a slightly threatening yet inviting way, and we nearly broke into applause after the 5 minute "Specials" soliloquy delivered by yet another.

Everything happens at a disconcerting speed. Perhaps this stems from the Pre-Show sitting at the original Il Mulino, but the floor staff are always threatening to break into a trot (but never do) and the dishes are served almost on top of one another. As a habitual (mal)lingerer, Your Humble Correspondent was just a little nonplussed by the whirl of activity.

Make no mistake, Gentle Reader - Il Mulino presents good food and complements that with a stunning wine list (which tends to the expensive side of the price divide). The scampi appetizer was among the best we had ever tasted in many years of service to the dining public. The Florentine soup was amazingly delicate. Our Gavi di Gavi Bava 2007 white wine was flinty and gnawish. The main courses were a little more pedestrian, but this probably had more to do with the speed of delivery than the preparation.

Looking back at the experience, one gets a nagging feeling that Il Mulino may in fact be a terrestrial manifestation of the Borg Collective. Each of the 15 or more floor staff walk but never run, and there is a subtle sub-vocal choreography that defies explanation. The lighting is deliberately low - so low that one needs ocular implants to read the menu. Every member of the team shares all the information about all the guests using some sort of sub-space ether communication not currently known to science.

It is completely obvious to any Star Trek aficionado that they are all cyborgs. Resistance is futile. ... but which one was Seven of Nine?

Il Mulino [Map]: 2F, 6-12-4 Roppongi, Minato-Ku (Keyakizaka). t: 03-5786-0337
Rating: Food: 7; Wine: 7; Service: 8; Ambiance: 5 (too dark); Borginess: 7. Total: 34/50

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