The Mildred

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 20 | Posted Oct. 11, 2012

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Photo by Greg Bezanis

Philly’s dining scene must be enjoying a robust health. Two South Philly places recently opened, and I could not wait to see what types of cuisine they had in store for those of us who crave something new and unique.

Bella Vista’s The Mildred once housed Michael’s, a red gravy restaurant, which morphed into James, a fine dining place with high prices.

The Mildred has a handsome, cozy look and atmosphere. There is an exposed brick wall with a fireplace in one of the dining rooms where the lighting could’ve been a bit brighter, but the acoustics were excellent. The interior was decorated with highly polished hardwood floors and wood tables set with linen napkins. The banquette was quite comfortable.

I had great difficulty reading the menu. The font was too delicate and the description was printed in an ink so light the waiter had to explain dishes to me.

Several waiters took fine care of us. Edward sipped a martini ($11) while our server recommended a glass of a bold, grassy sauvignon blanc from New Zealand ($12) to enhance my pasta appetizer.

We received a large loaf of sourdough bread that was piping hot from the oven and outrageously delicious.

“We bake our bread here,” a server said. “Must be the South Philly air.”

I began dinner with chitarra with cockles ($10) while Edward ordered the roasted squid salad ($8). A chitarra is a wooden box fitted with what appears to be guitar strings on which fresh pasta is placed, resulting in long strands. It was made with semolina flour, tossed with bits of pancetta and topped with five tiny black cockles. The meat from the clams was the size of a newborn’s fingernail and the course lacked a vibrancy. I found the dish a bit salty and the pasta could have been hotter.

We liked the roasted squid because it imparted a marvelous, smoky flavor. The play of warm squid to cool salad greens, particularly the thinly-sliced radishes, worked well here, but the appetizer portions were too small.

Whenever I see quail on a menu after autumn arrives, I always order it. The Mildred’s version ($24) rated good marks because the two little birds arrived juicy and succulent, and the breast bones were removed for easy eating. They were stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and veal that I thought was too bland, and the crispy skin was a little salty, but the pool of lentils improved the taste.

The hanger steak ($22) arrived medium-rare, tasty and juicy. I think it is visually appealing when a chef serves sliced hanger or skirt steak. Although we enjoyed the beef, the star of the dish was the potato galette. Thinly-sliced potatoes were placed in a concentric circle, seasoned with salt, pepper and butter and baked in the oven. Both dishes needed a vegetable to round out the entrées.

Our waiter advised a glass of San Martino SiiR, ($10) a rich, deep garnet red wine from Italy, to top off the quail. Edward sipped a glass of Cascina Bruni Barbera ($9) that was lighter but fared just as well.

A gentleman accidentally removed Edward’s wine glass even thought there was some left. He apologized and brought out two servings of homemade vanilla ice cream. The texture was more like gelato and rich in vanilla bean flavor.

The tarte tatin for two ($12) was more like a homemade pie crust filled with tart apple chunks and topped with butter, Calvados and sugar. It was not properly caramelized but no matter. It was tasty, obviously homemade and arrived with more delicious vanilla ice cream.

Although The Mildred only has been open for a month, word is out that there is a new fine dining French/American restaurant in Bella Vista because the restaurant was pretty busy for a weekday evening, especially during Restaurant Week.

Three tips of the toque to The Mildred.

The Mildred

824 S. Eight St.

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Comments 1 - 20 of 20
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1. Angela said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 08:24AM

“Thank you Phyllis for reviewing an establishment in South Philly.”

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2. Blanche said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 01:55PM

“So what gives: we get "tips of the toque" explained one week and shrouded back in mystery the next?

If it's so hard to include a toque-key, why not just say "Three out of four tips of the toque to..."”

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3. Edward said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 02:03PM

“The next guy who walks away with a drink of mine gets a corkscrew up his nose. Har Har!”

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4. Kate Donegan said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 05:52PM

“As regards Ms. Stein - Nowack's review of The Mildred: First of all, the cheap shot at James - a James Beard award winning restaurant with food from one of the finest young chefs in the country showed nastiness or ignorance or both. James was among the earliest and best "Farm to Table" spots in Philly. That does not mean cheap food; it does mean fresh, seasonal, local, delicious food. Jim Burke's ability with Northern Italian cuisine is second to none. The made from scratch, house cocktails also helped to make James a destination spot. Secondly, you give The Mildred 3 toques - and you criticize just about everything about your meal there from the beginning of your review. What gives? And, lastly, who reviews anything during the abysmal food hell that is Restaurant Week? The Review serves an area with some astounding restaurants. The reviews should at least keep up!”

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5. Wilson Ballinger said... on Oct 12, 2012 at 08:54AM

“Kate, what gives with YOU? You give your name but no clarification on your relationship to James, which seems obvious. You don't deny that James had high prices and yet call it a "cheap shot" to say so. You say the review criticized everything about the meal, which is patently untrue. Read it again. There are lots of positives (handsome, cozy, comfortable, fine care, piping hot, outrageously delicious, marvelous smoky flavor, worked well here, rated good marks, juicy and succulent, tasty and juicy, visually appealing, tasty, obviously homemade, delicious...). And Restaurant Week is abysmal food hell? Maybe for the dishwashers, but as a customer I have had nothing but delicious sensibly-priced meals at participating restaurants.”

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6. Blanche said... on Oct 12, 2012 at 09:05AM

“Hooray, the toque chart is back! A restaurant in South Philly! Is the living good in here or what...

P.S. Who the hell is Kate Donegan?”

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7. sorianna said... on Oct 12, 2012 at 03:12PM

“Another new South Philly restaurant to add to the review list: Tashan (Indian food) at 777 S. Broad St. I'm not at all connected to it nor do I care about it's financial success. But since it's in a new Dranoff construction, the rent's probably sky high and the dining pricey, so I'd love to have a reviewer precede me there.

Indian food is good, spicy, and cheap. I get the impression Phyllis isn't too familiar with it, but that's OK. Nothing like a pair of fresh eyes.”

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8. Kate said... on Oct 13, 2012 at 03:40PM

“Geez! Hostility! Should have expected it - South Philly Review and all. I'm a trained cook, a food writer, a psychologist, I live in Queen Village. Just really liked James, and thought it was a cheap shot to mention it that way - and Wilson, using cheap shot as a literary allusion didn't relate to the prices at the former James. Hello?!? And, I'll stand by my statement that Restaurant Week is generally bad food, but it is cheap. You all just seem so grateful for the review of a "south philly" restaurant! She does that, poorly, a lot. She doesn't seem to know how to use her ratings/toques. You are all very funny! Bon Appetit!”

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9. Nicholas said... on Oct 13, 2012 at 08:22PM

“a big yawn to ballinger for sticking up for Ms. Stein-Novack, a third rate writer. Big ups to Kate for knowing a gem when she sees it. The Mildred is pretty good, James was especially awesome, and restaurant week is tumor inducing. On a different note, why are we or any of us actually reading anything that Phyllis Stein-Novack has written. Her mind numbing and banal ramblings have bored a hole in my psyche for the last time. Goodbye, South Philly Review. I will see you again when I need to light my grill next summer. Free kindling is good kindling, afterall.”

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10. Wilson Ballinger said... on Oct 15, 2012 at 12:02PM

“Kate, reread the ONLY sentence in the column that refers to James:
"Bella Vista’s The Mildred once housed Michael’s, a red gravy restaurant, which morphed into James, a fine dining place with high prices."

Unless you missed the morphing clause which distinctly says James was a FINE dining place, then your Cheap Shot can only refer to "high prices". If it didn't, you can't say there was a "cheap shot at James" (your words). There's no literary allusion here, only literary delusion.”

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11. sara said... on Oct 15, 2012 at 12:36PM

“I'm not sure we should be bashing each other. We all love food. Let's just enjoy! I don't understand the brouhaha over James. Any good food writer will mention if a restaurant was preceded by another at it's location. And I thought both Mildred and James were mentioned positively!”

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12. Anonymous said... on Oct 15, 2012 at 09:28PM

“It's a class war, sara. Kate & Nick appear to be children of privilege, which means they have never strayed south of South Street, never learned to write properly despite excessive tuition gifts from their parents, are gay, are saving the planet, have no idea what the infield fly rule is, and of course are getting an expensive iPhone 5...can't miss a call from their organic farmer (who laughs at them behind their backs).”

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13. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2012 at 10:19AM

“Just went for dinner at The Mildred this weekend. Delicious! A welcome addition to the neighborhood!”

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14. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2012 at 01:57PM

“I have to admit, i was a little surprised when i got to the end of the review and saw the restaurant got 3 tips of the toque...based on what Phylis wrote, i was expecting no more than 2 tips. I also don't quite understand reviewing restaurants within the first couple of weeks they open (Phyllis reviewed Rex 1516 the first week it was open)...isn't it better to give them a chance to work out some kinks? There are plenty of restaurants to review in South Philly - can i put in a request to only review restaurants that have been open at least two - three months?”

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15. Wilson said... on Oct 16, 2012 at 02:57PM

“Anonymous #14: When you got to the end of the review you had read these positives: handsome, cozy, comfortable, fine care, piping hot, outrageously delicious, marvelous smoky flavor, worked well here, rated good marks, juicy and succulent, tasty and juicy, visually appealing, tasty, obviously homemade, delicious. According to the spiffy new rating chart two toques is "fair". Hello?!?”

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16. Kate said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 03:06PM

“I so agree Sara. Thanks. It's a shame but there's a lot of hostility out there - some of it so misplaced!
To "Anonymous" - brave of you to adopt that handle by the way:

I grew up in the Hunting Park area of Philly; I have lived here all of my life, I've been south of south a great deal actually. My parents never paid a cent for my education. I put myself though college and graduate school working as a short order cook and in social services. I know exactly what the infield fly rule is - Dad taught us well. I don't have an I phone 5. I am in private practice and my office is in my home. I shop almost exclusively for fresh, local, seasonal food - however my "organic farmer" doesn't call me. You are correct. I am gay. My partner and I have been together for over 20 years. I am not sure what that had to do with your criticism, but as a psychologist, I can direct you to some folks who may be able to help you with anger management. I'm sure Mildred is great. We look forward to it”

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17. Anonymous said... on Oct 20, 2012 at 04:29PM

“Honestly I am not the best writer so any criticism of writing style is pointless.
Regarding the substance of the disagreement.
Kate your initial comment clearly reflects bias. James was an average restaurant and was expensive. There was nothing unique about the food. Most of it was a derivative of the same style of food that was served at Vetri where James Burke worked previously. Assuming we are to use the meaningless phrase "farm to table", James was not even a produce driven restaurant. The menu was full of cliches and was hokey. They even had a dish named after the chef's wife "risotto a la Kristina". It was utterly overrated. The owners left Philly to go work for Stephen Starr in New York. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.”

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18. Kate said... on Oct 24, 2012 at 12:58PM

“Well, anonymous, we just have a disagreement. We loved James and went for every occasion. We also love Vetri - although hardly make a regular stop! We've known Marc and Jeff Benjamin since the first week's they were opened; we literally happened in and ended up sitting picking out linens with them after closing over a lot of grappa! I believe that the James Beard award for James was warranted; and we both love - and have learned to make - Risotto Kristina". Actually in the small places we love when we travel in Italy, naming dishes isn't that weird. We enjoyed many a Farm to Table dinner there over the years attended by many of the producers they worked with. What can I say? It was a nice addition to the restaurant scene in Philly - in my humble opinion. But, hey, that's why there's 26 flavors and HoJo, right? Nice sparring with you anonymous.”

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19. Mildred said... on Oct 27, 2012 at 11:59AM

“Kate the fact that you use the term "farm to table" makes you sound like just another clueless food groupie. The East Coast of the USA is not Italy. In this country naming dishes after your wife in a restaurant that is supposed to be elegant and flavor driven IS weird. Even if we disagree with that the actual dish "Risotto alla Kristina" is a useless flavorless dish that is only known because it was named after someone. It was basically risotto cooked with WATER and then finished with Japanese oysters (in an Italian restaurant).
Seriously risotto cooked with H2O. You have got to be kidding or are clearly shilling. The dish is completely laughable.”

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20. Anonymous said... on Dec 9, 2012 at 01:23PM

“Mildred? Will you be going to The Mildred?”


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