This past Friday I met a friend at The Mulberry Project. I haven’t been to Little Italy in a while. But the combined enticements of checking out a new speakeasy, drinking custom-crafted gin cocktails, and sampling from an inventive menu had me searching the place out.
And when I say “searching the place out” I really mean it. There’s no signage. No announcement, “hey, come in here!” (which is odd for Little Italy, as many waiters stand outside their restaurants and bars trying to encourage people to come inside). Finally, after skulking mysteriously outside what I thought was the location, I broke out the ol’ iPhone and Googled to see if any previous patrons left hints as to where/how to get inside. I found some basic but helpful instructions (“look for the green light”) and made my way toward the bar inside.
The underground lair is a long, narrow space with the bar on the right side and small tufted-couch booths on the left. The bar has bright red stools tucked under an inventive, peg-board style steel counter top behind which a pair of tall, lanky and ingenious tenders await my beverage requests.
Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to what I requested? Gin, of course. My first drink (pictured above) was a very light, fruity and slightly fizzy concoction. Waaaaay too easy to drink. By which I mean it was excellent. By the time my friend and my second drink arrived (a deeper drink featuring Bols Genever gin…something to sip, with a little infusion of orange peel) it was time for some food.
First up: Sweet Potato French Fries. Those of you who read this post are familiar with my affinity for sweet tater fries. Love ’em. So much I would eat them every day. Mulberry Project’s version were a balanced salty/sweet with a slight crispiness along the squared edges. Two added bonuses: delicately fried parsley leaves topped the squishier fries, and a pool of chipotle aioli was waiting in the wings for dipping purposes. We destroyed these fries.
Then we went straight for meat: with Steak Tartare and Lamb Bacon.
I happen to like eating globs of raw meat. And please don’t misunderstand, my use of the term “glob” is very positive. These fresh chunks of filet mignon were rolled around with shallots, capers and topped with a quail egg hat, resulting in a gooey, tangy and salty masterpiece. We even fought over the quail egg. A little.
So then we had some more gin (this one had ginger and some kind of floaty herb – it was my favorite drink of the evening).
And then we had the Lamb Bacon.
The thickly cut bacon was arranged into small square towers, like tiny slices of meat lasagna. In the middle, like the fountain at the Piazza Navona, was a refreshing pile of cucumber and caper topped with – can anyone guess? – a FRIED EGG!
I have already sung the praises of fried pickles (you should ALWAYS fry a pickle). I even made some of my own. Now I must move on to eggs. Lightly breaded, and still slightly soft in the center, this little gem was large enough to split (lucky for my friend). However, I would have had no problem eating the whole thing by myself.
Clean and tidy with black subway tiles and spacious mirrors, the bathroom was understated and modern. And accentuated by some very interesting art. Obviously the guy in the photo did NOT have the masterful gin drinks that I enjoyed. And does anyone have any thoughts on those polka-dotted pants? Because I may need some.
Take a stroll down Mulberry to find the Project. Walk toward the green light. And then get yourself some gin. And fries. And Lamb Bacon…
Oh yeah, and the chef’s nickname is “Kiwi”…
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