Il Mulino is one of the most highly-regarded restaurant groups in New York, with a world-class reputation largely inspired by the Greenwich Village flagship, a high-end Italian restaurant that’s heavy on the butter and truffles, with stellar food, excellent service, and a classic fine-dining layout, including lace-covered windows that prevent passersby from looking in.
For those who still associate the Il Mulino brand with that rather staid approach, a visit to their newest restaurant, Il Mulino Prime, will completely change your impression of them. The small restaurant, located on one of the most fashionable corners in SoHo, just begs passersby to have a look inside, going so far as to more or less completely open the restaurant up to the outside world. The two corner walls are essentially floor to ceiling windows, and the nearly unornamented walls are painted stark white, drawing all the attention to whoever is sitting in the room. This restaurant is definitely a scene, but that doesn’t mean they place a higher value on anything other than the food.
The Il Mulino name is synonymous with great food, after all, and a recent visit at the invitation of the restaurant didn’t disappoint. The Italian classics are here and as well-prepared as you’d expect, from clams oreganata to beef carpaccio, classic steak tartare, and polenta topped with a fragrant and flavorful beef ragu. There are also several “modern American classics” on the menu, like creamy lobster mac and cheese, short ribs raviolini with butter and sage, veal chop Milanese, and their classic chicken and veal Parmigiana. As for seafood, you can’t go wrong with a whole roasted branzino or an old-school English Dover sole meuniere, one of many classic throwbacks on the menu. If you’re looking for a splurge, their black truffle linguine, loaded with truffles both in and on top of the pasta, is one of the most decadent dishes you’ll ever encounter.
There’s more than enough on the menu for those not interested in steak, but while it may not look the part, this is an undeniably great steakhouse. All steaks are dry-aged for 28 days; bone-in selections include a 16-ounce New York strip, an 18-ounce rib-eye, a 12-ounce filet, a double-cut veal chop, and a 1-kg porterhouse; off-the bone options include a 10-ounce grass-fed filet, a 16-ounce bison ribeye, a 12-ounce American Kobe steak, and probably the most high-end chopped steak in the city right now.
These steaks are nothing short of outrageous. Perfectly seared, you can taste the aging and high quality in every bite, and the giant clove of roasted elephant garlic and grilled lemon on the side are perfect compliments (you can also opt for sauces including Barolo wine sauce and truffle butter, but they’re not entirely necessary). On the side, mashed potatoes are rich and creamy, and mascarpone gives traditional creamed spinach a run for its money.
There’s only one issue that presents itself at Il Mulino Prime: It’s a see-and-be-seen kind of restaurant, but this is the kind of food you want to be all alone with.