The recommendations to check out Mingle on Delaware avenue (544 Delaware Ave, right next door to All Good Bakers) have been plentiful. When I tell you dozens of people have urged me to check it out, I’m not exaggerating. I was additionally intrigued when I learned that they work hard to source locally to be farm-to-table.
When I browsed the menu at home, I couldn’t quite seem to lock onto any main dish I wanted to try. The menu has a wide variety of main dishes to select from, so I figured I’d see what I was in the mood for when I arrived. I did decide that I wanted to try the Roasted Jerk Wings (Jumbo chicken wings, roasted and then broiled, tossed in a sweet and spicy combination of fresh jalapeno peppers and our specialty jerk sauce. Served with carrots, celery and our house-made Creamy Blue Cheese $11/6) and the Korean Tacos (Two corn tortillas filled with your choice of marinated beef or chicken tossed in gochujang and stuffed with our apple-radish kimchi, Napa cabbage, scallions and Chef’s spicy yogurt sauce $10). I was happy there was a small portion of the wings available, because I really wanted to try both appetizers and not order an obscene amount of food.
The interior of the restaurant is very nice. It is warm and inviting. Although it occupies the same space as the dreadful Wine-N-Diner, the feeling inside is completely different.
Our server started out extremely enthusiastic and eager to answer some questions I had about the menu. He quickly ran through the specials, one of which caught my attention, Meat Lover’s Bokkum – sesame and soy marinated beef & chicken along with pork belly sauteed with Chef’s house-made kimchi & spicy gochujang, served with sticky rice and chilled “namools,” which I found out was a seaweed salad. The price he cited for this was $25. This was the dinner I decided on, but I needed to have the server explain the dish to me again because he was so fast the first time.
They brought some surprisingly cheapo chopsticks to the table for us to use to eat our dinners.
Cassie ordered their house special alcoholic strawberry basil lemonade, which I tasted. It was somewhat bright and refreshing, but the flavor of the basil was lost between the lemoncello and strawberry rum.
My appetizers arrived.
The Korean tacos were decent. What was inside was outstanding. The beef was tender and flavorful, and the cabbage and apple-radish kimchi brought some crunch, freshness, and acidity. The yogurt sauce rounded out the filling and brought some creaminess, tang, and spice. And I loved the gochujang, which added some additional heat and flavor. The corn tortillas were dry, brittle, and flavorless, and it’s a shame because they really detracted from the excellent ingredients inside. $10 was a little steep for this, in my opinion.
The roasted jerk wings that were brought to the table created a confusion and situation that pretty much ruined the entire experience for me. When the runner dropped these at the table, I quickly called our waiter over and asked if what was delivered was indeed the smaller order. The first thing out of his mouth was, “that size is only available at the bar,” and I quickly responded that that is stated nowhere in the menu. After he walked away to check that and seeing that I was right, he came back and told me he didn’t hear me. Then, he told me, “it’s alright; if you don’t finish, we can just pack it up and you can take them.” I very honestly told him that it wasn’t the matter of having too much food, it was that I didn’t want to pay for the large order; I wanted to receive and pay for what I ordered. Rather than take the dish away from the table, walk to the back, spill half of the wings onto another plate, and walk it back out and rather than just crediting me the difference between the two orders, his response was that I could take the leftovers home.
Probably noticing that my demeanor had turned, moments later, he returned to the table and said, “Can I buy you a drink or something? I feel really horrible about this.” I didn’t want a drink; I wanted to receive and pay for what I ordered. If I wanted a drink, I would have ordered a drink. I think there was already enough volume of stuff at the table including the additional wings I didn’t order. Getting a drink on top of getting more than I ordered seemed ridiculous to me. I declined with a “no, thank you” and didn’t push the matter any further because Cassie was embarrassed by the situation. It’s not like the guy had an argumentative tone. He was just extremely defensive, frazzled, and not at all helpful.
What I should have done was ask to speak to the manager and explain that I ordered the small, they brought out the large, and that the server wouldn’t correct the problem. I should also have stressed the fact that the server put me to blame with the two absurd excuses he gave. Not doing that was the mistake I made. In the end, although she doesn’t like spicy food, Cassie helped me finish the wings, and I paid for the full order. I maintain that I shouldn’t have had to pay for the server’s mistake.
As far as how they tasted, the flavors and spice were interesting, but the texture of the wings was unenjoyable. The skin on the wings was gummy and sticky, and the meat was dry and gritty.
Our main dishes arrived. Based on the neat presentation of the appetizers, I was a little surprised that mine was just plopped on the plate.
The rice was surprisingly bland. I thought there would be some fragrance and/or additional flavor because of the theme of the restaurant. This is not to say it was bad; it just tasted in line with plain white rice from a decent Chinese restaurant.
The namools was interesting. There were fresh shredded carrots and sliced onion along with the seaweed. Everything was bound together in a light pickle with very subtle sweetness and tang. I didn’t think it was particularly great, but it helped to break up the bites of the main dish.
The flavors in the meat lovers bokkum were intense. The pieces of chicken and beef on the surface were tender, perfectly seasoned, and delicious. I think I found one thin slice of pork belly in the whole pile, and it also tasted nice. The gochujang lifted the intensity of the flavors, and the spice and tang of the kimchi also helped with this but the kimchi seemed to form the base of the flavor. I couldn’t really tell what all of the vegetables I was eating in this dish were. I isolated a slab of a vegetable I wanted to learn the identity of, and the server was infinitely useless to help identify this. I asked what vegetables were part of the dish before showing it to him, and he said “kimchi.” I further probed and asked, “ok, so what’s in the kimchi?” and his response was “ohh, there are five or six different types of kimchi.”
So I pointed to the specific vegetable and said, “ok, so what’s this?” and his response was “if I had to guess, I’d say it was cabbage.”
Then he offered to check with the kitchen, and I declined because my interest was completely gone. The guy going into the kitchen and asking shouldn’t have been up to me at that point, anyway. What if I were concerned because of an allergy?
The bok choy in the kimchi was vibrant and had great crunch. Whatever this other vegetable was (and if I had to guess, I’d say it was a squash or zucchini)… Anyway, Whatever it was it had an interesting texture. It was soft and chewy. Unfortunately, since the vegetables are pickled with so much chile and spices, it was really difficult for me to discern what this was.
Also, because of the way the dish was plated and because it was brought to the table piping hot, even after eating away from it for a while, the bits in the center remained extremely hot, and the meat that was left in the center wound up drying out from the carryover heat. I very much enjoyed the intensity of the flavors and the balance of textures in this dish, but it was far from perfect.
Our bill came to $94.50, and, even though the service was abhorrent, I left a modest tip at the lower end of what I would normally tip. Since the server was so eager to buy me a drink, I should have deducted the difference between the large and small jerk wings from his tip and made a note of this on the receipt. But I didn’t.
I do think I spent far too much for the food and experience I encountered. It’s certainly an interesting place that has some thoughtful dishes and flavors to explore, but the service has a large gap to fill to justify the prices.