Taste: Reviews: Globe-Tripping
Mimosa in East Goshen has its quirks — hard chairs, long gaps between courses, and a cacophony of flavors in certain dishes, to name a few — but Carla Moret’s desserts transcend all. Plunge a spoon into her potent coffee-based pot de crème, or her peanut-butter mousse cake topped with dark chocolate ganache, or her tangy buttermilk panna cotta speckled with vanilla beans, and you will have reason enough to visit this earnest white-tablecloth BYOB owned by Carla, a talented self-taught baker, and her husband, chef Gilles Moret, who previously headed the kitchen at the Duling-Kurtz House in Exton.
Their restaurant has no affiliation with the bubbly brunch cocktail; “Mimosa” is Gilles Moret’s childhood nickname. Sprays of faux mimosa flowers carry this theme tastefully into the dining room. Persimmon-hued walls, graceful window swags, and framed reproductions of antique French posters bring warmth and charm to the boxy space.
Moret’s ambitious, globe-trotting menu drew me here, but I came away thinking that Mimosa would benefit greatly from a sharper focus. The chef’s irrational exuberance is somewhat understandable — after 20 years of working in American kitchens, many of them in hotels and inns wedded to Continental cuisine, he has plated a mind-numbing number of shrimp cocktails and steaks. But he tries to do too much, incorporating classics from his native France (he was born in Annecy and reared in Paris) while simultaneously sharing his enthusiasm for Spanish, Asian and Mediterranean ingredients. He introduces hybrid dishes, such as a double-decker crabcake “napoleon” in which baked phyllo sheets sandwich a delicious and familiar mixture of crabmeat, celery, diced red bell pepper, mayonnaise and Old Bay. Overall, the results are very mixed.
The best appetizer is flammenkueche, a flat tart that resembles a pizza, with an excellent crisp-chewy crust, diced bacon, caramelized onions and melted gruyère. Its New World counterpart, flour tortilla quesadillas filled with smoked chicken and melted cheddar, is also highly enjoyable. Fried calamari, tender under a neutral cornmeal coating, is compatible with its thick, sweet ginger-tamari dip, as well as the squiggles of sinus-clearing wasabi cream decorating the plate rim. The best entrée is ultra-tender beef tenderloin, butterflied and grilled, served with crimini mushrooms, mashed potatoes, slender green beans, and a green-peppercorn cream sauce that Moret used to pair with duck dishes at other restaurants.
Seared sweetbreads are in good company with mushroom demiglace, chanterelle mushrooms and baby spinach leaves, but the last-minute addition of crisp apple slices is puzzling. Chicken liver mousse has nothing in common with chickpeas seasoned with overpowering amounts of cumin and fresh thyme. In the pork tenderloin entrée, too many strong flavors compete for attention — char from the grill, sun-dried tomato, applewood-smoked bacon and horseradish cream sauce. Thick-cut tuna, seared rare, was ill served by its cloyingly sweet, boozy cranberry-mango-bourbon sauce. Oversalted brussels sprouts, over-browned pine nuts in a pasta dish, overcooked mussels and langoustine in the paella, and watery polenta appeared to be the result of human error.
Coffee and tea refills were hard to come by, except on one occasion, when the bill was delivered before I could even order coffee. On another visit, a dinner roll languished so long on the table that it remained even after we were buttoned into our coats and heading out the door.
Still, the early $21 prix fixe, served from 5 to 6:30 p.m., is an exceptional value if you choose wisely. Begin with the spring mix salad with crumbled local goat cheese, enoki mushrooms, chopped egg, toasted almonds and orange-champagne vinaigrette. Follow it with grilled sushi-grade tuna, asking the kitchen to omit the cranberry-mango-bourbon glaze. Then choose any dessert with confidence, because the only way to go wrong is to deny yourself the best that Mimosa has to offer.