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Mirabelle, the Return of James Beard Winning Chef Frank Ruta and Pastry Chef Aggie Chin at 16th and I Street Downtown

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franch   

went for lunch. didn't take pics, sorry.

i had the Tasmanian Sea Trout ($17) to start. i'm a sucker for raw or smoked fish, and this was no exception. the blood orange complimented the smoked fish perfectly. my dining companion has a decadent-looking chicken and foie gras boudin blanc ($18) and he praised it highly.

i moved on to the famous Belleburger ($28), which i was asked if i wanted it "wet or dry." it was explained that it's a french onion soup inspired burger and "wet" basically included onion soup on top. i chose wet. it was absolutely delicious. it was also absurdly messy. i cut it into little pizza-sized wedges to save some sort of dignity. but it was delicious -- the only other "french onion soup" like burger i have had was at Minetta Tavern in NYC, and i'd take this one in a second. dining companion had the lamb salad ($27). he said it was very good. there was a large amount of lamb on it -- it could have easily been rearranged as a lamb entree (particularly at lunch) with a large side salad and no one would have noticed. too full of onion broth and lamb to continue to dessert. excited for summer intern season, this is easily going to replace BLT as my go-to lunch with summer interns!

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zgast   

Had my evening at Mirabelle last week.  In summary, it was a wonderful evening with great service and truly delicious food.  My only complaint is that without hailing the bread plate a couple extra times, my and my dining companion would have left hungry - after eating our way through the tasting menu.  I totally get the quality over quantity concept, but this was a tad too far.  Just a couple extra bites in the early dishes and I wouldn't have raised it at all.  Still, I left very happy with the meal, but offer this only as a caveat to those thinking they need to skip lunch before the tasting menu.

Here were the dishes (no photos, sorry):

Tasmanian Sea Trout - You're hearing about this dish a lot because it's really great.  A slice of the trout was wrapped around greens and creme fraiche with a fried dauphine potato side topped with more of the creme fraiche.  Both were excellent bites.  The latter made me want to order the fried goodness from Palena Cafe just one more time.

Tart w/ White Asparagus - This was a bit of a deconstructed dish as the asparagus was separate and between layers of the separately baked tart. I'm not a huge fan of white asparagus, but really liked the dish.  What made it standout was the green almond oil on the bottom. Bottle that stuff - I'm a buyer.

Turbot - This was presented with two fried mussels, Sauce Americaine, mushrooms and a sauce/custard in an egg.  To be honest, I started the dish was just ok until I figured out that one needs to use the contents of the egg with the rest of the dish, which raised it to a whole different level.  What was it? Who knows - it was green and delectable.  Also to note - the Burgundy that was paired with this course was really wonderful. If there was one wine to go back to, I would choose this one.  Saint-Aubin 1er cru, 2011 for reference.

Duck Breast - Was served with a nettle and mint emulsion, pickled green strawberries, and glazed vegetables.  The most substantial plate of the evening and another winning dish. 

Willoughby Cheese Course - Twas cheese, gooey, stinky cheese.  Heaven.

Snickeresque Souffle - A semifreddo roll accompanying a dark chocolate souffle onto which a peanut butter caramel sauce was poured.  You're not going for subtle with Snickers as your model, but this dish was really great, in my view.  Really enjoyed the desert fortified wine they poured with this one as well - was a Grenache from the southwest of France that drank like a port (which they were shooting for, but will only feature wines with French grapes). This course also featured what made the service so wonderful throughout our dinner.  We lingered a bit too long on the cheese course and noticed two waiters walking past our table carrying deserts - an odd fact since based on our placement they really only could have been coming to our table.  The lead waiter had noticed that a few dishes hadn't been cleared, silently led her partner past our table, informed the hostess who sent over runners to the table to clear, then continued their loop back to the table as soon as it was clear.  Probably a mistake on their end to have come out before the table was clear, but the level of training implicit in the way they handled it was impressive.  At almost any other table in the restaurant I'm certain it would have gone entirely unnoticed.

We finished with some of the usual candies - all enjoyed at our table.

A great meal for us.  Would definitely go back, although I might opt for an appetizer and entree rather than the tasting menu next time.  The foie gras in consomme, in particular, is calling out to me to try.

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Pool Boy   
20 hours ago, zgast said:

Had my evening at Mirabelle last week.  In summary, it was a wonderful evening with great service and truly delicious food.  My only complaint is that without hailing the bread plate a couple extra times, my and my dining companion would have left hungry - after eating our way through the tasting menu.  I totally get the quality over quantity concept, but this was a tad too far.  Just a couple extra bites in the early dishes and I wouldn't have raised it at all.  Still, I left very happy with the meal, but offer this only as a caveat to those thinking they need to skip lunch before the tasting menu.

Here were the dishes (no photos, sorry):

Tasmanian Sea Trout - You're hearing about this dish a lot because it's really great.  A slice of the trout was wrapped around greens and creme fraiche with a fried dauphine potato side topped with more of the creme fraiche.  Both were excellent bites.  The latter made me want to order the fried goodness from Palena Cafe just one more time.

Tart w/ White Asparagus - This was a bit of a deconstructed dish as the asparagus was separate and between layers of the separately baked tart. I'm not a huge fan of white asparagus, but really liked the dish.  What made it standout was the green almond oil on the bottom. Bottle that stuff - I'm a buyer.

Turbot - This was presented with two fried mussels, Sauce Americaine, mushrooms and a sauce/custard in an egg.  To be honest, I started the dish was just ok until I figured out that one needs to use the contents of the egg with the rest of the dish, which raised it to a whole different level.  What was it? Who knows - it was green and delectable.  Also to note - the Burgundy that was paired with this course was really wonderful. If there was one wine to go back to, I would choose this one.  Saint-Aubin 1er cru, 2011 for reference.

Duck Breast - Was served with a nettle and mint emulsion, pickled green strawberries, and glazed vegetables.  The most substantial plate of the evening and another winning dish. 

Willoughby Cheese Course - Twas cheese, gooey, stinky cheese.  Heaven.

Snickeresque Souffle - A semifreddo roll accompanying a dark chocolate souffle onto which a peanut butter caramel sauce was poured.  You're not going for subtle with Snickers as your model, but this dish was really great, in my view.  Really enjoyed the desert fortified wine they poured with this one as well - was a Grenache from the southwest of France that drank like a port (which they were shooting for, but will only feature wines with French grapes). This course also featured what made the service so wonderful throughout our dinner.  We lingered a bit too long on the cheese course and noticed two waiters walking past our table carrying deserts - an odd fact since based on our placement they really only could have been coming to our table.  The lead waiter had noticed that a few dishes hadn't been cleared, silently led her partner past our table, informed the hostess who sent over runners to the table to clear, then continued their loop back to the table as soon as it was clear.  Probably a mistake on their end to have come out before the table was clear, but the level of training implicit in the way they handled it was impressive.  At almost any other table in the restaurant I'm certain it would have gone entirely unnoticed.

We finished with some of the usual candies - all enjoyed at our table.

A great meal for us.  Would definitely go back, although I might opt for an appetizer and entree rather than the tasting menu next time.  The foie gras in consomme, in particular, is calling out to me to try.

IMHO, the 'easter egg' to Frank's food is that, while all of the components are typically excellent and delicious, the assembly of some or ideally all component parts of the dish on a fork is what makes things he does truly exceptional.

Oh and order that consomme. Next time I am seriously considering ordering a double portion.

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Mirabelle is not a type of place I would typically go to, but after reading this reviews, I figured I'd give it a try.

We ate at the bar, and it was really a beautiful place. I had called the day before, and talked to a lovely woman named Brenda who said to call on the day of to remind her to hold a high top for us when we were on our way. They had a hightop for us, but at the time we got there (6:20ish), it wasn't all that busy, but may be worthwhile to call ahead. 

For starters we had the tartare (well, she had this, I don't eat beef) that came with a poached egg (I think they poach it in a mushroom broth) and razor clams. She said it was awesome. I had some of the egg and the razor clam. Delish. So pretty to look at. I got the lobster, and it was simply cooked with a fennel foam. I enjoyed this a lot. I thought the texture of the lobster was great, not chewy. 

I think if you sit at the bar, you don't get bread service unless you request it. Request it! The butter and bread are fan-freaking-tastic.

So, this is interesting... the tartare is $18 and is quite a portion - in fact, since we didn't share it, she got a bit full. So, we asked the server (who was new, and very attentive) should we get a full entree or split one? He said the lamb was fantastic and definitely split it if we were eating dessert. It was lamb saddle and came with delicious spring vegetables. Again, as the other dishes, plated very pretty. But, it was very small. I think less overall meat than the tartare, but it was $36. 

We shared a strawberry tart and a chocolate something or other that were beautiful to look at it, and tasty to eat. 

With 2 cocktails each, we spent under $200 with tax and tip, which isn't bad, but I was a little hungry afterwards. 

I'd go back, but it's overall too fancy for a guy like me. I like places with waiters/waitresses that have tattoos, wear t-shirts and say "stoked" a lot. 

 

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Pool Boy   
On 5/16/2017 at 8:51 AM, Simul Parikh said:

Mirabelle is not a type of place I would typically go to, but after reading this reviews, I figured I'd give it a try.

We ate at the bar, and it was really a beautiful place. I had called the day before, and talked to a lovely woman named Brenda who said to call on the day of to remind her to hold a high top for us when we were on our way. They had a hightop for us, but at the time we got there (6:20ish), it wasn't all that busy, but may be worthwhile to call ahead. 

For starters we had the tartare (well, she had this, I don't eat beef) that came with a poached egg (I think they poach it in a mushroom broth) and razor clams. She said it was awesome. I had some of the egg and the razor clam. Delish. So pretty to look at. I got the lobster, and it was simply cooked with a fennel foam. I enjoyed this a lot. I thought the texture of the lobster was great, not chewy. 

I think if you sit at the bar, you don't get bread service unless you request it. Request it! The butter and bread are fan-freaking-tastic.

So, this is interesting... the tartare is $18 and is quite a portion - in fact, since we didn't share it, she got a bit full. So, we asked the server (who was new, and very attentive) should we get a full entree or split one? He said the lamb was fantastic and definitely split it if we were eating dessert. It was lamb saddle and came with delicious spring vegetables. Again, as the other dishes, plated very pretty. But, it was very small. I think less overall meat than the tartare, but it was $36. 

We shared a strawberry tart and a chocolate something or other that were beautiful to look at it, and tasty to eat. 

With 2 cocktails each, we spent under $200 with tax and tip, which isn't bad, but I was a little hungry afterwards. 

I'd go back, but it's overall too fancy for a guy like me. I like places with waiters/waitresses that have tattoos, wear t-shirts and say "stoked" a lot. 

Nice.  It's not too fancy of a place if you ask me. I go in jeans and an Hawaiian shirt. Great service, fantastic food, normal, personable staff (that probably many have tattoos, and are probably wearing undershirts too, but probably do not say stoked while on duty) is fine with me. The seating all around is magnificent.

We went again with friends to the Peay Wine dinner there recently. A little tight, a little noisy, but food was great and a great time. Notes to follow.

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jpbloom   
9 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

We went again with friends to the Peay Wine dinner there recently. A little tight, a little noisy, but food was great and a great time. Notes to follow.

I was there for the Peay dinner as well.  My first time at Mirabelle and unfair to judge based on a group dinner/set menu like that, but definitely interesting enough to make me want to go back soon. 

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Pool Boy   
13 hours ago, jpbloom said:

I was there for the Peay dinner as well.  My first time at Mirabelle and unfair to judge based on a group dinner/set menu like that, but definitely interesting enough to make me want to go back soon. 

Yeah I can only imagine how hard it is to get that right for what, 25-30 people at once?  We were on the right hand table as you walked in to the private dining room. The 2009 Pommarium Pinot Noir was the piece de resistance on the wine front.

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Mr. BLB and I went for lunch for our anniversary last week.  It is a lovely space and the food was amazing.  In fact, I think the only negatives I can say are that it isn't Palena (price point, menu variety and warmth of service) and Aggie, while terrific, isn't Ann Amernick. (Which may be another way of saying that it just isn't Palena...)

We split the gnocchi to start.  It was perfect. I wanted to lick the bowl.  It was that moment when I realized we had not received bread and I didn't see our server to ask if it was possible to get bread to wipe up the last drops of the sauce. 

I had the Belleburger, dry.  It isn't quite the Palena burger but it is lovely and tasty and almost as good.  Mr. BLB had the Bavette.  Which was good but not as good as the burger. (It is a universal truth after 13 years of marriage, 17 years together and 20 years of knowing each other--I always order better than he does...)

For dessert I had the Chocolate Concorde and he the assortment of confections, which was the only true disappointment as none of them were satisfying or on the same plane as the rest of the meal.

We are plotting a return over the summer while BL-almost 5th grader is away at camp.  It is too expensive to go more often and that makes me a little sad.

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DonRocks   
35 minutes ago, bookluvingbabe said:

Aggie, while terrific, isn't Ann Amernick. (Which may be another way of saying that it just isn't Palena...)

Do you really think this is a "negative," or just something different? Ann is a baker - no more, no less - and Aggie is a pastry chef, more of a creator of composed dessert plates.

I don't know that I've ever had a dessert by Aggie or by Ann Specker (Kinship) that didn't have a crescent of ice cream in it, and I mean this quite literally, although I'm having trouble remembering Aggie's work at Palena (certainly, there was the cookie plate at the end).

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Pool Boy   
7 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Do you really think this is a "negative," or just something different? Ann is a baker - no more, no less - and Aggie is a pastry chef, more of a creator of composed dessert plates.

I don't know that I've ever had a dessert by Aggie or by Ann Specker (Kinship) that didn't have a crescent of ice cream in it, and I mean this quite literally, although I'm having trouble remembering Aggie's work at Palena (certainly, there was the cookie plate at the end).

I have. A Spot of Tea by Aggie was one of the singular best desserts I have had in my entire life. No ice cream.

As for Ann versus Aggie - why choose? I like them both for different reasons. Overall, I think I prefer Aggie's end results, but Ann's caramels are better than Aggie's, but geez, we're splitting hairs for sure.

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weezy   
17 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I don't know that I've ever had a dessert by Aggie or by Ann Specker (Kinship) that didn't have a crescent of ice cream in it, and I mean this quite literally, although I'm having trouble remembering Aggie's work at Palena (certainly, there was the cookie plate at the end).

the one time I ate at Palena, I had a lemon thyme posset for dessert.  No ice cream.  And It's been a couple of years and I still yearn for another bite of it.

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4 out of these 5 dishes were huge winners.  The quail and poussin (just a young chicken) were super tender, the raviolis were superb (pasta texture and the sweetness of the filling), the foie gras was magnificent, the terrine full of flavor, and the boudin light and airy (although not quite as airy as Marcel's).  What happened to the last dish?  I found the texture of the fish to be mushy.  It was obviously sous vided because the fish was cooked yet not really flaky or firm.  Other dishes were sous vided to much better effect so I'm not against sous vide, just not a good way to prepare fish.

SWEET PEA RAVIOLI - Beaver Creek quail confit and egg, lardons

ALL OF THE RABBIT IN A TERRINE - Mushroom gelée, tarragon dijonnaise, minus 8 verjus vinaigrette

IMG_0574 (2).JPG

FOIE GRAS POACHED IN CONSOMMÉ - Chrysanthemum, spring radish and onion buds

IMG_0575 (2).JPG

ROAST POUSSIN BREAST AND BOUDIN OF THE LEG - Arrowhead spinach, glazed spring onions, juniper sauce

ATLANTIC BLACK SEA BASS AND GULF SHRIMP - Porcini and button mushrooms, favas and their shoots, sauce meurette

IMG_0576 (2).JPG

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3 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

It was obviously sous vided because the fish was cooked yet not really flaky or firm.  

Doubtful.  More than most likely slowly cooked stove-top in a stainless steel pan with not too hot olive oil.  Black bass that is not overcooked is neither flaky or firm.  I don't think Frank has ever cooked fish SV and probably is not going to start now.  

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Pool Boy   

Frank made ravioli at Mirabelle?!! Oh man alive I would love to see that on the menu when I go again!

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ScotteeM   

We went to Mirabelle for the first time on Saturday (7/15), and we look forward to another visit.

The space is lovely, and the service was excellent. The wine list offers a broad range of choices, including bottles priced at less than $40. We ordered a red—Domaine de Bel Air, Cabernet Franc, ‘La Fosse Aux Loups’ at $40—and a white—Chinon 2011 and Bernard Defaix, Aligoté, Bourgogne Aligoté NV at $26— to accompany our meal.

Others before me have mentioned the rabbit terrine, but I will, too. It was excellent—possibly one of the best dishes of the evening. So many terrines and pates are bland. Not this one! It was nicely seasoned and spiced, and was accompanied by a mustard and a green salad that added punches of flavor and acid that complimented the terrine. Nuggets of rabbit, mushroom, and foie gras delighted us in turns.

Beef tartare had a nice, beefy flavor and was enhanced by its dressing. We enjoyed every bite, and this is now my favorite tartare of the ones I’ve tried.

Foie gras poached in consommé was a new preparation for us, and we loved every single luxurious spoonful!

All in all, the appetizers we tried were delicious, special, and ones we’d order again and again.

I ordered the Angus strip loin, which was accompanied by Dauphin potatoes and beef tongue. The tongue was not a dominant flavor in the potatoes, rather it seemed to provide depth and richness to the crispy potato cake. My husband had the veal “Oskar” with lump crabmeat. He seemed to enjoy it, although he felt the sauce/preparation kind of drowned out the flavor of the crab. That’s more a stylistic criticism than a quality criticism.

Our overall impression of the food was extremely positive. Flavors were balanced. This is not quick or easy food to make. Terrines and consommés take time and care and skill to make. The ingredients used are very high quality. Someone upthread commented on the butter, and my husband did say that it was the best butter he’s ever tasted.

I can’t speak to the issue of the ham sandwich, as we were there for dinner, and I wouldn’t be able to try it anyway. But my husband and I both felt that the prices for dinner were competitive with other restaurants in the same category. I never had a Palena burger or the roast chicken. We dined at Palena several times, only once in the front room and even then we ordered from the back-room menu, which we always loved. I understand that some people miss that front-room neighborhood place from Cleveland Park, but it wasn’t a sustainable business model there, and it probably wouldn’t be here on 16th Street by the White House. This is a different restaurant, in a different area—not really a neighborhood. It is a place where “power players” will go, and they will get a good meal for their dollars.

Many years ago, when we first moved to the area, we read about Jean-Louis at the Watergate, and knew it was a very special place, but it seemed too expensive and we never went. To this day I regret not saving up the money for that special dinner. I don’t know if Frank Ruta compares favorably to Jean-Louis Palladin, but I think that a dinner at Mirabelle is well worth saving up for, if it is beyond one’s normal dining budget.

I have celiac disease, and I ate here safely. My choices were limited, but what I could eat (listed above) was wonderful! Everyone connected to our service was aware of the issue and took great care to ensure my safety. As always, YMMV.

Angus Strip Loin:

Mirabelle Angus strip loin.jpg

Veal Oskar:

Mirabelle veal oskar.jpg

Tartare:

Mirabelle tartare.jpg

Foie Gras:

Mirabelle foie gras.jpg

Terrine:

Mirabelle terrine.jpg

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Marty L.   
32 minutes ago, hopsing said:

Megan McArdle identifies some of the reasons people aren't flocking to Mirabelle, but she neglects the two most important:  location and, especially, formality-bordering-on-stuffiness--both of which are largely responsible for the prices (which she does mention).  It was obviously designed for an expense-account, business crowd. Which, along with the prices, keeps the crowds away.  And that's a shame, of course, because she's right: there's no one better than Frank Ruta.

(FWIW, I've only been once, two months ago, and thought the food was, not surprisingly, wonderful; but since then I haven't thought once of returning, largely for the reasons stated above.  By contrast, I *always* yearned to go to Palena (the "front room" cafe before expansion, especially), though the food was no better there.)

Case in point:  Komi.  Virtually everything McArdle writes is equally true about Komi, and Johnny Monis. Except that it is even more expensive. Yet it is booked every night.  It's not very hard to see the differences that are the cause of the disparity.

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Interesting ... I'm more cost conscious when dining, much more than regular posters... but, in my experience, Mirabelle just didn't get that level. You go to normal steak houses that charge this much.. and ...The Fiolas. Metier/Kinship. Convivial. Le Diplomate. Omekase at Sushi Taro. Izakaya Seki. P&P. As mentioned above, Komi. Many more... I'm not even a huge fan of Mirabelle's cuisine, but hammering on them for price seems a little odd. It was expensive. As dining in DC tends to be. Nothing over the top... 

EDIT: Just read Megan's article. She's right. They do high end, standard food well. Maybe perfectly? Idk... I see enough $2.75 oysters and $45 steaks and $38 fish and $13 Brussel sprouts that aren't amazing that I really don't think price is keeping people away. 1789, Marcels, Fiola/Casa Lucca, and many more are the same price. It's stuffy, that's what keeps me from making it something I want to go to soon. But, wouldn't deny its great, and a reasonable value compared to much of non-Asian DC...

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Marty L.   
4 minutes ago, Simul Parikh said:

Interesting ... I'm more cost conscious when dining, much more than regular posters... but, in my experience, Mirabelle just didn't get that level. You go to normal steak houses that charge this much.. and ...The Fiolas. Metier/Kinship. Convivial. Le Diplomate. Omekase at Sushi Taro. Izakaya Seki. P&P. As mentioned above, Komi. Many more... I'm not even a huge fan of Mirabelle's cuisine, but hammering on them for price seems a little odd. It was expensive. As dining in DC tends to be. Nothing over the top... 

I agree.  Mirabelle would be slightly less pricey with a different address, and if it were trying to attract a different clientele.  But Komi and P&P are much pricier.  That's why I suggested its lack of (relative) popularity is mostly a function of location and, especially, formality/stuffiness, real and perceived, more so than the factors McArdle identifies.

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zgast   
3 hours ago, Marty L. said:

I agree.  Mirabelle would be slightly less pricey with a different address, and if it were trying to attract a different clientele.  But Komi and P&P are much pricier.  That's why I suggested its lack of (relative) popularity is mostly a function of location and, especially, formality/stuffiness, real and perceived, more so than the factors McArdle identifies.

Totally agree with this concept.  I loved Palena precisely because I could go 1X/month with the whole family, then 2x/year for the back room.  More formal places get my business, but only 1 or 2 times per year.  Who wants to go out in a suit all the time, even for good food?  Maybe it's because I'm a Gen X'er, but I'd rather spend most of my time at places that let me relax.  And I say all this having really, really enjoyed my meal at Mirabelle.  I'm definitely going back - later this year.

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Pool Boy   
11 hours ago, zgast said:

Totally agree with this concept.  I loved Palena precisely because I could go 1X/month with the whole family, then 2x/year for the back room.  More formal places get my business, but only 1 or 2 times per year.  Who wants to go out in a suit all the time, even for good food?  Maybe it's because I'm a Gen X'er, but I'd rather spend most of my time at places that let me relax.  And I say all this having really, really enjoyed my meal at Mirabelle.  I'm definitely going back - later this year.

I wear jeans and a nice Hawaiian shirt every time I go to Mirabelle (and the Grill Room before that, and Palena (front cafe, back dining room, outside, bar, etc). I never feel out of place or uncomfortable.

We always have great service there. We always have a great time and sometimes I think it it is possibly because, from anyone's viewpoint, we're so obviously enjoying the experience.

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