For a place that has no oven, Smith & Mills sure understands how to use heat. Tucked into a dim, cellar-like cavern off North Moore Street and sealed by a large stable door, it survives solely on induction burners. The place has been known to caramelize tomatoes using a blow torch, and it isn’t afraid of serving a salad that’s half warm, half cold (even in this era of strict temperature control).
The mushroom salad ($14) arrives sending up waves of heady steam from the warm pearled barley and red quinoa side of the bowl. On the other side, room-temperature Bibb lettuce sits naked, buttery enough on its own. The grains are tossed in a light champagne vinaigrette and heaped with fresh Roma tomatoes and a combination of roasted button and crimini mushrooms. The bowl is finished with a chèvre toast and bouquet of raw enoki mushrooms, as pretty as baby’s breath. Rather than relying on seasoning, it’s the interplay of flavors, textures, and temperatures that’s interesting here. The tossing is left up to the diner. I found the best bites had a bit of everything in them to maximize the aforementioned interplay. But it’s best to eat up quickly, before the cold part warms up and the warm part cools off.
Smith & Mills
71 North Moore Street
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2010
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