The Mint – Now Closed
2 out of 5 stars
Despite the new lower priced menu, the Mint still costs a mint. But does the dining experience pay pay off? I suggested my friends meet at the Mint to celebrate a 30th birthday after some recent buzz on Newraleigh.com that the prices had been reduced and new investors were involved.
We started out our evening in the upstairs bar, which is decorated in what I would describe as an 80’s Vegas / cruise ship motif. I think whoever designed this restaurant decided that “the Mint” means lots of bling and gold everywhere so they decided to incorporate as much of that as possible. Carpeting occurs in a repeating flourish pattern, just like Vegas, and at the back of the bar lies a hideous geode-looking wine bottle holder, which could be the hideout of a pocket-sized Superman. It’s even lit from underneath and changes colors. The music is also a miss, a combination of house and trance – more fitting if the Mint were a club than an upscale restaurant.
The eXchange (the bar’s rebranded monicker) features a tasty-looking selection of expensive drinks. I ordered one, which I forget the name of – something referring to jewels which was a white grape juice and vodka drink. Tasty but not cheap, at I think $8. My bottom shelf screwdriver was $8 also. So I would not recommend starting an evening out here. The drink menu also featured a martini containing Absinthe. I thought Absinthe was illegal in the US but the bartender assured me it is now legal. The catch is that only Absinthes without the wormwood-dervied thujone are legal.
Once we were seated, things looked promising. We were doted on by many servers, as the restaurant was not very full at 8pm on Saturday night. We got an amuse bouche of a slice of cheese with more grated cheese and some chocolate on the edge, then a selection of bread. Cornbread with jalapenos (spicy but delicious), and black pepper biscuits which you could slather with honey butter, herb butter, or raspberry jam. All but one of us ordered the 3 course meal, it seemed to be the best deal.
Calamari was very lightly breaded with a parmesan breading and was perfectly tender, served with a sweet chili sauce on the side. The shrimp and grits got raves, and was the starter recommended by the waitress (always a good thing to ask). I started with the truffle macaroni and cheese, which turned out to be rotini covered with an extremely thin sauce (which pooled in the bottom of the plate) with just a hint of cheese and no detectable hint of truffle.
For the entrees, filet mignon was ordered by most. Our picky tablemate was able to get his done au poivre without too much hassle. The crowd seemed satisfied with their mignon, which came with a smidgeon of pureed parsnips. I ordered the seared tuna hastily after my first choice not available. The pork loin was apparently on last night’s version of the menu, which had just changed. The old version is still on the website. My tuna was cooked properly but was bland. It came with some slightly sweet coconut rice and a drizzle of gingery sauce, plus two tiny steamed baby bok choy. Wendy again scored with her choice of scallops, they were gigantic and cooked to the perfect consistency, soft and springy. My husband ordered the NY strip, not able to really take advantage of the 3 course option because of dietary restrictions and Mint’s inflexibility with substitutions on the 3 course menu. His NY strip was the same size as our companions’ filets. Tiny, I’d guess about 4-5 ounces. When you order a NY strip, aren’t you supposed to get the whole steak, especially when you are ordering a “large plate”? Incidentally, all the dishes served at The Mint come on very LARGE plates. I am guessing about 14″ x 14″. Which forces you to stare at your food, swimming lonely in a sea of white porcelain and think “this is it? this is all there is?!” My husband also ordered a side of roasted tomato slices, which came out about 10 minutes after all of our meals made it to the table. They were good but the equivalent of one half of a tomato. He was hungry an hour after we left the restaurant.
Before dessert we got a lovely bonus – tiny ice cream cones with sprinkles and ice cream that tasted like cake icing. Adorable!
Dessert itself was interesting because the portions were large, about the same size as our entrees. Pumpkin creme brulee was a success, also the small warm chocolate cakes which were made to order. My hazelnut carrot cake was ok, like most of my dishes I did not finish it. I love carrot cake and hazelnuts but didn’t taste much of one or the other in the cake.
At the end of our meal, it was time for the birthday boy to open his presents. One from us and one mystery present -we had no idea who it was from but the waitstaff assured us it was for him, saying, “Yes, open it Brian.” He opened it and was amazed at the thoughtful gift of an expensive remote controlled airplane. We all giggled and nudged each other at the cleverness of his wife’s prank (surely he’d catch on that it was from her soon?). But it turned out the gift was not for him, it was for a guest at another table! We were alternately filled with shock, glee and dismay! How could they possibly make that mistake? It turned out fine, the other recipient had his item unveiled from under a tablecloth and got to hear the story of how his gift was misdirected. I’m not sure if I was the giver if I would be as understanding.
I think this has been my most long-winded review to date. Apologies for that. I have mixed feelings about the Mint. Food was prepared to the perfect doneness and consistency and displayed artfully. But in the end- portions, flavor and ambiance were lacking and prices were very wallet un-friendly.