Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Mingle is a somewhat recent addition to Albany's culinary scene.  It's on Delaware Ave, has its own off-street parking lot, and possibly the best key lime tart of anywhere on earth, period.  And now that I'm rich (my pension refund from 3 years' work in Japan came back!), I can eat there.

I met a gal pal there for a relaxed dinner on a Tuesday.  They give you a big bottle of water sans ice at the table, which is clutch - because dammit, I hate ice cubes and I get thirsty.  No free bread or banchan (complimentary side dishes characteristic of Korean dining establishments) but eh.

Beverage-wise, we both opted for "alcoholic."  My friend got an $8.00 strawberry basil cocktail thing that looked like imitation crab meat floating in dirty period water with algae but tasted fresh and sweet.  I went with Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Cream Stout, which my boyfriend purchased for my dad for Father's Day.  Great beer, great price - 12 oz. bottle was only $5.00!

We started off with a starter of Korean tacos.  2 for $10 is hardly a steal, but rich people like me don't care. Given a choice of chicken or beef, we chose beef, and I firmly believe this was the correct decision.  Said beef was awesome BBQ-style galbi.  Tender and perfectly marinated.  The shredded green onions, cabbage, and kimchi were all welcome - nothing seemed like it was thrown on last minute, which is sometimes the case with "fusion" food.  Cute flatware, too!

I'd read on Mingle's website about a summer dinner special: pan seared halibut with a Fuji apple fruit salsa, "Korean potatoes" and mixed vegetables.  I obviously had to go there.  And I was SO PLEASED with what I got!  Everything was perfectly cooked - pan searing fish to perfection is a challenge, and the vegetables were refreshingly NOT overseasoned or oversalted, retaining their original veggie flavors.  The "Korean potatoes" turned out to be what I call "Japanese sweet potatoes" and Japanese people call 薩摩芋 (satsumaimo). 

I'm really picky and skeptical about Korean entrees at restaurants that upcharge as dramatically as Mingle.  $20 for bibimbap?!  $22 for chap chae?!  It's times like these when all I can think about is paying the equivalent of under $10 USD for a huge amount of barbecued meat and unlimited banchan in Seoul.  Or $7 for a big plate of chap chae at the Korean church open house down the road.  My dining companion ordered the chap chae and it was good, but not $22 good, and was drowned to suffocation in soy sauce.  She liked it, so everyone was a winner!

Like good girls, we neatly boxed half of our entrees so we'd have room for dessert.  There were three options: carrot cake with lemon marscapone, mocha chocolate mouse with raspberry, and a key lime tart.  There was some coin flipping as initially neither of us were floored by the options, and key lime won.  It was unremarkable looking and seemed gelatinous and weird at first glance, but OH GOD LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING.  The texture was creamy and pleasant, and the flavor was intense and complex - so many feelings.  We split one piece and even that was pushing it - the sweetness was comparable to baklava.  I think there was honey in the crust, too.


Not like I really care about this most of the time, but the service was great.  Far from smothering/overly attentive, yet helpful, polite and friendly.  We deviated from our usual "miserly" tipping tendencies (one of 224759245729452 reasons why I love this particular girlfriend) and left a 20% or greater gratuity for our server.