Short Orders: Mirabelle

17610 Midway #140

The pall of death hangs over Mirabelle.

It's Tuesday evening. A once-full bar sits dark and deserted, the mirrored-shelves vacant. Wine racks are empty--as is a walk-in cellar. Of the 30 or so seats in the gasping restaurant, only mine is filled...and I make for a crowd so insignificant that, if there's indeed a chef in the house, it's not worth the effort for him to make an appearance out front.

Be kinda embarrassing, I guess. And there's no way of knowing who's running the kitchen, anyway. Chef Joseph Maher sold the place recently. So I'm left to deal with a lone waiter and his scant understanding of English. When I ask if the restaurant has a pair of reading glasses somewhere, he points at my water glass.

So much for atmosphere. Now the place must live or die on food alone.

Too bad. Once considered in the 'hidden gem' category, Mirabelle now clings to a 'decent, but...' standing, at least that's what I glean from recent encounters. Corn soup, for instance, leans on crisp, fresh kernels and smokey bacon that plays contrasting sweet and acrid notes. The herbs waver in the background nicely. Yet there's an unfortunate reliance of a mat of melted cheese, giving the soup a sports bar touch. Beef short ribs on polenta not only show a slow-cooked character, they have a frayed cooked-sometime-before-and-finished-today kinda feel.

And if that's not the case, something else went wrong in the kitchen. For $28, it's underwhelming.

A tiny patty of steak tartare (resembling something from a burger chain prior to cooking--thin, small and pink) starts off with an intriguing sweet/sour/rich sensation. But rather quickly the hot, powdery blast of cayenne rises up and takes over.

Geez, no one in the place. No phone calls for reservations, either.

Maybe because few people venture to the once-proud restaurant anymore, they have to make up for the loss of income by charging so much for so little. Perhaps the $100 I dropped for a forgettable meal in BYOB wine will pay the bills. The new owners will likely shut it down for a re-branding. Unless performance picks up, however, it seems likely we'll all hear a final thud very soon. Mirabelle on Urbanspoon

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