When he opened Mintwood Place with restaurateur Saied Azali three years ago, chef Cedric Maupillier hoped to get people talking with a few novelties, among them escargot hushpuppies, one of the best mergers in recent memory, and baked Alaska, torched at the table. Both dishes are still around and still great, but they’re hardly the only conversation pieces helping to fill this American restaurant with a French accent.
If you want to know what separates Maupillier from so many of his peers, ask for his chicken liver tartine. The appetizer embodies everything that’s important to the chef. A thin slice of griddled baguette weighs in with some crunch; the mounded spread balances the richness of mayonnaise with the tang of mustard and vinegar; and what looks like a dusting of Parmesan turns out to be (no kidding) grated, pickled sunchokes. On top of all that, the dish is a beauty, sprinkled with minced chives and presented in a small cast-iron skillet. The same goes for the chef’s brined pork chop. It’s a terrific piece of meat that acquires a coating of toasted lentils after it emerges from a wood fire, and gets joined on its plate with a “carbonara” made with spaetzle, Swiss chard, cream and guanciale. One of the most gorgeous salads of my whole summer: heirloom tomatoes and a bunch of beans — filet, romano, black-eyed peas — splashed with a simple vinaigrette, with pansies for color and toasted quinoa for texture.
The drinks are polished, the service is easy and the dining room uses brown leather booths, a scattering of antiques and reclaimed wood to put diners at ease.