Mrs Jones (CLOSED)
Time Out says
The song goes Me and Mrs Jones/ We got a thing goin'on/ We both know that it's wrong/ But it's much too strong/ To let it go now. We meet every day at the same café/ Six-thirty and no one knows she'll be there/ Holding hands, making all kinds of plans/ While the juke box plays our favorite songs.
Drinking at the bar, this is the same kind of sentiment you get here, in this place for unadulterated good times. There are tucked away two-seaters for closed door affairs, but beware: this restaurant is open on to Pottinger St. The music is loud and jazzy, the drinks are affordable (for Soho), and the menu is filled with Little Italy favourites such as panzanella salad, chicken parmigiana, and spaghetti and meatballs.
Nothing costs over $155 – a feat for the neighbourhood. No doubt the comfortable atmosphere and the rightly-priced menu will be very attractive in the coming months. But what of the food?
We started with carpaccio di manzo ($70), thinly sliced raw beef from New Zealand laid on a white plate with aged balsamic Pollocked and a few sprigs of arugula and shavings of parmesan on top. The meat was the perfect temperature – not room temperature, but just a few degrees above – and it was also fresh, sweet, and salty from the cheese. Definitely one to have, and at this price, you can have one per diner.
The gnocchi al formaggi ($85) was hand cut and recently made. It wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t a ball of mush. It had just enough bite, and carried the parmigiano, gruyère, gorgonzola, and cream sauce very well. This dish alone could be your main course, as it is very filling, and very calorific.
The ravioli di zucca ($75) was a stack of thin pumpkin and mascarpone filled ravioli, with a burnt, brown butter sauce. It was intentionally burnt, of course, with a few fried sage leaves, and it was delicious, delicious, delicious. We would say the best comfort dish here.
The other comfort contender, spaghetti con polpette ($80), a fancy name for spaghetti and meatballs, did not do it for us. The golf ball-sized morsels were sad pieces of leftover meat from the freezer. Some bites had a bit of crunch, in others we could spot bit of artery. Go for the ravioli.
Now the queen of Little Italy has to be the chicken parm. Everyone has a different recipe for this quintessential dish; Italian-Americans like to drown the deep-fried meat in red sauce and brown processed mozzarella in a thick blanket on top. Here, they do it more like the Italians do, a lightly breaded chicken breast, slightly dressed in a chunky tomato sauce, with two slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella draped over the meat ($125). It was a nice thick piece of chicken, it could’ve used a heavier hand in seasoning, but generally it was a fine dish. Served on a bed of olive oil mash, this was also a perfect example of pure-comfort eating.
In fact all of it was comforting, which is what will take this place from new kid on the block to one of your regular haunts.
UB/F, Harilela House, 79 Wyndham St, Central, 2522 8118. Meal for two: around $450.