On a cold and rainy weeknight, we trundled out to Villanova, lamenting all the way that we should have stayed somewhere closer to Center City.
We returned to town feeling like fools for complaining.
Our destination, Mixx, 789 E. Lancaster Ave., a global tapas restaurant and bar, took all the mediocre repasts that jaded us in the last year and made dinner exciting to us once again.
We didn’t expect a place situated in a shopping center to be so big and gorgeous, but indeed it was. The staff was friendly and helpful as well and the prices were reasonable. The menu was the biggest surprise of all, taking familiar ideas and delivering them with adventurous tangents.
The French onion soup dumplings ($5) were tasty and fun, but do close your mouth all the way before you bite into one, or risk blasting an arc of soup across the table.
The bravas ($5) at first glace looks like a comforting pile of finely cubed potatoes that would be better sharing a plate with a nice omelet, but once you dive in, you find that the spicy marinara and the garlic aoli dressing works wonders all their own, making it impossible to stop eating.
Two specials that evening really got us hooked. We thought we’d never be impressed by mussels again, but Mixx’s spicy mussels ($6) were massive and expertly and generously spiced, restoring our faith in the mollusk. The tuna ceviche ($11) was a menagerie of vibrant flavors and textures as well.
There are a thousand places in the city that serve sliders and probably more that offer truffle fries. To all of them we say: You have officially had your asses handed to you. Mixx’s 50/50 sliders ($6) with truffle fries made believers of us. The sliders were a perfect convergence of beef, bacon, guacamole, jack cheese and jalapeños. Other places treat fries as if the truffle oil should shoulder all the responsibility for the flavor. Mixx’s truffle fries were seasoned with Parmesan, garlic and salt, which went a long way toward making the fries excellent. So much so, we never once wished for ketchup.
Mixx whips up admirable Asian dishes and sushi. The Chay Roll ($10) was as good and imaginative as anything you’d find in a nice sushi bar. The crabmeat drunken noodles ($9) were as solid a dish as you could get from an authentic noodle house. Our only minor gripe with the sea curry ($15) was that the rice pasta was far better for soaking up the wonderful sauce than any of the perfectly cooked seafood surrounding it.
The more Americanized entrées were solid as well. The lamb chop ($15) hit both sweet and savory notes, thanks to a velvety parsnip purée and a vanilla balsamic reduction.
Mixx’s desserts exhibited the same flair and panache of the tapas menu. The berry parfait ($6) was a delightful layering of mango sorbet, blueberry sauce, vanilla ice cream and chocolate cookies. We also couldn’t help but fall for the chocolate banana bread pudding ($6), which was pleasantly hot in the center, counterbalancing the coolness of the vanilla ice cream.
Yeah, Mixx took us to the mountain.