Chef de cuisine Ben Nerenhausen has a deceptively simple credo. “It has to be fun,” he says of his food. He keeps finding new ways to make it so. Chilled English pea soups are a spring staple, but this year, Nerenhausen, 33, not only worked tarragon, parsley and mint into the puree for an herbaceous twist, he also submerged a tangy disc of manchego panna cotta in the bowl, topping it with a quenelle of steak tartare poking up like an island. The tartare bristled with fried capers and crunchy chips of fried fingerling potato for a texture rapture.
To be fun, food also needs to be affordable. Mistral clears that bar as well. The pea soup, big enough to share, is $14. Have with the amazing $16 bowl of squid-ink tagliatelle with braised calamari, custardy egg yolk, green garlic cream, ‘nduja sausage and shaved bottarga, and you’ll amble out not only happily full, but still flush.