Mixing it Up: “Mixed, blended, united. Food for thought.” That’s Mingle’s tagline, although it doesn’t offer much of a clue about the fare being served at this hot new Albany spot. Chef Un-Hui Filomeno — originally “an Army bride from Korea,” as her son, Jose, describes her — has cooked in and around the Capital District for the past two decades (notably at the Ginger Man), gathering a loyal following as she went. In recent years, she and Jose opened Avenue A, serving international comfort fare with Korean overtones. In December of 2011, after revamping Avenue A’s old space to soften it up, they (and partner Julie Royston) launched the more upscale Mingle offering a similar lineup.
“I like to say she Americanizes international food, and then Koreanizes it,” Jose sort of explains. Some dishes could be called fusion, but the roster includes true Korean specialties like bibimbap and bulgokee, Mediterranean favorites, and homey comfort food like meat loaf and lobster mac ’n cheese. No matter how humble its origins, each dish comes prettily plated.
Mingle’s Portuguese clams are steamed in white wine, garlic, and jalapeño peppers; the Korean dish chapchae (below) features sweet potato noodles tossed with marinated grass-fed beef and vegetables
The Menu: Korean standards along with Italian, Spanish, and Creole favorites like eggplant caponata, paella, chicken cacciatore, and jambalaya. Vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and the gluten-sensitive set are catered to. Kimchi, Korea’s national dish, made of various fermented vegetables and seasonings and used as an ingredient or a side dish, turns up often. The popular Korean taco is true fusion fare: a corn tortilla stuffed with napa cabbage, homemade apple-radish kimchi, and beef or chicken marinated in sesame and soy, bulgogi style. Filomeno uses yogurt to make her own, more delicate version of the spicy red pepper Korean condiment gochujang. “She calls it taco sauce, but people ask for it on everything,” Jose says. “I think of it as the adult sriacha.”
The Setting: Relaxed-trendy, with sage green walls, white tablecloths, and big windows in the main dining room. A more intimate, rustic back room pays homage to local history with salvaged barn wood accents, apple crates for storage, and tables made from a mulberry tree that was struck by lightning.
The Crowd: Families with kids, young professionals, locals from all around. “And we get a lot of first-time Match.com dates. Maybe it’s the name,” Jose remarks.
Crowd-pleasers: The signature Tuna Un-Hui: sushi grade ahi tuna encrusted in roasted sesame seeds, pan-seared and drizzled with a balsamic-soy reduction. “Specials often start out as food we eat in the kitchen,” says Jose. “Ask to have what the kitchen’s eating for dinner and you’ll never be disappointed.”
The Tab: Starters from $11-$17; mains $20-$30. Wines from $24; craft beers $5-$7.
544 Delaware Avenue, Albany. 518-915-1468; minglealbany.com