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A Slice Of Tuscany Popped Up At Mondrian Soho Last Weekend

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October 9, 2012 at 9:47 AM | by | ()

When it comes to pop-up restaurants in NYC, there's no one more experienced than Guerilla Culinary Brigade founder Alan Philips (we like to think of him as the Ian Schrager of pop-up hotel restaurants).

We've experienced our fair share of Philips-masterminded meals at places like The Sanctuary, THOR and THOR again. So we were impressed to hear he was setting up a temporary space over at Mondrian SoHo.

Make that double impressed once we got there and saw that the dining room was hidden behind a secret revolving bookcase...

Cantinetta Antinori, which took place over the weekend, served a four-course Italian meal—complete with wine pairings for every course—done by the Antinori family, who own four restaurants in Florence, Zurich, Vienna and Moscow. Each of the Cantinetta Antinoria outposts specializes in traditional Tuscan cuisine, and they are one of the oldest wine producers in Italy, dating back to 1385. To add to the excitement, this pop-up was their first-ever "appearance" in the US.

Before the meal, the hosts had everyone wait in the lobby and bar area, drinking champagne, schmoozing, and building up the suspense, until, to everyone's delight, the bookcase (pictured) slowly opened up to reveal an intimate, candle-lit dining room with seating for about 60 people.

We'd been kind of hoping the meal would take place in the hotel's gorgeous skylit Imperial No. 9 (UPDATE: the hotel's main restaurant was actually changed to Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar a few months ago), which is the closest you'll get to al fresco garden dining in New York without having to pack a picnic in Central Park; but once we entered the space, our doubts disappeard.

Mondrian's private bookcase-concealed dining room was totally transformed into a mini version of the Antinori family estate: imagery from Tuscany had been plastered onto the walls, glasses were full of delicious Antinori-imported wines, and there were even little framed portraits of Tuscan scenery placed on the tables. As professed Italophiles, we couldn't help but swoon.

You're probably wondering about the food, right? A $165 ticket bought guests four scrumptious, wine-paired courses including crostini with a range of toppings including Jansal Valley heirloom tomatoes, robiola cheese, and chicken liver; prawn salad, spinach- and ricotta-filled gnudi, sliced tenderloin of beef, and a heavenly panna cotta served with soft fruits. The latter kind of reminded us of the cloud-like theme the lobby and rooms have, though, being edible, the experience was slightly more primal.

We probably could have done without the rambling speech in broken English by one of the Antinori ambassadors—because we were seriously hungry—but every pop-up has to have a story, right?

For more of our coverage on new hotel restaurants in New York, click here!

We dined at Mondrian Soho as a guest of the hotel, but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.

[Photos: HotelChatter]

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