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[MSP] New and noteworthy Autumn 2011 Edition


Chris Hennes
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Hi Chris,

So I can recommend a couple of things in MSP. The Bradstreet Crafts House, and La Belle Vie and Meritage (Full Disclosure, I consult for the cocktail program at Bradstreet I have good things about Haut Dish, Sea Change, and Marvel.

On the low end side... In the Habitrail there is a Potbelly and a Taco Johns. I mention Taco Johns in case you have never had a Potato Ole. If you haven't had one, you should.

I'm sure that the bartenders at the first three places I mentioned will have up to date information.

Cheers,

Toby

Edited by Alchemist (log)

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I've been working in MSP the last month or so and have had the opportunity to try quite a bit.

I had an amazing (like, went right out and bought the kitchen a bottle of whiskey amazing) dinner at Travail Kitchen & Amusements on Wednesday. The 10 course tasting menu for 2 persons is $70, like stealing. Our menu was closer to 18 courses as one of the cooks happened to be a former co-worker of one of my party, and there was maybe 1 course that I didn't think we outstanding. Highlights included a beef tartare/carpaccio duet, agnolotti with potato skins, corn soup with jalapeno mouse, sweet & sour sweetbreads, dehydrated red wine with apple and blue cheese emulsion, and everything about dessert (pumpkin pie, mocha mousse, fresh doughnuts, chocolate covered bacon...) It was named Bon Appétit's 4th Best New Restaurant in the U.S. for 2011, so the crowds have been heavy and it's no reservations, so I'd recommend getting there as close to 5 as possible. We arrived at 5:30 and didn't sit until 6:45.

Travail Kitchen & Amusements

4154 West Broadway

Robbinsdale, MN

(763) 535-1131

travailkitchen.com

The Bachelor Farmer is farm-to-table with a Scandinavian twist. My favorites were the meatballs with lingonberries, grilled lamb sausage with lefse, poached eggs with Sauce Choron, the warm Camembert app (forgetting the embellishments, peas and garlic maybe?, but it was great) and the blackberry tart with almond cream.

There's a very attractive cocktail bar below the restaurant, but an unfortunate service/management issue will likely keep me from returning.

The Bachelor Farmer

50 North 2nd Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55401

Much better drinks (and service) were found at Bradstreet Crafthouse. The bartenders solicited feedback and happily accepted special requests. They were also ready to adjust/replace drinks that weren't well received (thankfully, everything I tried was well crafted and on point).

Bradstreet Crafthouse

601 North 1st Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55403

(in the Graves Hotel)

The Vietnamese food is MSP is the equal of any I've had in the U.S. and one dish in particular brought me straight back to the streets of Hanoi.

Quang's Pho Thap Cam (Beef noodle soup with sliced beef, tendon, brisket, tripe & meatballs) is as good as any I've had in the U.S. The broth was crystal clear, both noodles and various beef cuts were present in great quantity and while the garnish tray was perhaps not as ample/diverse as some places it was adequate. The broth had a very clean, beefy flavor; the slide beef, tripe and tendon in particular, was just about perfect. I remain somewhat skeptical about the app/bev choices, but the pho was great.

Quang Restaurant

2719 South Nicollet Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Trung Nam French Bakery serves a variety of croissants (the coconut one I had [$1.75] was delicious, with a surprisingly decent consistency...it's not going to put Eric Keyser to shame, but is certainly very good for the price and locale) as well as a single variety of Banh mi in either regular or deluxe (extra everything) versions. The deluxe will set you back less than $5 and it's a pretty healthy sized baguette stuffed with tofu strips, red BBQ pork and pate, topped with pickled carrots and radish, cilantro, mayo and raw jalapeño slices. There are some smoothies/shakes on the menu, too...including durian, though I'm not that brave. Service is not a priority, but it's not intentionally bad either, just a bit slow and disorganized.

Trung Nam French Bakery

739 University Ave W

St. Paul, MN 55104

(651) 229-0887

Ngon Bistro is probably on the high end of what most would be willing to spend at a Vietnamese place (dinner w/ a beer was $35 including tax/tip), but they have a commitment to using local ingredients and serve terrific classic flavors (or subtle twists) in a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Just when I'd given up on finding the equal of the grilled pork patties that floored me in Hanoi, here they were in Ngon's Nem Nuong. A grilled pork sausage patty atop a slice of airy baguette and below a fried egg. The runny yoke marrying with the streaks of sriracha on the plate made an excellent sauce, but the pork didn't need it...one of the best things I've eaten in some time. However, In some other dishes both the spice and fish sauce quotients were at the lower levels of acceptable. Had service been more attentive, or applicable condiments provided on my table (some other tables had sriracha and hoisin, but no fish sauce as far as I could tell), this wouldn't have really been an issue. Still, classic Vietnamese flavors/dishes in a comfortable setting with a focus on local products (including a great list of local tap beer), this is a restaurant concept I'd love to have back home.

Ngon Bistro

799 University Avenue West

Saint Paul, MN 55104

651-222-3301

ngonbistro.com

Despite initially thinking I wasn't even going to get to eat there, I instantly fell in love with 112 Eatery. The look and vibe, but even more so the smell, reminded me of places I've visited all over the country that tend to be(come) cook/service-industry hangouts with no nonsense, terrific food. It was like an even cozier branch of Blue Ribbon Brasserie on a relatively nondescript street a few blocks away from the ballpark. The place was jam packed with the pregame crowd, every seat at the bar occupied. Thankfully, before I scampered off, the hostess clued me in that they had a second dining area and bar upstairs...so, back out the door, down the hall and up the elevator. Same cozy yet frenetic environment, but with a few open seats at the bar and a view that wasn't just bumper-to-bumper baseball traffic...even better.

The bartender made me a decent Negroni. Complementary candied & spiced nuts and marinated green olives were made available while I looked over the menu. I ended up ordering the romaine leaves with Roquefort dressing, the 112 steak tartare (there is also an 'unprepared' steak tartare on the menu, allowing you to mix the meat and garnishes as you prefer...the 112 is the chef's chosen embodiment of same) and the cauliflower fritters. Service was attentive and efficient, yet casual and relaxed. The salad came out first and was absolutely perfect in its simplicity. Less creamy than Roquefort in the classic sense, the crisp romaine was dressed in a light vinaigrette studded with unctuous bites of some of the best blue cheese I've ever had. The plate was also lightly sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs, only vaguely discernible on the palate compared to the cheese, but brilliant as textural contrast. The tartare and fritters arrived together. The steak was great, clearly high quality beef mixed with bright, flavorful accompaniments. It was also an extremely generous portion. I would have preferred the bread it was served with to be both fully toasted and cut thinner. It was, basically, slightly browned slices of baguette, fine but not ideal. I probably could have done without the fritters, florets of cauliflower that were, perhaps 'frittered'? Nicely browned cauliflower pieces more-or-less covered in grated cheese. A vegetable that I quite like, but not a preparation that I was sold on. Desserts looked tempting, but I couldn't do it. Still, a complementary dish of house made cracker jack, flavored with what I supposed was pumpkin pie spice, arrived with the check. It was a pleasant surprise, which sums up 112 Eatery itself. I will get back as often as I am able.

112 Eatery

112 North 3rd St

Minneapolis, MN 55401

(612) 343-7696

Eating at Brasa Rotisserie reminded me a lot of hanging out at the first 'build your own burrito' shop that opened near the college campus where I grew up (a progenitor of the Chipotle/Qdoba nexus, but years before either were established national brands). There's a bunch of college kids making food that is way better than it needs to be (for the price) in a relaxed (though bordering on 'tragically hip') atmosphere. You can sit on the patio and enjoy a pint of local beer and perfectly moist cajun-rubbed rotisserie chicken with a side of rice & pigeon peas with ham sofrito that tastes like it was plucked from the kitchen of your favorite jibarito place, maybe better. Oh, then there's a special slab of smoked brisket and a honey glazed cornbread muffin, both of which rival anything available anywhere for the cost... Sure, it feels like you have to con them out of to-go containers (so not Green, man), but you've got a whole chicken breast and nearly a pint of rice & peas left, and they're definitely going to get eaten later that night. Oh, yeah...and your tab is less than $20.

Brasa Rotisserie

600 East Hennepin Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55414

(612) 379-3030

Edited by KD1191 (log)

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was in the Cities a couple of months ago and tried a lot of places. I absolutely LOVED my dinner at La Belle Vie in every way - terrific food (the kind you bite into and say WOW!), great service, a lovely room. Just a wonderful restaurant, and one of the best meals I've had this year. I also had dinner at 112 Eatery. I thought it was good, but not "WOW good" - everything was pretty good but nothing was particularly outstanding or memorable. So La Belle Vie was the clear winner. Oh, and I also had breakfast at Hell's Kitchen, a breakfast specialty restaurant that is whimsically amusing as well as having great food; don't miss the Mahnomin porridge.

I also tried a lot of bakeries and pastry shops. There was one clear winner over all the others I tried: Patisserie 46. I visited the Midtown Global Market (which was just okay) and went strolling along Grand Avenue in St. Paul, which has restaurants, galleries, Penzeys for spices, and Cook's, a store selling cookware and cookbooks.

HTH - Let me know if you need more details.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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