It took till mid-July but we finally ate a meal inside a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. Sakura was the last time I ate inside a restaurant. That was not planned. We could tell restrictions were looming but we didn’t know when they would come or how long it would be before in-person dining would again become viable. Of course, in-person indoor dining’s been back in Minnesota for a few months—but we didn’t start to get comfortable with the idea until the end of June. Once we were ready to take the plunge there was not much doubt where we would go first. Tenant has become our favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities—as their predecessor, Piccolo was before them—and it was only appropriate that our return to dining in happen there. (Grand Szechuan would have been even more appropriate for the whole family but it’s only on our recent outing to Kansas City that we’ve finally taken the boys indoors to eat.) I’m happy to report that our first fine dining meal since the pandemic began was a very good one. Herewith the details.
This wasn’t, of course, our first Tenant-cooked meal since the pandemic began. In the summer of 2020 we got some excellent barbecue from them during one of their pandemic takeout incarnations. That was very good food but this meal is what we had been missing. They’ve been back doing their set 6 course dinners for $60 since May (I think). They’re not back to full capacity yet—or weren’t two weeks ago. It’s not a large restaurant to start with but when we visited there were only 5 seats at the bar (down from the usual 8) and only three tables being seated (down from the usual 5). The food was as creative and excellent as ever.
Sweet n sour beets
A lovely mix of textures and flavours and colours, this was a very nice start to the meal and very evocative of the season. Both the tuna crudo and the salsa verde were excellent but we both thought it was the fermented berries that made this dish.
Here is a case where we both liked a dish very much and thought that perhaps it was a bit much. Now, don’t get me wrong: ordering a la carte I would have been thrilled with this as a first course or twice as much of it for a main (at lunch) but as the second course in a tasting menu it was almost too much of a very good thing. This mostly on account of the bread component. Please note: we loved the dish; we just weren’t sure if the size of it worked perfectly in the menu.
But we will never have any reservations of any kind about their tomato water-centered courses in the summer. The missus had been looking forward to this for more than a year and a half and she had a big smile on her face as it approached. That smile only got bigger as she ate it. This has to be among the Twin Cities’ signature summer dishes.
Whey butter sauce
Pasta of any kind at Tenant is always a highlight and this raviolo did not disappoint. Indeed more than the excellent raviolo and the chicken sausage filling it was the acidic whey butter sauce that took it over the top. There was no bread to mop it up but the pictorial evidence indicates I did quite well with just a spoon.
Harissa lamb jus
Braised lamb shank
A second pasta course, this one may have been even better than the previous. The pasta itself was unimpeachable as always and the ragu was ace. And as with so many of their dishes the textural counterpoints were really well done.
This was less tart than some of the other palate resetters here have been and very refreshing.
Whipped creme fraiche
Their custards—as I’ve said before—are, as a a genre, my favourite dessert in the Twin Cities. We’ve had a a number of fruit variations before. I don’t know that I’d say that this peach incarnation is my very favourite of the five we’ve had but that’s not to say that I did not eat it with a happy grin on my face.
We added on one wine pairing (the missus’ alcohol tolerance has not risen in the pandemic). This was three very generous pours. To see what they were and for a closer look at the food and the space, please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for some closing thoughts and to see how much it all cost.
Service and atmosphere were as pleasant as we’ve always experienced them as being. The personable Grisha Hammes wasn’t present that evening but the rest of the staff kept the front of house ship running smoothly. A first for us: not just one but two women in the kitchen. It may not be new but it was the first time we’d seen any women on staff and we were pleased to see them.
With tip the total came to just about $195 or what it was on our last visit. Not cheap but you could easily spend as much or more at a number of places in town serving less creative and well-executed food. We’ll be back again in less than a year and a half.
My next restaurant meal report will be of a Kansas City barbecue meal. That will be this weekend. A week from today I will have another report on a dine-in Twin Cities dinner, this one from St. Paul.