I had not realized until just over a week ago that Spoon and Stable has outside seating. We’ve eaten there twice before but the last of those occasions was in the dead of winter and there was no question of anyone sitting outside. And I have no memory of seeing outdoor seating on our first visit in the late summer/early fall of 2015. This may, of course, be a more recent pandemic development but at least of late they have had a few tables set out on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with heaters by every table. Or rather they did. It turns out this past weekend was the last weekend for their outdoor seating. Well, if we’d known about this earlier we would have eaten there quite a bit earlier this year but I’m very glad we found out before it went away for the winter. Our meal there this past Saturday evening was very good indeed, on par with our previous very good meals there (here and here).
As it happens, it was not as cold this past Saturday as it had been the previous Saturday at Colita. We were also dining earlier—the only table for four I could get on a week’s notice was at 5.30 (no, there was no early bird special). However, as—unlike at Colita—Spoon and Stable’s outdoor seating is on the exposed sidewalk, we felt even the slight breeze that was blowing. But once the heater fired up all was well—the only major impact of being outside was that my photographs from once the sun went down are even crappier than usual. I should add, by the way, that they seemed very much open for business as usual indoors. The restaurant had filled up not long after we got there and if there were any diners inside who were wearing masks while not eating none of us saw them while walking to the restroom and back. The sidewalk was doing brisk business too, as it happens.
If the restaurant seemed much like it had been the last time we were there, the menu too had a familiar air. Apart from Dorothy’s Pot Roast, which is always on the menu, there were a few other dishes that seemed mostly unchanged from our previous visit and others that were very much in the genre of things we’d eaten before if not identical to them. I do not note this as a criticism. It can be frustrating when restaurant menus turn over entirely; and in any case, a house style is a good thing to have.
We started with a cocktail each: an Old Fashioned for me, a Ward Eight for the missus, a Margarita for one of our friends and a daily special Penicillin for our other friend. This last included pumpkin spice and was served in a little cup. All were fine but none were anything particularly amazing.
Okay, what did we eat? Between the four of us we got four appetizers and four mains and in between the appetizers and mains we got two small sized portions of pasta to share.
First up, the starters:
- SUNCHOKE SOUP maitake mushrooms, black rice, parsley, sesame. This was reminiscent of other soups we’ve had there and was quite good if a touch over-salted.
- CARAMELIZED ENDIVE asian pear, lebnah, pistachio, vadouvan, lemon oil. This was the pick of this round, I think all of us thought. The interplay between the caramelized endive and the labneh was great and everything else on the plate complemented that core well.
- BISON TARTARE* harissa aïoli, watermelon radish, cilantro, dried olive, socca. Though not presented identically, this was very similar to the bison tartare we had on our first visit. The tartare itself was very good—with much better balance than the one at Colita last week—and the watermelon radish was a nice addition. The socca chip was as much of a non-sequitur as it had been the first time—once again I thought toast would have been better.
- ARCTIC CHAR CRUDO blood orange, fennel, calamansi vinegar, tarragon oil. This was mine and it was also excellent: a lovely mix of textures and of sweet and acidic notes.
One of the things we really appreciate about Chef Kaysen—at both Spoon and Stable and Demi—is his willingness to meet diners where they are in terms of food restrictions. One of our friends is allergic to wheat and corn and Spoon and Stable is the rare restaurant that has gluten free versions of almost every dish they offer, including the pastas; it’s very much not an afterthought here. We got two pastas, both made with chickpea flour, and these were among the highlights of the meal.
- CAPPELLETTI koginut squash, pumpkin seeds, sage, pleasant ridge cheese. This was just lovely.
- MAFALDE “cacio e pepe”, pecorino, black pepper, white wine butter. And this was not far behind.
Oh, I decided to try one of their spirit free cocktails at this point. I got the Rouge and thought it was pleasant enough.
- STURGEON trumpet mushrooms, purple fingerling potatoes, tatsoi, sauce matelote. This was the missus’s and I got a fair whack at it. The fish was cooked perfectly and the dish as a whole was perfectly composed.
- SEARED SCALLOPS sepia salad, brassicas, acqua pazza, nasturtium oil. The scallops were perfectly cooked but the sepia overwhelmed most of the other stuff on the plate. This wasn’t mine but I could see how it could get one-note fast if eating a whole portion.
- PHEASANT BREAST delicata squash, wild rice, foie gras, winter savory. This was mine and I had zero complaints about any of it.
- GRILLED VENISON farro, heirloom pumpkin, pioppini mushrooms, cranberry. And our friend who got the venison was pleased with his choice too (and I liked the couple of bites I got of it as well).
On to the sweets. One of our friends got an after dinner cocktail—Remember The Maine (new to me)—and liked it fine despite a more than slight cough syrupy quality. The rest of us had liquid only poured over our desserts proper.
- CARAMEL APPLE CRISP caramelized white chocolate crémeux, oats, mint. My bite of this was rather excellent, I thought. It was not, however, the one the missus and I shared. Caramel was poured over the crisp at the table.
- HONEY AND CREAM CAKE roasted plums, beeswax ice cream. We got this honey and cream cake, a version of which we’d enjoyed at an earlier meal and over which condensed milk was poured at the table. I will fully admit that we got this on this occasion mostly out of a curiosity about beeswax ice cream. I am sorry to report that the ice cream did not taste like anything out of the vanilla ordinary.
For an excessive set of images from the evening—the quantity of images not at all proportionate to their quality, especially once it got dark—launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on the meal as a whole, on service and to see how much it all cost.
Service was professional and present—and also patient with our inability to stop talking and figure out what we wanted to eat and drink. And our server was able to readily answer all questions we had about the food.
So, a very good meal on the whole. There were some dishes that didn’t jump out and a couple that had elements I didn’t care for but nothing came close to being anything short of good on the whole. If not for the fact that we haven’t been to Alma in a while—and with Grand Cafe now closed—I think I’d say that Spoon and Stable continues to hold the top spot in the “fine dining for adults” category in the Twin Cities. We did like our meal at Meritage earlier in the month as well but this was a cut above.
Cost? $425 for the four of us including tax and a 21% hospitality charge. Yes, Spoon and Stable has also moved to a “no tipping” model. Unlike Colita they do leave the tip line on the credit card receipt which may lead to greater diner confusion. Thankfully, unlike at Colita, our server did not come over to all but insist that we leave a further 20% for service. So, $106/head. A bit more than we paid at Meritage but for more food and more drinks. Not a cheap meal by any means but par for the genre in the Cities.
Alas, I think we might be done with fine dining for a while in the Twin Cities—that is unless there are other restaurants that are continuing with heated outdoor seating. If you know of any, do write in below. In the meantime, I’m not sure what next week’s restaurant review will be of but it will certainly be of a much cheaper meal.