Tenant was the first restaurant we dined indoors at after the pandemic started. That was back in July of 2021. At the time things were threatening to look up on the pandemic front and we’d begun to think hopefully of a return to something approaching normalcy. Then the delta wave hit…and soon we were not eating in again. Just when we got started again there was omicron… When we finally got comfortable with the idea yet again at the start of the spring, Tenant was one of the first places we’d hoped to return to. But between the need to make reservations more than a month out and the need to cancel the first set of reservations I was able to make, it was not until the end of May that we got back there. It was both a happy return to a familiar space and a new experience of the restaurant for us. Details follow.
First, the new experience part. Sometime in the last several months Tenant acquired the space right next to them when it became available. This has been turned into an excellent little bar that serves a tight list of classic cocktails and a small menu of small bites. There’s a bar, a couple of tables if you don’t want to sit at the bar, and a pool table if you don’t want to sit at all. It is connected to Tenant and if you’re dining there you have the option of either arriving early, having a drink and a nibble and then being summoned to your seat in the restaurant when it’s ready; or you can move there after your meal is done for a little more drinking and chatting. Or you could do both, I guess. And, of course, if you live within reach it’s a cozy cocktail bar in its own even if you don’t have reservations at Tenant.
We had seats at the counter at 8 but arrived at 7.30 just so we could check out the bar. We got a cocktail each and couldn’t resist getting a pre-dinner snack as well. The cocktails were both done nicely—the missus got a mai tai and I got an old fashioned. To snack on alongside we got an order of the bread, butter and pickles and tacked on some chicken liver paté to go with it. All were very good even if the paté was a little looser/runnier than I am used to. The bread, butter and pickles by itself is a very good deal at $5 (you get a lot of bread) and the paté adds on only another $5. Again, if we didn’t live 50 minutes away, we’d stop by the bar often. (The only misstep—and it was a minor one—was that I was first given a cocktail other than the one I’d ordered; but it was swapped out quickly enough when I pointed it out.)
Our seats at the counter were available a little after 8 and we sat down expectantly, regretting only a little the amount of bread and paté we’d just had. The usual regularly changing set menu of six courses (plus a very citrussy palate freshener) is still on offer; it now costs $70. The optional wine pairing adds on $30. As it happened we were there for the last service of the menu we ate. And so this is a very low utility review. Though hopefully it will still give you a sense of the kind of thing to expect if you’ve never been.
- Course 1: Grilled Scallop. Herb Salsa Verde (Italian Basil, Parsley, Jalapeno), Sweet and Sour Beets. A good start to the meal with the salsa verde balancing the zing of the pickled beets; the scallops got a little lost though we thought.
- Course 2: Dashi Poached Cod. Grilled Cauliflower, Zucchini, and Pickled Celery Root, Mushroom Broth, Scallions. This is one of the courses we always look forward to (we’re hoping the version with tomato water will make a return in the late summer) and this was not a disappointment with a big umami delivery.
- Course 3: Ravioli filled with Pork Sausage, Reduced Orange Parmesan Sauce, Pickled Green Beans, Grilled and Pickled Fennel. This divided us a bit. We both liked the ravioli a lot but the missus did not like the orange parmesan sauce as much as I did, finding it just a bit too cloying.
- Course 4: Huli Huli Chicken, Mac Salad, Grilled Carrots, Roasted Garlic Honey Ginger Glaze/Sauce, Toasted Jasmine Rice. However, we both just loved this course, our favourite of the night. The chicken was cooked perfectly but really this was all about the rice.
- Course 5: Grilled Beef Strip Loin, Fried Salt and Vinegar Potato, Grilled Ramp Leaves, Pickled and Grilled Ramp Bulbs, Ramp Stem Jus, Asparagus. Though this was rather excellent as well and perhaps the closest we’ve come to a conventional meat and potato plate at Tenant.
- Course 6: Bananas Foster Custard, Whipped Cream, Streusel. The usual citrus bomb slushie preceded this dessert proper. Tenant’s custards are the other constant we look forward to on each visit—the flavours change but there’s always been a custard at the end. I will admit that not being a fan of banana desserts, I was not enthused to hear that this was a bananas foster custard; I am also happy to say that I liked it a lot anyway.
This was, on the whole, a very good meal. If I had to offer one critique it would—counter-intuitively—be that our favourite course, the Hawaiian huli huli chicken and accompanying rice didn’t quite fit in the progression with the ravioli before it and the strip loin after. Which is not to say that I would have preferred they take it out.
Drinks. The missus stopped with her cocktail. I got a glass of wine—an excellent off-dry riesling recommended by our server/chef.
For a look at the space(s) and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for price and to see what’s coming next.
The food at Tenant is usually served by the chefs who’ve prepared it, which means they’re very good at describing and talking about the food they set down. The chef we mostly interacted with turned out to be the one who’d made the rice for our favourite course and he was very pleased to have it praised effusively from people from two different rice-eating cultures.
Price? With the pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, tax and tip, the total came to $240 or $120/head. We’ve paid as much for meals in the Twin Cities that we’ve not liked as much. We’ll be back in early July to eat more of their food.
Alright, what’s next? Probably an account of a recent dinner at Myriel in St. Paul. That’ll be next Tuesday.