Turning a menu over every six weeks is no easy task for a restaurant. I suppose it’s easier if, like Tenant, the restaurant is small and serves only a set menu every night. Of course, Tenant doesn’t turn the whole menu over all at once: new dishes are introduced one or a few at a time till finally the whole is transformed. And it’s also true that this discipline would have been ingrained in the proprietors from their long tenure at Piccolo which also had a similarly restless menu. Nonetheless, it cannot be easy. Difficulty of conception and execution of new menus aside, it’s a canny move. This because it encourages those who particularly like their approach to come back often to try dishes that they might not otherwise encounter again. And so it is that we—who rarely go back to the same restaurant twice in the same year—find ourselves back at Tenant over and over again. We ate there in June before leaving for our travels; we ate this meal in July after coming back from our travels; and in less than two weeks we’ll be eating there again. If the next meal is as good as this one was we’ll be very happy indeed.
As at our previous outing we began with cocktails at their Next Door space which is located, um, next door. With an eye on dinner we passed up eating anything beforehand—though some Tenant Wursts were giving me the eye—and just got a cocktail each. A Tonic (tequila, black lime, seltzer) for the missus and a Manhattan for me. Both were mixed well. Our seats at the counter at the restaurant were ready before we were done with our drinks and so we carried them over. The missus—who doesn’t drink much—stopped with the one drink. My plan was to get a glass of wine with dinner and they kindly offered to give me three small pours of the wines from the pairing instead. Given their loose pours the first, a rosé was almost a full pour by itself but—as the one driving—I asked for and received smaller pours of the next two.
Yes, but how about the food? This was the menu on the night:
- Bitter Greens Salad, Chorizo Red Pepper Vinaigrette, Charred Pickled Carrots, Manchego, Mint, and Rhubarb. This may have been our first salad at Tenant. They should make them more often: it was a bracing start to the meal. Due to a dietary restriction we got salads with slightly different greens in them but both were excellent.
- Hamachi, Salsa Verde, Sweet and Sour Beets, Pickled Green Beans, Radish. Also excellent with a very nice mix of textures.
- Pork Sausage Ravioli, Reduced Garlic Whey Sauce with Ricotta, Nasturtium and Balsam Flowers Pea Tendrils. The ravioli at our last dinner at Tenant had divided us a little but we both loved this one. The whey sauce cut the richness of the pork sausage very nicely.
- Chicken Cacciatore, Broccolini Bread Crumbs, Parmesan. Where the first three courses emphasized the acid, this emphasized rounder flavours. The pasta underneath the chicken was rigatini, I believe, and was my favourite part of the dish.
- Grilled New York Strip, Salt and Vinegar Fried Potato, Sunny Side Up Quail Egg, Cheese Fondue, and Mushroom Jus. A wonderfully composed plate. The meat was very good but it was the potato and the mushrooms we liked the most.
- Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding. Probably not my favourite of all the puddings we’ve ended dinners at Tenant with but very good in its own right.
There was, as always, a deeply tart palate cleanser—or slushie, as they call it—served before the dessert proper.
For a look at our meal launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it cost and to see what’s coming next. I should apologize, by the way, for the particularly poor quality of these photographs. I was using a new camera and lens and failed to set the aperture, white balance and ISO correctly, resulting in dim and grainy shots that I just about managed to make presentable in post-processing.
All of the above plus tax and tip came to $228 or $114/head. That is certainly expensive but to our palates, a good value. Keep in mind that their eclectic approach matches our tastes very well. That said, if you have not been yet I would really recommend that you give them a go—especially before the summer comes to an end. We are greatly looking forward to our meal in 10 days or so—they do wonderful things with tomatoes and we are hopeful we’ll get some of that in our faces.
One thing that I think is beyond dispute, however, is that Tenant’s pasta is among the very best in the Twin Cities. In fact, I’d say it’s the best. I suggested to Grisha Hammes, the genial face of the front of the house and one of the co-masterminds of the restaurant, that they do one week every year of an all-pasta tasting menu. He laughed me off but I’m serious: we should all find a way to make this happen.
Alright, next week will see a very different kind of report: of a few hours spent at the Little Africa Festival in St. Paul this past weekend. Before that on the food front there’ll be a recipe on Thursday and more reports from Los Angeles and Hawaii on the weekend.