Tenant VIII (Minneapolis)

This is my second review this month of a meal at Tenant but it’s not my second review of a meal eaten at Tenant this month. Try saying that three times fast. No, my previous review was of an outing to Tenant in early July. This meal, on the other hand, is of a meal eaten this past Saturday and represents my attempt to become current with at least my Minnesota meal reviews. It took some doing to get to this meal. We were originally supposed to eat there on the Friday of the prior week. But it transpired that the menu had not yet turned over since our dinner in July and so they very kindly got us in a week later. And then the ongoing reconstruction of Bryant Ave. led to an issue with water mains and they had to close at short notice on Friday. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze us in the very next day and so here I am with a report on possibly the best meal we’ve had at Tenant in a year. Herewith the details.

We arrived a little early and headed over, as usual, to their Next Door space. Once again, we managed to avoid the temptation to ruin our appetites for the main event by ordering food there but we did get a pair of cocktails. The missus got the Paloma, which she liked very much—and my sip of it was extremely tasty as well. I got a martini. It was served—as all their cocktails are—in a tumbler but it was very fine indeed. As someone who does not enjoy overly-dry martinis, I appreciated that their default was not a dry version. Purists might take offense to the cocktail onion on the swizzle alongside an olive (technically, does that turn it into a Gibson?) but I mostly enjoyed the cocktail. Our seats at dinner were ready before we’d made great headway on the cocktails and so we took them over with us to the counter at the restaurant proper.

In case you haven’t been to Tenant and this is the first review you’re reading of dinner there, they serve a set six-course menu with no choices between courses. Indeed, there’s no menu of any kind: every course arrives as a surprise (you can work out dietary restrictions with them ahead of time, though I believe a gluten restriction cannot be worked around). It’s $70 for dinner. There’s an optional wine pairing as well—I think it might be an extra $30 but don’t quote me on that. The courses are not large but they’re not tiny either and unless you’d skipped a day’s worth of eating I think you’d be unlikely to leave hungry—and if you did you could just nip back over to the Next Door space and grab a Tenant Wurst.

We, however, were completely sated by the meal. Here’s what it comprised:

(With the quick turnaround between the meal and this review, I’ve not received details on the courses from the restaurant, which they’re usually kind enough to send to me. But the meal is fresh enough in my mind that I can describe the courses, even though I won’t obviously be able to list every component of every course. I’ve now received the details on the courses and so have pasted them in.)

  • Bitter Greens Salad, Chorizo Red Pepper Vinaigrette, Charred Pickled Carrots, Manchego, Mint, and Rhubarb. The first course was once again a salad. Lettuce, croutons, a tangy dressing and many, many pickled veg along with edible flowers. Tenant’s approach to much of what they do stresses acid and that was the case here as well. It worked for us.
  • Hamachi, Salsa Verde, etc. The second course was likewise once again a hamachi crudo with salsa verde but not identical to the one we ate in July. This too featured a panopoly of pickled things along with thin slices of crisp pear. We both thought this course suffered a bit from there being too much going on in the bowl. The fish might have been better emphasized with just the salsa verde and the pear and maybe the red chilli.
  • Vegetables with Tomato Water ( Dragon Tongue Beans, Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms, Concasse Tomatoes, Asparagus). The third course was one the missus waited an entire year for: their summer tomato water course. In this iteration a bowl was set out with various roasted (I think) summer vegetables (plus a sliver of chicken of the woods mushroom) over which umami-rich tomato water was poured. Not quite as tomato-forward as some of the other versions we’ve enjoyed there but I thought this was dynamite: a perfect distillation of summer in the vegetable garden. And there was one component that I thought was worth the price of entry by itself: cherry tomatoes that had been flash-fried, peeled, soaked in something or the other and then dehydrated. Just outstanding.
  • Pork Ravioli with Beet Dough, Shishitos, Ricotta Whey Sauce. The fourth course was once again ravioli filled with pork sausage in an acidic whey sauce but it too was not identical to the version we ate in July. It featured grilled shishito peppers and this was an instance of there being not too much in the bowl but everything adding up to more than the sum of the parts.
  • Rigatoni alla Vodka, Scallop, Shrimp, and Blue Crab. We’ve had nothing but excellent pasta at Tenant over the years but this fifth course is up there at the very top. Seafood pasta is how it was billed when set down and it featured textbook al dente pasta tossed in a tomato and blue crab sauce and topped with shrimp and perfectly grilled scallops. Oh man, I could have eaten a tub of this. As good as the shrimp and the sauce and the pasta were, the scallops were outstanding and after my first bite of one I left the others for the end.
  • Peach Custard, Whipped Cream, Streusel. After the customary extremely mouth-puckeringly tart citrus slushie: dessert, which was the customary custard. In July it was strawberry-rhubarb bread pudding; this time it featured peach and streusel. I liked this one a lot.

The missus stuck with her one cocktail. I added on a glass of a dry Riesling halfway through dinner proper.

For a look at everything we ate and drank, please launch the slideshow below. The photographs are better than the ones I took in July but still no great shakes (I’m still learning the ways of my new camera and lens). Scroll down to see how much the meal cost and to see what’s coming next.

The crudo was not our favourite of the crudos we’ve had at Tenant—though it was very far from being bad—but the rest of the courses we had zero complaints with. The seafood pasta and the tomato water were my favourites but I have to say that the salad was not so very far behind. I don’t know that I would have ever expected to say that of a meal at Tenant when we first started eating there.

Price? With drinks, tax and tip, the total came to just about $228 or $114/head. If this kind of cooking appeals to you I think you’ll find it to be a very good value in the Cities.

Alright, what restaurants will I be reviewing in September? Frankly, I have no idea. The boys and the missus have their school years starting next week and I’ll be heading to my new term a week after that. I expect we’ll go eat somewhere this weekend but I’m not sure yet where it might be. You’ll just have to check in next Tuesday (if Minnesota restaurant reports is all you come here for).


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