Tenant IX (Minneapolis)

We ate at Tenant thrice last summer (reviews here, here and here). We’d hoped to make it there again at the end of the year before heading off to Los Angeles and India, but it never happened. And so I was happy on return from India to score two seats at the counter for a Saturday at the end of March. As this is my ninth review of a meal at Tenant, you will not be surprised to hear that we are big fans of their playful takes on fine dining, delivered in the form of a “surprise” six-course menu (you find out what each course is when it’s brought out to you). Dinners there have a familiar rhythm at this point—we usually have a good sense of the kinds of dishes we’re likely to get in different seasons. But given how much we like it, familiarity in this case only breeds enjoyment.

First, some useful information for those who may not have been. Tenant, as I noted, does only a set six-course menu. You get everything on it but you don’t know what it will be until you get it. You can note dietary restrictions at the time of your reservation and they will usually work with you—though given the place of pasta in what they do, gluten restrictions can’t be worked around. The cost of the set dinner is currently $70 (plus tax and tip). Wines are available with dinner as either a pairing or by the glass. As of about a year ago, they also have a second space next door, that is named, wait for it, wait for it, Next Door. If you arrive early for your dinner reservation you can start out there with cocktails and snacky foods before being taken to your table (the two spaces are connected). You can choose to go (back) there after dinner for another cocktail. And you can also, of course, choose to make an evening of it just at Next Door (no reservations are needed, I don’t think). As far as we could tell most people who were there on that Saturday evening were there for Next Door itself and not Tenant.

We enjoy starting at Next Door with a cocktail and so try to arrive a bit early for dinner and sit at the Next Door bar. On this occasion, Next Door was bustling and we took a small table off by the entrance and ordered our cocktails. We hadn’t got there early enough and by the time our cocktails (a Paloma for the missus, a dirty martini for me) were ready so were our seats at the counter at Tenant and so we just carried our cocktails there and drank them as an aperitif.

The dining room filled up again with the second turn and the meal proper began. This is what it entailed on this occasion:

  • First Course: Hamachi Tartare, Charred Scallion Vinaigrette, Burnt Citrus, Crispy Wontons. Hamachi crudo had featured in two of our dinners last summer as well. We thought this one was the pick of the three with a lovely mix of flavours (tart/sweet/bitter) and textures (soft/crisp).
  • Second Course: Creamed Spinach Fondue, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Grilled and Pickled Rutabaga and Carrots. But we liked this second course of composed vegetables that had been prepared in variety of ways even better.
  • Third Course: Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup, Croutons, Chives, Fried Leeks. And when we got into this soup we felt that this was at this point one of the strongest meals we’d had at Tenant. We could both have had a large bowl of this elegant soup with some crusty bread for dinner and been happy.
  • Fourth Course: Tortelli with Pork Sausage,  Reduced Orange Parmesan Sauce. The next course divided us a bit. We’ve encountered the reduced orange parmesan sauce before. The missus felt it was a bit too sweet on the previous occasion and she felt the same way this time as well. I loved the sauce both times but thought my tortelli might have gone a bit over (the sausage stuffing was a bit overdone).
  • Fifth Course: Chicken Parmesan, Red Sauce, Hand Cut Noodles, Mozzarella di Bufala. This is a kind of thing Tenant does from time to time that apparently bothers some people. At one of our dinners last year they served chicken cacciatore, and this time it was chicken parmesan. Seems a little basic for a fine restaurant, you might say, but when it’s done so well there’s really nothing to complain about. And their pasta is just so good that it’s kind of silly to say that you could eat something like this anywhere.
  • Palate Cleanser: Citrus Slushy. The requisite highly acidic slushy to shock the palate before dessert.
  • Sixth Course: Crème brulée. I was looking forward to one of their usual fruit custards and was a bit disappointed not to get one. That is, until I took a bite of the crème brulée, which was just perfectly done. Yes, you can get crème brulée as well at many places around town but not crème brulée like this.

The missus stuck with her one cocktail. They were kind enough to give me small pours of three wines to go with the dinner—and even kinder to not charge me for them at the end.

For a look at the space(s) and our dinner, click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and to see how much it cost.

Over the course of a meal at Tenant you’re likely to encounter a number of the chefs, who bring the courses out themselves (there are no servers per se). We’ve always enjoyed our interactions with them and chatting with Grisha H. who was in the front of the house on this visit is always a pleasure too. All in all, this was a very good meal again, even if it didn’t quite sustain the highs of the first three courses. We’ll be back in the summer.

Cost? With cocktails, tax and tip, the total came to $214. I’ll repeat the comp disclosure: they did not charge for the three small pours of wine (I tipped up a bit accordingly).

What’s next on the restaurant report/review front? Either two reviews from Seoul and one from Goa or two from Goa and from Seoul. That’ll be at the end of this week. Next week’s Twin Cities report will once again be from the high end.


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