Meritage III (St. Paul, MN)

It’s been a while since we’ve eaten in St. Paul. In fact, since our first meal out in 2023—at Trieu Chau—we hadn’t eaten there at all till last week. This is not because of some blood feud we have developed with the city. It’s mostly due to the fact that we were gone for most of January and recovering from our trip in February—and then I was gone again for a chunk of March. We’ll be getting back to some of our favourites there again soon. In the meantime, here is a report on a recent dinner at Meritage. We were treated to it by friends and as they’re not strangers to my restaurant reviewing, food photographing ways—indeed they are depraved enough to encourage both activities—I took the opportunity to report on this meal as well.

We were last at Meritage in 2021. Then we were there but not inside; we sat on the sidewalk, under an umbrella. A year and a half later, we’ve been eating inside restaurants for a while now and so we had a table in their attractive dining room. It was a lovely evening in that week of fake spring we had in Minnesota and when we got there, there was still a lot of sunlight streaming in through the floor to ceiling windows. The restaurant was busy but not full at 7.30; and when we left at about 10 pm, there were very few other people still there. I don’t know how hard it is to get a table on the weekends but our experience would suggest you have a pretty good chance of snagging one on Thursdays (they’re only open from Thursday to Sunday, and for dinner only).

We sat down and after some idle chitchat ordered some drinks (I fear we may have taxed our server’s patience with how long we took to do this). Two people got the Jack Rose; one, unconvinced by the rum version on the menu, asked for a regular old fashioned; I got the Meritage Manhattan, made with cognac and kirsch. Everyone was happy with their drinks. They set down a plate of gougeres with the drinks and these were quite nice.

To the food:

We began with the following: the escargot bourguignon for the missus (she’s a big fan of Meritage’s escargot and always gets them); the foie gras for one of our friends; the crab louie for another of our friends; and the smoked salmon rillettes for me. We were all pleased enough with our selections, though I can’t help feeling I would have enjoyed my rillettes more with bread than I did with the massive potato chips they serve them with.

And then the following larger plates: one of our friends got a half order of the forest mushroom and duck confit risotto; the other got the steak frites (with hanger steak); the missus got the moules frites; and I got the duck breast a l’orange. The steak and the mussels were quite good (and each came with a metric tonne of frites); my duck was excellent, cooked perfectly and matched nicely on the plate with charred broccolini and potato gratin; alas, I did not enjoy my large swipe of the risotto: the texture was far too porridgy for my liking and while the duck confit was tasty it overpowered everything else.

To end, each couple split an order of the marquise au chocolat. All were happy.

Two glasses of red wine (a pinot with the steak and a zinfandel blend with the duck) rounded out our order.

For a closer look at the restaurant, the current menu, and what we ate, click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service, the entire experience etc. and to see what’s coming next.

Service was mostly good. We had ordered a side of sauteed spinach that never showed up—we didn’t mind, however, as there was a lot of food on the table as it was.

I can’t tell you how much the whole thing cost because I didn’t get a look at the check. You can probably work it out from the menu. The meal, on the whole, was quite good. The starters were all done well—my reservations about the chips with the rillettes aside—and three of the four mains also ranged from very good to excellent; and the dessert was likewise quite good. So a very good hit rate.

Nonetheless, the prices do seem a bit high, especially for the mains, which on the current menu could really use a couple of dishes in the mid $30s: there’s quite a jump from $30 for the mussels to the four dishes that cost $40 or more (add the bearnaise to the steak frites and that’s a fifth dish that’s >$40). If you can stomach the prices, however, Meritage remains a good bet for grown-up food, done well and served in pleasant surroundings.

Alright, next week’s Twin Cities report will remain in the high end of the market but will see a return to Minneapolis. Before that I’ll have more reports from Seoul and Goa. And, of course, a couple more Bowmore reviews on the whisky front.



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