It took till mid-July but we finally ate a meal inside a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. Sakura was the last time I ate inside a restaurant. That was not planned. We could tell restrictions were looming but we didn’t know when they would come or how long it would be before in-person dining would again become viable. Of course, in-person indoor dining’s been back in Minnesota for a few months—but we didn’t start to get comfortable with the idea until the end of June. Once we were ready to take the plunge there was not much doubt where we would go first. Tenant has become our favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities—as their predecessor, Piccolo was before them—and it was only appropriate that our return to dining in happen there. (Grand Szechuan would have been even more appropriate for the whole family but it’s only on our recent outing to Kansas City that we’ve finally taken the boys indoors to eat.) I’m happy to report that our first fine dining meal since the pandemic began was a very good one. Herewith the details. Continue reading
Demi is Chef Gavin Kaysen’s third fine dining restaurant (I think) in the Twin Cities metro. He made waves a few years ago when he returned from a long and successful stint cooking in New York to open Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. That restaurant was an immediate sensation, receiving rave reviews and becoming almost immediately one of the hottest tickets in town. We’ve eaten there twice and enjoyed both meals (here and here). Indeed, we’d say that it is the best more or less traditional fine dining restaurant we’ve eaten at in the Twin Cities (this includes the long-gone La Belle Vie, which we found rather overrated on our one visit there). Kaysen’s second restaurant, Bellecour opened in Wayzata a few years later. It presents a menu in a more straight-ahead French bistro tradition (we have not eaten there yet). Demi, which opened in early 2019, offers a third expression yet of Kaysen’s cuisine. Continue reading
We went back to Tenant for dinner a week and a half ago. This was our fourth visit. Our previous meal there was just about 6 weeks prior to this one and the one before wasn’t too much longer before that one. Both those meals were very good indeed, catapulting Tenant to the top of our Twin Cities fine dining list. They also took place at the height and end of summer respectively. We were interested to see, going into this one, how the kitchen would deal with the relatively depleted produce options of Minnesota in the late fall/early winter. Well, our experience was a little mixed. This was probably the least of our meals there so far. But only some of this was likely down to the market offerings of the season (no more tomato water!). It’s more the case that going every six weeks or so, as we’ve been doing since mid-summer seems to have resulted in a bit of deja vu. While none of the courses were identical to those at our last meal there was some sameness. Now you might say that this is an odd criticism—most restaurants have far more static menus. But one of the things we enjoyed most about Tenant on our previous visits was surprise and there wasn’t much surprise at this meal. Which is not to say, of course, that it wasn’t a good dinner in its own right—for it was. And keep in mind that this is not a problem you would have on your first visit there or if your visits were spaced further apart. Continue reading
Tenant opened in the old Piccolo space, just a month or so after that great restaurant closed in the spring of 2017 (though in Minnesota it may still have been winter). We tried to go eat there a few times that first year but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that we finally managed it. We really liked that meal and wanted to go back a lot sooner than in another year and a half. Alas, between our schedules, travel and the difficulty of scoring seats at the tiny restaurant it was almost another year before we made it back for our second meal. That was last weekend. We liked this meal even more and I think we are both ready to say that it may in fact now be our favourite and quite likely the best fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Depending on your view of fine dining in the Twin Cities you may think this faint or high praise but either way Tenant is very good indeed. And we are already plotting a return in September. Continue reading
From classic bistro fare in Montreal to an altogether more modernist meal in Toronto. Canis opened in downtown Toronto in 2016 and has apparently moved fairly quickly up the city’s fine dining charts. They show up at #27 in all of Canada in one of those restaurant ranking lists and if there are 26 better restaurants in the country then Canadians are doing very well indeed. The truth, of course, is that these restaurant ranking lists are all silly and highly subjective—just the next evening I ate at another place in Toronto that is higher in those rankings and thought Canis was far superior. Indeed, I thought my meal at Canis was the best fine dining meal I’ve eaten in a long time, far superior to anything I’ve eaten in the Twin Cities since the heyday of Piccolo. Outside the Twin Cities, I think I would have to go back to our dinner at Hotel Herman in Montreal in October 2016 to come up with one as good; and to Hedone in London in August of that year for one that might have been better. (All three of the aforementioned restaurants, alas, are now closed.) Continue reading
We have been trying to get to Tenant for a while now. They opened in the Spring of 2017, while we were in London for three months. When we got back we cut back on our eating out for a while on account of the reckless eating we’d engaged in for an extended period abroad. And because of their limited seating and their constrained reservation system we couldn’t find a date that worked later in 2017. We finally made reservations this April but just a few days before the weather took a turn for the worse, a blizzard was predicted and we had to cancel (the blizzard did come to pass).
I’ve reviewed two previous dinners at Alma (one from 2014 and one from 2015). As I’ve said previously, before Piccolo became our favourite high-end restaurant in the Twin Cities, and a place we returned to again and again, Alma used to be the place we ate at most often. Now, of course, Piccolo is gone. And so, when the missus’ birthday rolled around earlier this month, we decided to go back again to Alma, for our first expensive meal in the Cities since Piccolo closed and we left for London. This was also our first meal there since Alma closed and reopened late last year after an extensive remodel. Continue reading
Ever since we found out about the impending closing back in December we’ve gone back with a number of friends who enjoy the restaurant as much as we do, and we did so again last Friday. We are going to miss this jewel of a restaurant dearly. Yes, there are some other excellent fine dining restaurants in the Twin Cities—and yes, we’ll go back more often to some of them now (Alma and Spoon and Stable especially)—but what Chef Flicker and his team have accomplished at Piccolo is something quite unique. Yes, his mark is on Esker Grove at the Walker and will doubtless be on Tenant, the new restaurant from two members of his Piccolo team which will take over the Piccolo space, but of all the major closings in recent years this is, in my view, the most irreplaceable. Chef Flicker himself will be moving on to something altogether more informal and while I’m sure it will be excellent it is not going to be Piccolo. God knows he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants but this is a big loss for our dining scene. Continue reading
Will this be an account of our last meal at Piccolo? I hope not but they seem to be entirely booked up from now through their closing on March 11. I’m hoping we can get in one more time but if not, at least our last meal there will have been excellent. After eating there in mid-December and again over the New Year’s weekend, we went back again in late-January with another set of friends who are also big fans and we were all well pleased.
This review and, if we can indeed get in one more time, that of our next meal there will be the exceptions to my recent shift of emphasis to smaller immigrant-run restaurants. Piccolo was our favourite restaurant in the Twin Cities and I wanted to say farewell. Next week we’ll be back to Somali food. Continue reading
I don’t have a whole lot left to say about Piccolo except that this is my ninth review of a meal there in the last few years and that I still am depressed about the fact that they will be open for less than two more months. We last ate there in the second week of December and when we found out at that meal that they were going to have a special New Year’s weekend menu, and that Doug Flicker would be in the kitchen cooking it, it took about 3 seconds for us to decide that we’d be back soon to eat it. This is a brief account of that meal. We were joined by friends we’ve eaten there with before, and who are also big fans. It turned out to be one of the best meals any of us had eaten there—which is saying something, as the last meal we ate there together was pretty amazing too. Continue reading
This is the final big meal report from our trip to Montreal in late October, though not the final Montreal report per se—I’ll have another very brief report next week, probably, on some pastry eating. This dinner at Hotel Herman was the last meal of our trip (unless, you count the terrible food we ate at the airport for breakfast and lunch the next day after missing our early morning flight to Minneapolis). It followed dinner at Joe Beef the night before (and brunch that morning at Olive et Gourmando). I wasn’t expecting to say that I might have liked this meal even more than our dinner at Joe Beef but that might possibly be true. Continue reading
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone: the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, and one of the best in the country, is closing. Yes, Piccolo will serve its last meal on March 11. Read Chef Doug Flicker’s announcement here. Why they’re closing is not entirely clear. My best guess would be some combination of the (not-so) slow death of the market for serious food for adults, a desire to go out on his own terms, and a desire to do something else after seven years of Piccolo. The good news is we are not losing Doug Flicker: his stamp will be on the new Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center; Sandcastle will still be around at Lake Nokomis for people who want lakeside food that raises the bar for the genre; and he will doubtless surface soon elsewhere (though if it’s at the helm of a burger and ramen shop I will not be happy). The bad news, again, is that Piccolo is closing. Continue reading
Hedone is located in Chiswick, a long tube ride from central London. A lot is made of this incongruity in some quarters; and even for someone like me who doesn’t have much of a sense of the geography of London, physical or cultural, the setting does seem unlikely: it’s not just that it’s far away from the center of the city but also that Chiswick High Street, once you get to it (after getting off at a very unprepossessing train station), doesn’t really seem like the kind of place where you’d find a Michelin starred restaurant that is one of the most innovative in England. Then again, Hedone is far from the only restaurant of its ilk in the world to be located in unlikely surroundings and it’s probably very likely that lower rents in Chiswick allow for their food to be sold at lower prices than would be possible in hipper locations. It’s not that a meal at Hedone is cheap—I hasten to add—but it’s both extremely good and clearly made from top-notch ingredients. It was a superb meal—the best I ate on my short trip—and, while not cheap, it felt like a good value for what I was eating (though the post-Brexit exchange rate helped). Continue reading
The Clove Club, located in trendy Shoreditch, is one of London’s hottest restaurants. It started out as an informal supper club and moved to its current location in the space of the former Shoreditch town hall in 2013. It has a Michelin star and was recently named to that silly list, “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Despite the latter disqualification a number of people whose opinions I trust recommended I eat there on my recent trip to London, and so it happened that on my second full morning in the city, I woke up in my hotel by the Tower of London, took a shower and walked down to Shoreditch (passing St. John Bread and Wine again on the way). Continue reading
Five months after my last Piccolo review, here I am with a write-up of our second dinner there this year and our seventh overall. Not that we need any excuse to go back to Piccolo—we have to make a concerted effort to not just go there every time we plan a dinner out in the Twin Cities—but this visit was sparked by the intriguing news that Chef Flicker will be overseeing a new restaurant at the Walker Center that will be opening this winter. We look forward to eating there once it’s open and on its feet but the news was a good reminder that we’d planned to eat at Piccolo more often this year. Well, I am glad to say that the meal did not disappoint. Unfortunately, with the busy season at work about to start, and travel plans in October (to Montreal, if things hold) and December (to Delhi and Calcutta via Hong Kong again), I’m not sure we’ll be able to go back again this year but this meal will do nicely to tide us over to our next. Continue reading
At the risk of turning into Piccolo’s house blogger here is my sixth review of dinner at Piccolo. But before I get to it allow me to complain a little bit about the James Beard awards, specifically the category for Best Chef: Midwest, which Doug Flicker of Piccolo has not only never won, he’s also never been a finalist for. You’ll say I should know better than to complain about the James Beard awards which, like most industry awards, are mostly a matter of who knows whom, who worked with whom and who has the hardest working p.r team. But I’ve never let knowing better stop me from complaining before so why start now? Continue reading
Alma was once our absolute favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities. My first review was of our fifth or sixth meal there. This one comes more than a year and a half after that meal. This is not because that was a bad experience (as you’ll see if you read the review) or because Alma’s reputation has gone downhill since—in fact, they’re on the verge of a major expansion. It’s just that it was shortly after that meal in January 2014 that Doug Flicker did whatever strange hoodoo he’s done on our brains and palates, and Piccolo has since become our regular rotation place (we’ve eaten there five times between my two Alma reviews).