Piccolo VII

Piccolo: Black cod with sesame seed, crispy garlic, wasabi, and green juice
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

Piccolo VI & Some Complaining about the James Beard Awards

Piccolo: Arctic Char Mousse
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

Restaurant Alma, Summer 2015

Cured Salmon, Alma
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).
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Piccolo V

Fig Tart
Last week my place of work hosted a rather famous art critic and his partner; he was the chief guest (as we say in India) at our end of year festivities (and a beautiful, moving speech he delivered too). In past years people in his role have been fed dismal dinners on campus the evening before the main event; but on this occasion the person in charge was one of my more gastronomically oriented colleagues who decided to take a smaller number of people up to a fine restaurant in the Cities instead. And she invited the missus and me to join. I asked where we were going and she said she had her eye on Bachelor Farmer, never having been there before. I asked if she’d been to Piccolo and when she said she hadn’t I said that in my opinion Piccolo was both the best and most striking Twin Cities meal we could showcase for our big city guests.

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Piccolo IV: Fifth Anniversary Dinner

Piccolo: Escargot
No, not our fifth anniversary, the restaurant’s. Piccolo turned five this month. We only ate there for the first time last March but it has quickly become our favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities. So when I saw a reference to a fifth anniversary dinner in a glowing piece on Chef Doug Flicker on Eater in December it took only a few minutes for me to find a phone and call the restaurant about reservations. As far as I can tell, they didn’t really advertise this dinner—I didn’t see anything on their website nor did I see any tweets from the restaurant touting it in the weeks preceding. From this I conclude that most of the tables were set aside for regulars and friends of the house*, and as we are neither (this would be “only” our fourth visit—see here, here and here for reviews of our prior meals) I felt we were very fortunate to get a table. And even more fortunate that due to a cancellation the evening prior we managed to get our reservation moved from 9.30 pm to 8.45 pm.

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Piccolo III

sucklingpigOkay, so we like Piccolo a lot. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we can only manage one restaurant dinner in the cities each month (living an hour south, with small kids, and a limited fine dining budget) we’ve now eaten at Piccolo three times this year, passing up the opportunity to eat at other local luminaries that we have not yet visited (Corner Table, Meritage), visited in a while (Heartland, 112 Eatery), or which we used to revisit regularly in the past (Alma). What can I say, Doug Flicker’s modernist soul food (though the restaurant might not describe it this way) is in our sweet spot. We haven’t always loved everything we’ve eaten at every meal there but it’s always a stimulating experience. Continue reading

Piccolo II: The Re-Piccoloning

We enjoyed our dinner at Piccolo in March so much that when it came time for figuring out where to go for our anniversary dinner last month it was the first place we both came up with. We were interested to see if it would be consistent with the level of creativity and execution of our first meal—I’m pleased to report that it was and that we enjoyed this meal even more. Continue reading

Piccolo

Here, with only a day or two to spare, is your Twin Cities fine dining report for March. This time we dined at Piccolo and did not have to endure terrible road conditions on the way there or back. And it was a very good dinner, always interesting, sometimes great.

A few quick notes on the restaurant for those who haven’t been there. It opened a few years ago and is housed in a very small/intimate space. There are two small dining rooms–one larger and brighter (and warmer) as you enter, and a smaller one with just three tables on the other side of the kitchen, which you pass through on the way there. The space in a sense prepares you for the food: small rooms, small plates; close quarters, fussy attention to detail; unusual layout, highly creative cooking. The menu, which changes every eight weeks or so, comprises five courses with only three selections in each, and while you can order a la carte, the smart thing to do is to order all five courses for the set price of $55. As we are smart that is what we did. More on what we ate in just a bit. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, January 2014

I know I’m terribly hard to please when it comes to eating out at the high end in the Twin Cities, but there are two places of which I rarely have complaints. One is 112 Eatery and the other is Restaurant Alma. We’ve eaten at Alma about 5-6 times in the last few years–which, given how little we can go out now and how rarely we ever return anywhere for a second meal, let alone a third, is really saying something. While many trendier places have opened in the seven years that we’ve been in Minnesota, and received a lot more enthusiastic press, local and national, Alma just keeps on keeping on with excellent, seasonally-focused food that seems more classicist than it really is. Continue reading