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.
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.
For years I’ve been down on sushi in Minnesota, all the while harbouring a guilty secret: I hadn’t actually eaten at any of the better reviewed places. It just seemed highly unlikely to me that sushi at any of these places would be any good. No, I didn’t think this because we’re in the middle of the country. Given how much fish flies around the world and how much of what shows up in most sushi places in the US is previously frozen anyway that’s not the problem. Which is not to say that it wouldn’t be nice to get live Santa Barbara uni and spot prawns as you can in the better places in LA (for example, at Kiyokawa) but there’s plenty of other good fish that should be theoretically available. To be clear, I wouldn’t under any circumstances expect there to be sushi bars here on par with the top or second-tier places in Los Angeles but theoretically, at least, one might expect there to be places on par with the better neighbourhood establishments in LA. But I didn’t think this was likely either. Continue reading
Okay, 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