Petite Leon II (Minneapolis)

We first ate at Petite Leon in late 2021, after the end of the Delta wave and right at the start of the Omicron wave. The pandemic isn’t over yet, of course, but those days do seem behind us (I hope not to jinx anything). Anyway, Petite Leon then was our first indoor meal in months and we really liked it. I said then that the menu as we experienced it then was not so much Mexican as a hybridizing of Mexican ingredients and approaches with ingredients and flavours from other parts of the world: the kind of cooking, in short, that once might have been thought of as fusion but which in this incarnation I prefer to describe as Global Cosmopolitan. Anyway, though not everything at that meal was great, the average was pretty high. And so we’d expected we’d be back in 2022. Well, it took a little longer but we finally got back there with a couple of friends this past weekend. And though there were a couple of dishes that didn’t land for us, this meal may have been even better than the first. Herewith the details. Continue reading


Restaurant Alma, Spring 2023 (Minneapolis)

Our dinners at Alma last spring, summer and fall were among the highlights of our dining out in all of 2022. If we hadn’t been gone in the winter, we would have eaten there again. No surprise then that we showed up again to eat their current spring menu. Of course, in between the dinner last fall and this one came their invitation to me to do an Indian pop-up with them—which went off quite successfully (I’d like to think) at the end of February. I note/remind you of this at the very outset to foreground the fact that whereas until the end of last year I was just a very big fan of their cooking philosophy, I am now a little more entangled with them and my critical detachment is doubtless at least a little strained. There was no special treatment at this dinner, no comps of any kind—but if you choose to view my enthusiasm for this meal as contaminated, I will understand. For yes, we very much enjoyed this dinner as well and I don’t really have any criticisms in what follows. Except maybe that the root vegetable pavé, the picture of which on Instagram spurred me to make this reservation, was no longer on the menu. Them’s the breaks. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Spoon and Stable IV (Minneapolis)

We went two and a half years between our first and second meals at Spoon and Stable, and three and a half years between the second and third. We ate our fourth meal there, however, only a little over a year after the third. That third dinner was eaten on their sidewalk at the end of October last year. This was a December meal though and there was no outdoor seating and no question of our wanting to sit outside. We were scheduled to eat there with friends but they ended up having to punt. We considered cancelling and then seeing if we could cut the reservation down to a table for two. In the end, we decided to stick with the table of four and take our boys along with us for their first look at the true high-end in the Twin Cities. A good decision too as the meal was very good and we had a great time together. Continue reading

Hyacinth III (St. Paul, MN)

I ate at Hyacinth twice in 2019. The first time with the missus and some friends; the second time with colleagues. I enjoyed both meals even as I felt that its charms were really those of a neighbourhood restaurant. Nonetheless, if the pandemic had not intervened we would probably have gone back at least once in the last couple of years. And this past weekend we finally did, taking our boys out with us once again to an adult dinner experience. Italian food is the easiest option with them (see oiur previous outings to Terzo, Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s) and Hyacinth’s current menu seemed like it would suit them just fine. I’m glad to report that this did indeed prove to be the case: they enjoyed their dinner a lot. Their parents liked it too but thought it was a little uneven and we were really not convinced by the meal’s value proposition. Continue reading

Demi II (Minneapolis)

We first ate at Demi in early 2020, not so-very long after they opened (in 2019, as the sign outside their door proclaims). There were dishes at that dinner that we liked very much indeed. But, on the whole, we thought there were a few too many courses that looked better than they tasted. The highs were very high but the mean was quite a bit lower. Still, we liked the meal enough that I said that we’d probably come back in the summer of 2021 and perhaps make a dinner at Demi an annual indulgence. Well, courtesy the pandemic, it took another year for us to finally make our return. We ate there midweek, last week to celebrate a big number birthday for the missus. I am happy to say that we liked this meal more than the first (which is not to say that, as a renowned miserable bastard, I won’t be noting some reservations about it as well). Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Fall 2022 (Minneapolis)

We somehow managed to go four and a half years between  dinner at Alma in the fall of 2017 and our dinner there this past April; but now we’ve already eaten three dinners there this year and I think that makes us even. Yes, we went back this weekend for a second dinner in two months. And no, it wasn’t to eat once again the menu we’d liked so much in August. Social media is to blame. The restaurant posted a lovely picture on Instagram of locally foraged mushrooms that they said were on the current menu and I went to look at what else was on there and a few minutes later we had a reservation. What can I say? I am very impressionable. Anyway, I am very glad we did make the reservation because this was one of our best dinners there (I know I say this after every meal at Alma) and one of the best dinners we’ve eaten anywhere recently. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Terzo (Minneapolis)

Those of you who are misguided enough to follow this blog closely know that this year the missus and I began taking the boys out to an adult dinner with us once a month or so. Our ports of call so far have included Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, Myriel, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s. Those who also know these restaurants can also tell that with the exception of Myriel they have in common either a full-on Italian focus or—in the case of 112 Eatery—a menu that features a number of pastas and grilled meats. These, you see, are the best bets for dining out with our boys—they’re probably more adventurous as eaters than most of their peers but we’re not paying for them to spurn 75% of what’s on their plates at places like Alma or Tenant or Spoon & Stable. But Italian food is easy. Accordingly, we’re in the process of doing a slow-motion tour of the more popular/better-regarded Italian places in the Twin Cities. This month saw us make a stop at Terzo, the most formal of the outposts of the Broders mini-empire at the intersection of 50th St. and Penn Ave. in South Minneapolis. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Tenant VIII (Minneapolis)

This is my second review this month of a meal at Tenant but it’s not my second review of a meal eaten at Tenant this month. Try saying that three times fast. No, my previous review was of an outing to Tenant in early July. This meal, on the other hand, is of a meal eaten this past Saturday and represents my attempt to become current with at least my Minnesota meal reviews. It took some doing to get to this meal. We were originally supposed to eat there on the Friday of the prior week. But it transpired that the menu had not yet turned over since our dinner in July and so they very kindly got us in a week later. And then the ongoing reconstruction of Bryant Ave. led to an issue with water mains and they had to close at short notice on Friday. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze us in the very next day and so here I am with a report on possibly the best meal we’ve had at Tenant in a year. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Summer 2022 (Minneapolis)

Our last meal at Alma, in early April this year, had unaccountably come four and a half years after our previous dinner there. I noted then that it was unlikely to be more than four and a half months till we were back again and for a change I am not a liar. We went back for dinner this past weekend, just a little short of four and a half months since the last. And I’m very glad we did. Our dinner in April was very good, but this one was even better. This might be because Alma serves a seasonal prix fixe, and late summer in Minnesota offers chefs far more to work with than the early spring—keep in mind that Alma’s sourcing is local/regional. Even if that’s not the reason, I would highly recommend going to eat this menu before it shifts in the fall. We liked it so much that we’re almost tempted to go back and eat it again. Continue reading

Luci Ancora (St. Paul, MN)

I have been told on occasion that for someone who reviews a lot of restaurants in the Twin Cities I have a major blind spot when it comes to older restaurants. I suppose this is true, especially at the high end. With very few exceptions, most of the high-end restaurants I’ve reviewed either opened after we got to Minnesota in 2007 or not so very much before. I’m not really sure why that is—I suppose I am guilty as much as anyone else of following the pr-driven newer places that get more attention online. Well, in an attempt to begin to redress that gap we had dinner recently at Luci Ancora, a venerable St. Paul institution for Italian food. Continue reading

Tenant VII (Minneapolis)

Turning a menu over every six weeks is no easy task for a restaurant. I suppose it’s easier if, like Tenant, the restaurant is small and serves only a set menu every night. Of course, Tenant doesn’t turn the whole menu over all at once: new dishes are introduced one or a few at a time till finally the whole is transformed. And it’s also true that this discipline would have been ingrained in the proprietors from their long tenure at Piccolo which also had a similarly restless menu. Nonetheless, it cannot be easy. Difficulty of conception and execution of new menus aside, it’s a canny move. This because it encourages those who particularly like their approach to come back often to try dishes that they might not otherwise encounter again. And so it is that we—who rarely go back to the same restaurant twice in the same year—find ourselves back at Tenant over and over again. We ate there in June before leaving for our travels; we ate this meal in July after coming back from our travels; and in less than two weeks we’ll be eating there again. If the next meal is as good as this one was we’ll be very happy indeed. Continue reading

Bar La Grassa, 2022 (Minneapolis)

Earlier this year we began taking our boys out to the occasional formal dinner with us. They’ve been enjoying these meals greatly. While our dinner at Myriel—with their practice of not posting menus—was a chancy shot in the dark, the other two dinners—at Mucci’s Italian and 112 Eatery—were pretty solid bets as both are places with a number of pasta options (as it happens, they enjoyed Myriel as well). Thus when the younger boy expressed an interest in eating a fancy dinner for his birthday in July we decided to go back to a place with many, many pasta options: Bar La Grassa. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Khâluna, Again (Minneapolis)

I first ate at Khâluna in early April. That meal was eaten with some colleagues and I liked it so much (see my review here) that I was resolved to eat there again soon with the missus. That happened only three weeks later but it has taken me almost three months since to write the second dinner up. This is not because I was less enthusiastic about this meal—it was also very good. It’s just that I had a big backlog of restaurant write-ups to get to and didn’t want to run a write-up of a repeat visit so soon after the first. The good news is that since Khâluna’s menu does not turn over much, if at all, this write-up is still relevant: everything we ate at this dinner is still on their menu. Having now eaten most of that menu, I would recommend most of it if you have a reservation. Continue reading

Kalsada (Saint Paul, MN)

Filipino food has not by and large been very visible in the Twin Cities metro until recently. This is not a surprise when you consider that as per a January 2016 report from the Minnesota State Demographic Center, the numbers of Filipinos in Minnesota—whether foreign-born or not—is relatively low: 14,100 people at the time the report was published. Compare to 184,100 for Mexican, 66,800 for Hmong,  46,300 for Somali, 44,800 for Indian (from India), 29,800 for Vietnamese and 29,400 for Chinese. Of course, population numbers alone don’t account for this lack of visibility. The number of Ethiopians is only a few thousand higher than the number of Filipinos and there are lots and lots of Ethiopian restaurants in the Twin Cities, many of them popular with more than just an in-group clientele. The secondary issue here is probably that Filipino food does not have a very high profile in the US more broadly and so there has perhaps not been that “call” for it from out-culture groups. That is, so far. Continue reading

Myriel (St. Paul, MN)

Myriel opened just about a year ago in St. Paul and has quickly garnered a strong reputation. The chef-owner is Karyn Tomlinson who was previously the head chef at Corner Table in Minneapolis. I have to admit we were not hugely impressed by our one dinner at Corner Table (which closed before the pandemic) but given the acclaim for Myriel we were looking forward to eventually eating there. We were first set to do so in May but those plans were scuppered by a late-breaking positive test among the staff (we ended up at Saint Genevieve that evening where we had a very nice dinner). We got rescheduled to early-mid June and when our friends couldn’t make it on that date we decided to take our boys along for another fine dining outing (which is a development they are hugely enjoying). Here is how it went. Continue reading

Vann (Spring Park, MN)

Even by my very low standards this is a very low-utility restaurant report. I’ll tell you why in a bit. But first a bit about the restaurant. Spring Park, a western suburb of Minneapolis is located alongside Lake Minnetonka, and Vann—Norwegian for “water”—is located just across the street from the lake and boasts lovely views of it from its large windows. The chef is Erik Skaar whose path to Spring Creek included stops in Tampa Bay, Denver and Seattle before a return to the Twin Cities where he cooked at the Bachelor Farmer and Tilia before finally opening his own restaurant in late 2019. No, it wasn’t the most fortunate timing. But they made it through the first two years of the pandemic and have now seemingly hit their stride again. We finally made the trek out to Spring Park earlier this month to try their food, and we were very glad we did. Continue reading