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

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

Tenant VI (Minneapolis)

Tenant was the first restaurant we dined indoors at after the pandemic started. That was back in July of 2021. At the time things were threatening to look up on the pandemic front and we’d begun to think hopefully of a return to something approaching normalcy. Then the delta wave hit…and soon we were not eating in again. Just when we got started again there was omicron… When we finally got comfortable with the idea yet again at the start of the spring, Tenant was one of the first places we’d hoped to return to. But between the need to make reservations more than a month out and the need to cancel the first set of reservations I was able to make, it was not until the end of May that we got back there. It was both a happy return to a familiar space and a new experience of the restaurant for us. Details follow. Continue reading

Saint Genevieve (Minneapolis)

A few weeks ago we were scheduled to eat at Myriel in St. Paul with friends. But just a few hours before our reservation they had to close suddenly because of you-know-what. Rather than cancel our plans entirely we cast around for other places that might have tables and were happy to find that there was room at Saint Genevieve in south Minneapolis. Though I have not reviewed them before, this was not my first meal there. I ate there at a work-related engagement some years ago. I enjoyed that meal but somehow they fell off my radar and I never got around to going back with the missus. And when they came back on it they had switched to requiring full payment at the time of booking. While I don’t object per se to this model of dining, it’s a bit of a no-go for parents of small children like us. But on this occasion they had tables freely available and—not that it would have been an issue that evening—I wasn’t asked to pay ahead. As to whether that’s because they’ve changed that reservation model or whether the policy is relaxed when last-minute tables are available, I don’t know. I do know that we all enjoyed our meal very much. Continue reading

112 Eatery II (Minneapolis)

After our lovely dinner at Alma in April we decided it was time to go back to our old favourites in the Twin Cities more often. And so I immediately made a reservation for dinner at 112 Eatery, a restaurant we like more than the number of times I have reviewed it would indicate. It was the first fine dining restaurant I ate at in Minnesota, having been taken there for dinner when I was interviewing for my job (at which point I think it was just over a year old). And when we arrived in Minnesota it was one of the places we ate at most frequently. But when I started reviewing restaurants on the blog the urge to chase novelty meant fewer visits to old favourites. Our Alma meal reminded me of the folly of this practice and I am very glad it did: we had a very good meal at 112 Eatery as well. Continue reading

Khâluna (Minneapolis)

In December 2019—just a few months before you-know-what happened—we ate dinner at Lat14 in Golden Valley and rather enjoyed it. We’d planned to go back but then ended up spending most of the next 2 years at home. By the time we began to get back into the dining out groove in Minnesota, the chef/owner of Lat14, Ann Ahmed, had a new restaurant in South Minneapolis: Khâluna. We had quite enjoyed our meal at Lat14 and so were looking forward to eating her food at Khâluna as well. Reservations, however, were hard to come by until I managed to score one for mid-January. And then the omicron spike happened in a big way and we had to cancel. It took another three months for me to finally make it there. I ate dinner there for the first time in early April along with some colleagues. I liked it so much that I immediately made another reservation to go back with the missus and some of our regular dining crew. We ate that meal this past weekend. I’d originally thought I’d post an account of both meals at the same time but after resizing 45+ photographs from the first meal, I gave that up. So what follows is an account of my first meal there. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for the second. Continue reading

Mucci’s Italian (St. Paul, MN)

As those who read my restaurant reports regularly know, our kids eat out with us whenever we go out to lunch. It’s rare though that they accompany us to dinner (unless we’re traveling). A big part of this is that it’s nice to have adult time away from your children; a not insignificant part of it is also that at fancier restaurants it’s harder to find dishes that young children will eat wholeheartedly without performing surgery on plates to remove unwelcome components. Our boys are more adventurous eaters than the average upper midwestern kids of their age but vegetables—for example—remain a hard sell for them; and so the question of taking them to places where they would discard 50% of what’s on their plate just doesn’t arise. At the same time, however, they are more aware each year of how much their parents enjoy eating out and with every year their desire to participate more fully in this grows stronger. And so we’ve come to the slightly reluctant conclusion that the money we’ve been saving on babysitting since the older boy became a teenager will have to begin to be spent on initiating them more fully, if slowly, into the world of fine(r) dining. Which is how we ended up eating as a family at Mucci’s Italian in St. Paul this past weekend. Continue reading