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

Restaurant Alma, Spring 2022 (Minneapolis, MN)

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Owamni (Minneapolis, MN)


Owamni opened last July in Minneapolis and quickly became one of 2021’s most acclaimed restaurants, both locally and nationally. It has featured on a number of lists of the best/most exciting/most important restaurants in the country and so forth. And more recently the restaurant made the James Beard Awards long list for “Best New Restaurant” and the chef, Sean Sherman was likewise on the long list of nominees for “Best Chef, Midwest”. It is a restaurant helmed by a Native American chef, which aims to foreground/promote indigenous ingredients and to present what it calls a “decolonized dining experience”. All of this is urgent, important and exciting. And so it gives me no pleasure to say that we enjoyed very little of the food at our recent dinner there. Continue reading

Sooki & Mimi (Minneapolis)


As you probably know, Sooki & Mimi is the new restaurant from Ann Kim of Young Joni fame (she won a Beard award for her food there). You probably also know that it is one of the buzziest restaurants to have opened recently in the Twin Cities. The buzz really picked up two months or so ago when the New York Times included it in a list of the most exciting restaurants in the country or some such. You see, here in Minnesota we are so confident in our identity that we manage to both tell the New York Times they know nothing when they say things about us we don’t like and to fall all over ourselves in excitement when they offer the slightest bit of praise. Well, we are famously a very emotional people here in the upper midwest and it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that we can be so volatile. Continue reading

Petite Leon (Minneapolis)


We were originally supposed to eat at Petite Leon (in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighbourhood) in early September. We’d made those reservations in July before Delta took off. By the time September approached we were too wary about eating indoors and so cancelled the reservation. Now, of course, Omicron is the variant of concern—and Minnesota’s infection rates are still nothing to be happy about—but we still made Petite Leon our first indoor meal in the Twin Cities since our dinner at Estelle in late July. The missus and I have both received our boosters—as have the friends we dined with—and both kids are now fully vaccinated as well. As such, we are loosening some of our previous caution. Did the food at Petite Leon justify this change? Yes, it did. We thought it was very good indeed. Continue reading

Spoon and Stable III (Minneapolis)


I had not realized until just over a week ago that Spoon and Stable has outside seating. We’ve eaten there twice before but the last of those occasions was in the dead of winter and there was no question of anyone sitting outside. And I have no memory of seeing outdoor seating on our first visit in the late summer/early fall of 2015. This may, of course, be a more recent pandemic development but at least of late they have had a few tables set out on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with heaters by every table. Or rather they did. It turns out this past weekend was the last weekend for their outdoor seating. Well, if we’d known about this earlier we would have eaten there quite a bit earlier this year but I’m very glad we found out before it went away for the winter. Our meal there this past Saturday evening was very good indeed, on par with our previous very good meals there (here and here). Continue reading

Colita (Minneapolis)


Colita opened in South Minneapolis in late 2018 and quickly gained a reputation for its rendition of Oaxcan food passed through an upscale cheffy filter. For whatever reason we didn’t get around to eating there in 2019. Did they not take reservations at the outset? Was it very hard to get a reservation then? I can’t remember. Anyway, when we got back from India in early 2020 I finally made a reservation…for the month of April. You know how that went. Flash forward a year and change and it was drawn to my attention that they have a large patio for which they take reservations. I made reservations again and we were supposed to eat on that patio three weeks ago. And then it rained. Their patio, it turns out, does not have any kind of covering and so it was a no-go (we ended up eating at Andale on a patio under an overhang). And I made a fresh set of reservations, hoping like hell that the weather would not play us false again. Thankfully, it did not and we finally ate there this past Saturday with the friends we were supposed to eat with earlier in the month. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Meritage II (St. Paul, MN)


For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading

Estelle (St. Paul)


Estelle opened a couple of years ago in St. Paul in whatever that neighbourhood right by Macalester is called. It got rave reviews from the local press and despite my suspicion of the local press—whose excitement often seems to me to have as much to do with the idea of a place as with the food itself—we’d planned to eat there in early 2020. But you know what happened next. I don’t know if they had a takeout pivot through the pandemic but with the exception of one occasion with Tenant our pandemic takeout meals skipped the high end. But we finally made the return to dining-in last month (yes, at Tenant) and Estelle was the next place we made reservations at. We were joined by friends we eat out with regularly—and with whom we ate a number of takeout meals in the last year and a half. This is how it went. Continue reading

Tenant V (Minneapolis)


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 (Minneapolis)


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

Lat14 (Golden Valley, MN)


As I recently noted, the last few years have seen a dramatic upswing in high-end Twin Cities restaurants featuring the cuisines of minority communities. If—as I observed—in the case of Mexican cuisine(s) this phenomenon seems to involve mostly non-Mexican chefs and restaurateurs, in the case of Southeast Asian cuisines the situation is different. Young Joni, whose chef Ann Kim won the Beard award for “Best Chef: Midwest” this year, is probably the most celebrated of these restaurants. Hai Hai, whose chef Christina Nguyen, was nominated for the same award, is not too far behind. (For what it’s worth, we enjoyed our meal at Hai Hai a lot more than our meal at Young Joni.) Lat14, which opened last year in Golden Valley, is the most recent entry in the broad genre. We were there with friends a few weeks ago, and ate a goodly portion of the menu. Here is my review of that meal. Continue reading

Hyacinth II


We first ate at Hyacinth in March. That was a nice dinner but nothing so very special; and on our drive south all four of us agreed that if we lived in St. Paul we’d eat there every once in a while but that it wasn’t anything we needed to drive an hour each way and pay a sitter a lot of money for. Nonetheless, I had wanted to go back in the summer or early fall to see what their kitchen would do with the best of Minnesota produce but, alas, it wasn’t to be. But I did get a chance to go back earlier this month with friends from work (the missus wasn’t along). As it happens, I liked this meal more than our first. Here are the details. Continue reading

Tenant IV (Minneapolis)


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

Joan’s in the Park (St. Paul, MN)


The first thing to know about Joan’s in the Park is that it is not in fact in a park. The only park-related space near them is their parking lot. One of the owners, who serves as the maitre d’, is named Joan but the second half of the name comes not from some bucolic setting—they’re across the street from a Domino’s—but from the fact that they’re in the Highland Park neighbourhood of St. Paul. They opened there in 2011, the proprietors having met while working in other restaurants in the Cities. Their food is in the general “New American” genre—which means you can expect to see a bit of everything. We’ve been meaning to eat there for a while but only got around to doing so a couple of weekends ago. We were joined at this meal by another couple who we’ve eaten with before. Between the four of us we ate a goodly portion of their current menu. Herewith my thoughts. Continue reading

In Bloom, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We really enjoyed our dinner at In Bloom this past March and had been talking about going back ever since. Well, it took six months but we finally kept our promise to ourselves. We had dinner there again this past Saturday with a few friends, two of whom had been with us at that first dinner. I was curious to see how the restaurant is doing. The current menu on their website is quite pared down from what we saw in March and I noticed there was absolutely no game on it. I had been under the impression that game was part of their signature—and I’ll admit that part of my strong desire to return was due to having missed out on the roasted leg of venison in March. I hoped therefore that it, and perhaps other game dishes, might make an appearance as specials. Well, it turned out that there were some deviations from the website menu at the restaurant but there was no game of any kind and indeed no specials. It was a fine meal anyway. Details follow. Continue reading

Tenant III (Minneapolis)

I said in my review of our second dinner at Tenant—in July—that we were already planning a return trip in September. And for a change I was not a liar. We made reservations for the first weekend of September as soon as spots were available, and so it came to pass that at 6 pm last Saturday we sat down at their counter once again. Our second dinner had surpassed the first and we were curious to see what we would make of our third. Sorry to kill the suspense so soon but we thought it was excellent and perhaps, top to bottom, an even better meal than the previous. Indeed, it’s becoming hard to see how we will give our fine dining dollars to any other Twin Cities establishment. Herewith the details.

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