Perron's Sul Lago -- Prior Lake, MN
Had a first visit there last night and enjoyed it immensely. I've been looking forward to going for a few weeks, but Andrew Zimmern's review in this month's MSP Mag had tempered my enthusiasm a bit. Although his comments were complimentary overall, his knock was the lack of innovation or risk in the kitchen.
Before the details of the meal, I'll say I somewhat agree with his assessment on the surface. In contrast to, say, skate wing at A Rebours or sea cucumber sashimi at Origami (both of which I enjoy), Perron's sticks to a relatively conservative offering. But where I don't concur with AZ's assessment is that this is inherently a negative thing.
Perron's delivers what I consider to be an excellent take on somewhat familiar ingredients. Are truffle oil, olive oil, portobello mushrooms and bruschettas uncommon? No. Are they risky? No. Are they passe'? Maybe sometimes. But when you combine them in the proper ratio and with care, you have a beautiful, fragrant and delicious Mushroom Bruschetta appetizer. The fresh bread was just warm enough to waft the scent of the truffle oil to my nose before I took a bite. Wonderful.
The calamari appetizer was also a standout. Not a hint of chewiness, a healthy zing from the accompanying pepperocini ribbons and a crisp, tasty coating. Nobody even noticed the salt on the table -- it wasn't necessary.
The tempting rack of lamb on the menu is no longer available. Too bad, as I was hoping to taste the accompanying mushroom risotto. In its place is a braised lamb shank, served over a simple bed of mashed potatoes and carrots. I don't doubt the lamb was cooked for eight hours as the server claimed. One swath of the fork and the bones were squeaky clean and off to the side of the plate. I don't even remember if there was a knife on the table -- it certainly never moved. There was no demi-glace, reduction or saucing aside from the natural juices. The simplicity was rustic, which I felt was absolutely intentional, and was perfect for the sub-zero night.
I also tasted the Tuscan Sirloin. Certainly sirloin isn't by default the cut of choice, but the precise cooking to preference (med-rare) combined with the strong garlic butter preparation resulted in a moist, delicious, generous portion of steak. This isn't worthy of a "patent pending" label on the menu...just familiar food done beautifully.
Though I didn't taste it, the pork tenderloin special won raves from another in our party, whose opinion I value. I'm not one of those note-takers at a restaurant, so I don't have the exact details.
We wrapped up with the flourless chocolate torte, I had the creme brulee and others had the bread pudding, which was banana last night. Again, I concur that those aren't groundbreaking creations. But as with everything else, they were executed to near perfection. One at the table claimed the bread pudding was the best she had ever tasted. One glitch, and we were duly warned when ordering that the bread pudding took a while to prepare, was that the wait for the desserts was long. Their saving grace on that was that the coffee and water were attentively refilled, and the atmosphere of the place was so inviting and comfortable that nobody soured from the delay. That, and the desserts were well worth the wait.
The only other problem of the evening was their inability to locate our wine choice in their storage. Maybe that's an appropriate segue to my conclusion on the place:
Perron's is in a great position for a newish restaurant. They have a beautiful, romantic space and a congenial staff. They are doing exactly what they need to do to develop a critical mass of fine diners in an area devoid of unique, quality dining options. They don't alienate by overuse of "cutting-edge" ingredients and/or loads of pretense. I left with a lot of confidence that they will become more sophisticated when it comes to the details (e.g. the wine service), and will branch out into more innovative territory when it comes to seasonal menu items. I also left not feeling at all cheated by the "what could be" undertones of AZ's review.
I can't get to the downtowns for every fine dining occasion, and now I don't feel that I need to quite as much.
Perron's Sul Lago
16154 Main Avenue SE
Prior Lake, MN
(Prior Lake is about 30 minutes SW of downtown Minneapolis for those not from MSP)