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Aug 8, 2006 03:35 AM

[MSP] 20/21 what do you think?

I'm very underwhelmed by this Puck invasion in the midwest. everything is over-spiced/flavored that you can't taste the original ingredient. I was supposedly a VIP customer (since I work in the restaurant biz in NYC), but the service was unprofessional and not at all helpful. I've never been thrilled with his Asian-influenced flavors, either. What does everyone else think?

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    1. I liked it.
      Did I think it was the best restaurant (Asian or otherwise) I've ever been to? No. Am I going to go back there anytime soon? Probably not. I thought the service was very attentive, the food very good, and the surroundings also very good. All told, the combination made it a great experience. And since you're not from Mpls, Mpls has never had a restaurant like this before that I know of. I hope that it is the beginning of more.

      I'm not a VIP so I can't comment on your experience. If you're not thrilled with Asian influenced cooking, there are other places to eat that might fit your tastes like Le Belle Vie (which is right across the street from 20.21).

      1. It's tough to draw comparisons between MN "inventive" and NYC standard. If you're accustomed to the wealth of polished, professional service inherent to mid- to high-end NYC restaurants, 99% of service in MSP will appear young and unseasoned. In my experiences at 20.21, I thought the servers did a fine job, although I would guess their service pedigree didn't extend beyond the county line.

        Likewise, I've always felt 20.21 tailored its cuisine to the MSP palate. This is also a common theme here and may be off-putting to someone fortunate enough to live among the vast offerings of New York. Again, I haven't shared your experience there of "over-spiced/flavored", instead my experience has been that of more pedestrian flavors and ingredients. There just wasn't any wow factor. This opinion was partially formed based on having experienced superb meals in other Puck venues out west, the best of which was at Postrio in SFO, which barely shows up on the SFO chow scene radar. I'll grant that maybe you're on to something re: Asian influence, since Postrio is not, but Chinois seems to have enjoyed its share of accolades.

        Compared to the big cities, we suffer a bit from lack of polished service and depth of cuisine here in MSP simply because of our strong home-grown roots and limited population size. In order to simply survive, restaurants often have to tone down their skills and ambition. (Lesson learned by the failure of Aquavit which, being from NYC you should know about). We have another restaurant here, Masa (upscale Mexican -- no relation or similarity to Masa in NYC), which is short of its full potential in my mind because they are afraid to execute on their talent. Along with that, in general, the MSP clientele won't pay the prices necessary to support a restaurant using unusual and/or globally sourced ingredients nor do we have easy access to those things being in the middle of the country.

        Masa (NYC version), Per Se, Babbo and Morimoto wouldn't survive here. I'm not even sure we could keep the doors open on a Hearth, Lupa or Fleur de Sel -- all of which would be on par with the best cuisine in MSP. I think the best we can support here is a Union Square Cafe (speaking of young service) type place. Interestingly enough, Jean Georges Vongerichten is due to open a place here soon in a complex funded by some serious capital -- maybe enough to provide some staying power to an innovative restaurant.

        For now, we just have to enjoy what we do have here and temper our expectations on places like 20.21.

        1. I agree with you, MSPD, that the Minneapolis restaurant scene is very different from that of larger coastal cities. Yeah, I guess I was comparing 20.21 to Puck establishments further out West. I love local and more casual Minneapolis dining scene so much, though. Maybe I'm romanticizing what I ate when I was younger, but I always thought the meals I had in my high school days at places like Bryant Lake Bowl, Mandarin Kitchen (Bloomington), Little Tijuana and Quang were pretty darn good.

          I do think it'll be a challenge for any "haute cuisine" to really figure itself out in Minneapolis. "Institutions" in Minenapolis tend to be steakhouse oriented - which isn't a bad thing, but a very different scene. Places like Aquavit - which I really like in New York - and 510 didn't work out in the end.

          It'll be interesting to see what Jean Georges will do. I know he dined at 20.21 less than 6 months ago. Do you happen to know when, where, with whom it will open?

          1 Reply
          1. re: baconstrip

            The new place will be located in the new Chambers Hotel on Hennepin (at 9th) right downtown. Last I heard, it was targeted to open in September -- I have no idea if they're even close.

          2. Food that polarizes people is potentially great. In the context of 20.21 I'm not so sure, because whose food is it anyway? That's what's truly sad about the demise of Aquavit, because Samuelsson's creative control was direct. His food clearly wasn't for everyone, but it stood for something and was the kind of place which could begin to educate palates. Wolfgang's credibility with me went south when his mug started appearing in freezer cases. He's still money in the bank for Compass Food Management, but he no longer lives in the temple of creative control as smaller operators do. I had a meal at Spago Palo Alto that was awful. Portions huge. The ledgendary pizza was bland. The pricing was competitive with other local offerings - and that means he's no longer leading. Charging a higher price for higher quality is never a problem. Joining the masses at the bottom is folly. Arghhhhh!