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Mar 27, 2007 09:42 AM

Underwhelmed by Chambers Mpls?

Emboldened by MSPD's recent post, I am going to chime in that I've been to Chambers
once and was underwhelmed. Had the mushroom eggrolls, found the filling to be very
pudding-like, not pleasant. Also the tofu entree with lily bulb, ok but not anything I would
want again. I did enjoy the caramelized banana cake dessert and the very realistic 3-d art
piece on the wall facing me that appeared to be a man emerging from the wall. Anyone
else feeling underwhelmed by this place but afraid to seem uncool, now is your chance!

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  1. faith -- agree completely on the mushroom egg rolls. I found them unfortunate at best. Here are my thoughts on my visit to Chambers (copied from elsewhere in internet-land and edited a bit with comments):

    Well, I certainly don't compete with the credible reviews linked above (referring to Andrew Zimmern, Dara Moskowitz, Peter Lilienthal and Kathie Jenkins) but I got over to Chambers Kitchen finally and unfortunately was unimpressed. To be fair, I've only been there once, and I generally give places a few chances over the course of several months before "casting judgement". It was good enough to go back, for sure. I also sacrificed my desire to do the tasting menu as my wife wasn't in the mood when we went.

    A lot has been said about the decor -- I really liked that aspect. A little more attention to detail could have been paid to removing the Ikea labels from a couple of the pieces but I'm not a Michelin Guide inspector.

    I didn't take notes (I never do) but the highlight of the non-dessert food in my memory was the sashimi appetizer. The mushroom egg roll appetizer (not my choice) was pure Cheesecake Factory. Andrew Zimmern, whose opinions I respect, raved about the "galangal emulsion". (He also raves about the Cheesecake Factory incidentally). I wish I had that lady from the 80s Wendy's commercial with me -- I would have sent her over to the kitchen to scream "Where's the galangal?" All I saw was a little cup of wasabi-colored sauce that tasted nothing of galangal and could have been shoplifted from the seared tuna salad at Houlihan's in Eagan (except it had far less intensity). Regardless, the flavor subtleties of the mushrooms were completely lost in the mushy interior of the roll. Too bad -- I'm sure there were nice mushrooms in there somewhere.

    Likewise, the "Tangy Glazed Short Rib" was ho hum. It was far from bad, but I can't honestly say it was any more unique or satisfying than the Target-bought beef brisket I made in my slow cooker two days before we went. The crispy polenta accompaniment stole the show (saved the day?) on that plate. The single bite of my wife's mahi mahi dish was much more interesting than the short rib.

    Dessert was another story. I was still craving *something* that would grab some of my attention from my beautiful wife (gratuitous plug) so I eschewed my policy of not ordering a dessert with banana and went for the Carmelized Banana Cake. The cake part was very good but the Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Prailine Crunch were spectacular. Those items alone locked up a commitment from me to give the place the additional tries I'm sure it deserves.

    In terms of service, our server and the one serving the next table were, for lack of a better term, annoying as hell. The awkwardness of our server was one thing (I generally don't care as long as the service is knowledgeable and unobtrusive) but it wasn't until about a minute before our appetizers were about to arrive that the ridiculously loud server at the next table started megaphoning the day's specials, one of which (I can't remember was a cut of beef) sounded more intriguing than the short rib. Unfortunately, it was way too late to consider the specials as our server didn't bother to mention them. We also weren't told about the tasting menu -- I knew it existed and had to ask about it and what they were offering (something else the servers to our right and left freely divulged). It was a weeknight for whatever it's worth.

    Again, I temper my opinions -- this was my first impression and I didn't get to try quite as many items as I would have liked. But I've had far more interesting and satisfying experiences elsewhere in the recent past; Fugaise, La Belle Vie, Cosmos prior to the chef change and even 112 Eatery. Granted those places aren't trying to do the same things, but as evidenced by Levain, Auriga, Five, et al. they ARE competing for the same dollars. I know I wouldn't anoint Chambers my "top table" yet (reference to someone else saying Chambers takes "honors as the top table in the Twin Cities).

    1. That's too bad. I've been there twice and had great experiences both times. Love the decor and the atmosphere, but the drinks and food was actually what brought me back the second time.

      The sashimi appetizer was excellent. Nice quality on the fish, very creamy.

      The mahi-mahi might be one of the best fish dishes I've eaten. Excellent mix of flavors with the sweet and the spice of the thai chilis. It was done perfectly both times (first time my wife ordered it, second time I did).

      The pepper steak was also nicely done. Cooked to a nice medium rare, the quality of the meat was outstanding, and the pepper seasoning seared onto the meat was a good kick to go along with the richness of the steak.

      I definitely cannot complain about the service. Both times our server was attentive without hovering, offered suggestions that we appreciated, and everything came out in a good time frame.

      Oh, and the Makers Mark and thai chili cocktail as well as the pineapple mojito are worth the drive.

      1. Faith,

        My SO and I are with you on this one. We've been to Chambers 3 times now, and have been impressed on none of those visits.

        It truly feels like there is great food and great talent to make it at Chambers, but i cannot overcome my impression that almost everything on the menu feels dumbed-down. While the mushroom soup is great and it's cute the way they service it, it's still just mushroom soup. Expensive mushroom soup. Walleye? Really? How about Turbot or Plaice or some other flaky white fish that we don't get here very often. Similar to the soup, the short ribs were good, but again, short ribs? The pork entree I had was bland and in need of...I don't know...MORE. The lobster entree was actually quite good and original and fun, as were most of the small plates. Likewise the cocktails and deserts were excellent in my opinion, though still not on par with LBV.

        The plain-ness of the food is in glaring contrast to the art on the walls and in the halls of this place. I think that is what skews my judgement. Seeing the place as some kind of sanctuary for avante-garde, as I think it presents itself, makes the food just seem a little lackluster.

        Also, the Red White and Fing Blue bar upstairs is the worst bar anywhere ever.

        1. After reading the reviews, we went there for my b-day. The experience reminded me of being at an avant-garde museum where everyone except me is able to look at a piece of art and interpret it. I just don't get it.

          The mushroom rolls were on the greasy side, and while the lobster was delicious, the $200 dinner bill (two appetizers, two entrees, three drinks, one dessert, two coffees) took my breath away. No, I'm not one of those lotsa-food-fer-yer-money folks, but it was about $50 too much. On the plus side, they did give me free dessert, a molten chocolate cake, and it was delicious. But other than that, I'm not sure what the big deal is. The service was quite nice, but it was the day after the Pioneer Press review, which commented specifically on the poor service, so I suspected they were on their best behavior judging by the parades of people asking if we were enjoying our meal.