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May 14, 2007 04:45 AM

Sontes in Rochester, MN

Lived in NYC for 20 years. Sontes in Rochester is probably the best Tapas I've ever had. Great wine and beer selection as well. Everything was top-notch.

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    1. Sontes is subpar & highly mediocre. I have lived in Rochester for the past several years, lived in a few different large US cities for several years prior, travel widely domestically and occasionally internationally but born & raised as a midwestern flatlander. I enjoy good real food and can be as satisfied with a bahn mi sandwich at a Vietnamese cafe as I can with a multicourse tasting menu prepared at a Michelin starred venue or even a good plate of ribs or pulled pork at Roscoe's or Hardy's respectively. Rochester has a remarkably disappointing restaurant scene & typically is 5+ years behind similar midwestern mid-sized cities. No well trained chefs. No chef driven restaurants with anything interesting or of sufficient quality. I continue to enthusiastically & optimistically try the restaurants mostly with my spouse or friends. We've been to Sontes probably about 8 or so times over these last 6-9 months. They've attempted some sophistication, but now that the small plates (American style tapas) scene is on the decline; they will have to adapt. This is not the tapas scene (Pizza? - only in Rochester) that you experience in a US city and does not even remotely resemble that of the wonderful countries of the Iberian peninsula. This is rural Minnesota small plates. The ingredient selection is intriguing; but each time very disappointing in the quality of the preparation & service. I won't describe too many of the selections, but while chorizo stuffed (or bacon wrapped) dates can be a treat, here they are too sweet & lacking the zip of good chorizo; beautiful scallops but lack in salt to bring out their subtle sweetness flavor & combined with an odd tasting coulie which was exquisitely bland; and the big old chop tasted like it was reheated from a day or so prior. Wonderful wine selections, but unwisely priced for intelligent & enjoyable consumption. Many very widely available selections 4x retail (e.g Manyana Tempranillo at $24 a bottle. Come on. Don't insult me.) While I truly love a good belgian ale, the beer selections are far too heavily weighted in that direction & really miss out on featuring great local/regional beers to broaden the range of options. For a modest selection (3-5 small plates) and a couple of glasses of wine +/- a dessert to share, you will easily spend $100 for 2 -- which I do not mind as long as I am reasonable satisified. Timing of ordering & delivery is always very unpredictable. On weeknights, you can hear the crickets chirping so is a somewhat sedate environment rather than a bustling tapas scene. Occasionally between 8 - 9 pm there is a bit more vibe, but all are tucked in bed in Rochester by 9:30 so don't expect to enjoy lingering. I am only one reviewer, have given the place a chance & hope that it can improve & adapt; but have exhausted my attempts to enjoy this place. Sontes is subpar and highly mediocre. Advice would be to close down for 3 weeks, take the staff and owners into the field to experience whatever it is they want to achieve - tapas/small plates well executed, the slow food movement, highlighting local ingredients...

      3 Replies
      1. re: goodfood1969

        I couldnt agree more. I really wanted this place to succeed and gave it several chances, but I feel like the owners are having some gigantic laugh at my expense. I wrote a letter about my experiences, but the reply was insulting. To them, the fact that I thought the food was mediocre and overpriced was just an indication that I was too "didn't get it".

        BTW I tried the new place out by World Market...Olives They had only been open a few days and they had a lot of bugs to work out. The food was really well prepared with apparent care, and in all of our dishes it was really apparent that the ingredients were meant to stand on their own. Not a lot of sauce, salt, or aggressive seasoning. One person's purity of flavors is another person's bland, so I'll let you try it out yourself. In any event I think that it does fit your desire for a chef-driven restaurant.

        1. re: chrisinroch

          Opps, the name of the new place is "avacado's" not "olives".

          1. re: chrisinroch

            I find it quite interesting that on the same day that goodfood1969 posted his/her comments, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article titled Small Towns, Big Flavors. In it, it called Sontes "one of the best new dining establishments in the state."