Porter + Frye review (msp)
From the moment we walked in until the moment we left, we felt like Porter + Frye was thrilled to have us there. We were seated at a table in a tucked away corner under five gorgeous chandeliers, where we could view the entire dining room. The service was really warm and personable, engaging and yet somehow invisible (until we started chatting up the delightful water girl). Chef Brown even came out to say hello and congratulations, and at the end of the meal gave me a personal tour of the kitchen. The power of a nice note in the OpenTable comments area cannot be underestimated.
We started with the charred tuna appetizer (see photo) with shishito peppers—these peppers weren’t hot but rather bright and tangy. Combined with preserved lemons they totally refreshed what is usually a predictable restaurant dish. We also shared the Berkshire terrine (see photo- it’s covered in a super-thin layer of what is probably lard), and this slice of pork heaven pretty much melted in your mouth but was contrasted with spicy mustard (although I didn’t get much of a violet note) and smoked raisin preserves.
On to soup. Two of us had the celery bisque with roasted wild rice and some bits of pork belly, and two had the French onion soup, which was presented as poured over some onion petals (see photo). There were smears of gruyere and roasted onion puree around the walls of the bowl. It was just deconstructed in a clever way—probably a bit pretentious for some, but we enjoyed it. You don’t know what a big deal it was for me to order celery soup…. I cannot stand raw celery, and even have to mince it up super-finely to cook with it… but for the evening I decided to suspend my culinary disbeliefs and see what Steven Brown could do to change my mind. It was really amazing.
We received a bonus course. Butternut squash agnolotti, powdered bacon, truffle and shiso leaf (see photo). I realized that I had never actually eaten a slice of real truffle before, and it was beautiful…. Seriously, my eyes watered.
Entrees came. I (at the direction of our waiter) had the grilled swordfish—more truffle slices, yippee! It was really moist and well-cooked. CG had the lamb and lamb chop (see photo), with pickled hen of the woods mushrooms (I didn’t like them, but I am picky about my pickles—CG liked them a lot). The lamb chop was slow and just about melted in my mouth. The other part was actually slow-braised lamb neck that had a really delicious deep flavor. One of our companions had the walleye, and said it was really good although not what she expected (and I could not get her to elaborate more on that), and the other one had the veal breast and tenderloin. He also enjoyed it- said it was better than what his grandmother used to make. I tried the veal and liked it a lot, although I did not like the accompanying chestnuts (I find all chestnuts mealy and dry).
We had two plates to share at the table- the gnocchi (see photo), which were delicious for potato gnocchi (but I have to admit we are bigger fans of the Parisian gnocchi served at Bouchon or 112 Eatery), and the hot potato salad—the egg crusted in potato was so good, that I secretly wanted to not share it with the remainder of the table. Great balance of spicy and sweet.
The chef sent out an intermezzo of pear-chamomile sorbet atop ground toffee with a praline garnish, and it was a perfect palate cleanser.
CG and I ordered coffee and the coconut panna cotta (see photo). It was full of coconut flavor and the passionfruit sauce was a perfect tart foil. Also a suspension of my culinary disbeliefs as I usually HATE panna cotta, flan, and all other desserts of a gelatinous consistency. I do love coconut, however, and they did a wonderful job.
We actually audibly groaned when the mignardise came, we were so full. Nine tiny bite-sized desserts that we ate before I could even take a picture. You can only view the wreckage. I want them to be a surprise to you, because I think this is a great new restaurant in the TC and I think some mystery should remain. The price wasn’t even half of what we spent at Tru in Chicago, and that was for four of us, including a bottle of wine and a cocktail for each of us. For a special evening this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
We tried Porter and Frye for dinner last night. We wanted a "dress up" sort of place and Porter and Frye certainly worked well for that - there were plenty of other people in dresses and heels. Some aspects of the space are really nice (like the booth for two that we sat in for dinner), but other things feel a bit off (the lights were a little too bright in the center of the dining room and the entrance upstairs feels awkward - you can come in from the hotel or the street, but neither really feel "right"). Overall the service was fine and helpful, but both the hostess and the waitress seemed somewhat inexperienced.
Now on to the most important part - the food. To start we had the hot potato salad and the arugula salad. The hot potato salad was delicious! The egg, potatoes, bacon and vinegar were great and cut nicely with frissee. The arugula salad had a black pepper citrus dressing and was served with golden beets and kumquat. This part of the salad was great, but the initial presentation also involved the greens being partially wrapped in a curl of bagette dusted with parmesean cheese which I did not really like. It looked cool, but I thought the bread and cheese detracted from the otherwise nice clean and interesting citrus and pepper flavors and made the salad okay, but not great.
For entrees we had the tenderloin with potatoes, mushrooms and onion ring and the swordfish with salsify, apple butter and truffles. The steak was flavorful and tender - kind of a classic done well. The swordfish was a great combination of tender fish, earthiness and a touch of sweetness. For dessert we had lemon baba with blueberry ice cream and chevre cheesecake with strawberries and rhubarb. The lemon baba got raves and the bite of blueberry ice cream I tried was good. The flavor of the chevre cheesecake was good (nice and tangy from the goat cheese and rhubarb balanced nicely with the sweetness), but it was too dense. I have had goat cheese cheesecake before that was much lighter (and better).
Overall, I would say it was good with some definite highlights (hot potato salad and swordfish), but just enough things were a little off to make it not quite as good as it seems to have the potential to be.
I went there recently just wanting to have an appetizer- noticed onion rings on the menu and asked if they were really something special compared to the average onion ring. I guess I was hoping they would be since this place seems to be doing food that sets the bar higher. I got a plate of 5 massively thick onion rings stacked up. The size was too large to really enjoy them, since once you cut into one the breading completely detached from it. They came with an interesting dipping sauce , a horseradish cream type sauce, but overall I didn't see the point.
re: MSP Foodies
All the dishes you liked were the ones we happened to have had, and we didn't have any of the ones you didn't like. I also didn't feel the prices were exorbitant in the least. For all four of us the total was $325, and that included a cocktail for each and a bottle of wine for the table (a Qupe for 38$ which we felt was surprisingly reasonable and quite good), along with all the food described above.
Enjoyed your review.
Our visit to Porter and Frye on Tuesday was great and not so great. Great were the food, cocktails and dining room service. Not so great was the wine list (they were out of our first two choices, how does that happen in a new restaurant?) and truly the worst was the overwhelming love fest that we experienced from the host, it was way too much, it put us on the defensive immediately---it was like she was desperate for business. Cool it, the food and service in the dining room will carry this place far!
I can vouch for the friendliness of this place-- my partner and I stopped in for drinks before a performance at Orchestra Hall a few weeks ago, and every person we interacted with treated us as if they were tickled pink that we had chosen P + F for our cocktails. (And what cocktails... they had a wonderful list and I wanted to try them all.) I'm pumping to go here for my b-day to get the full experience. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for the review!