Jfood visits Alma - Very Nice [MSP]
- jfood Sep 23, 2008 07:00 PM
Located near UM, Alma offers a very relaxed atmosphere. The servers were all female, each sporting an interesting display of body art, which as you know Jfood is still in the learning phase, but the old dog is is being taught a new trick. Each was very professional, knowledgeable and great in what they did, major kudos to all. Another night of his book and a seat at the bar.
They have a 3-course tasting menu for $45. Jfood ordered the Sweet Corn Flan with dry jack cheese, pickled onion, guajillo sauce, crispy tortilla, the Tubetti Pasta & Spicy Fennel Sausage with fresh marinara, garlic oil, rapini, pecorino and the Pan Roasted Duck Breast with sauteed swiss chard, french lentils, glazed figs, port wine jus.
Four slices of bread, two slices of olive and one a rye type bread were brought over with a nice little ramekin of butter. Excellent bread.
Flan – the flan was full of flavor and the texture was as smooth os cream, just wonderful. The pickled onions added the tartness, the tortilla matchsticks the crunch and the guarilla sauce a nice sweetness. Each element was good on its own and together they made a wonderful tasting sensation. Jfood rates this dish a 8-9.
Pasta – the little tubes were perfectly dente and the sauce pasta ration was exactly as Jfood likes. The fennel sausage was tender, not perfectly cooked, had a nice mild zip to it, the rapini was sautéed and the marinara was a nice light addition. Sprinkled on top was the pecorino. Jfood like the background heat of this dish and the sausage. Jfood also rates this dish an 8-9.
Duck – As the “entrée” course of the night Jfood was expecting a little more food, so he was hoping to be overwhelmed by the flavors. There were 5-6 small breast slices about the size of a half-dollar and a small crispy boneless thigh-leg section. This was one small duck. There were two small glazed figs, cut in half, a nice portion of chard and a fair amount of lentils. A little jus surrounded the food on a large plate. The food looked lost on the plate. They should consider a small late so it does not look like a child’s portion. The duck had an interesting texture and the flavor was much milder than what Jfood eats back east. The leg section was nice and crispy outside and moist and tender inside. It was obvious that the chef removed the breast filet and let it rest while the thigh remained to cook. The temperature difference was extreme, one a little too cool and the other surprisingly hot. The sides did not add anything to the dish and the seasoning on the duck could have been a little heavier. The jus was completely lost on the plate. Although it was very good Jfood was hoping for some better flavors after the first two courses. It just fell a little flat. Jfood can only give this dish a 6-7.
Service was excellent and a 10 on the Jfood scale.
Would Jfood go back? Absolutely. He’ll probably ask for a table next time and ask the pace to be a little slower. Another rising star in MSP.
I went to Alma for the first time on Tuesday. I was with two friends, and we each got different 3-course dinners, which we all shared bites of.
-Buffalo Tartar, egg yolk mayo, mustard, capers and white toast
-Smoked Whitefish, marinated beets, arugula salad
-Grilled Bread and Bitter Greens Salad, poached egg
Of these, I absolutely loved the Buffalo (which is the one I ordered). So simple, but one of the best small plates I've ever had. The whitefish was excellent as well. Nice smoke flavor that eliminated any fishy taste. For me, the salad was probably last of the 3, but that has a lot to do with the fact that I'm not a fan of poached eggs. The salad itself was nice, though.
-Masa Corn and Black Bean Cake, Red Chili Garlic Shrimp, Avocado, Radish, Cilantro
-Carrot and Farro Risotto, Edamame, Toasted Pine Nuts, Parmigiano
-Tubuletti Pasta and Spicy Fennel Sausage, Garlic Oil, Pecorino, Rapini
Of these, the Masa Corn cake was easily the winner. The cake itself was excellent, the shrimp was full of flavor, and there was a nice hot sauce on the plate (ancho chile, perhaps) that really brought it all together. The risotto was nice too. I'm not really an authority on risotto (that might be the first I've ever had), so I can't say how it stacks up to any other. The pasta was a real let down. Before I tried it, my friends both described it as tasting like Chef Boyardee. I didn't believe them until I tried it. Unfortunately, they were right. The sausage was nice, and the pasta was perfectly cooked, but the sauce was a spot on match for the kind of 'pasta' I left behind in college. I wonder how jfood felt about the sauce.
-Sauteed Breast of Local Pheasant, glazed carrots, radish, pear mostardo, carrot buerre blanc
-Lightly Smoked Pork Tenderloin, honey and cider glazed cippolini, potato-aged cheddar gratin
-Grilled Dayboat Swordfish, glazed fennel, fresh argula, black olives, bagna cauda
All 3 entrees were excellent. I got the pheasant, which was nice and juicy, with a nice crust on one side. The carrots were nice and sweet. The tenderloin had an incredible amount of flavor. The 'light' smoking really went a long way. The cippolinis were a nice little addition. I'm not sure that I've ever had Swordfish, but my first experience was great. Nicely grilled, juicy...everything I would have expected, given the rest of the night.
Overall, one of the best meals I've ever had. Whether it was fate or just good fortune, I enjoyed the plates I ordered (Bison Tartar, Masa Cake, Phesant) the most. The first two were some of the best flavors I've had in this town.
All this was matched with a 2005 Enrique Foster Malbec, which was also excellent.
At $45 a head, the 3 courses at Alma might be the best deal in town.
Isn't that buffalo tartare lovely? I had it a month ago, and fell in love. I'm glad it's still on the menu.
My portion was quite large for an appetizer - it was 8+ large bites - so maybe they've downsized it a bit. This is a good thing, in my book . I prefer small portions, and I like that Alma's three-course menu is designed to fill one up rather than overstuff one - it's more in the European style than the standard huge-portions-are-a-must style of most places.
But it's good to know when you go to Alma that you probably won't have leftovers (especially of that fabulous and admittedly small duck).
>> Another rising star in MSP. <<
Alex Roberts has been running Alma for a long time. So long, in fact, that I cannot remember exactly how long. But I know he'd been around for years when I had my 40th birthday party at Alma almost 6 years ago.
It's amazing that he's been able to sustain the quality food and service for so many years.