Jfood visits "First Course" South MSP - Not Bad
Jfood decided to stay closer to Edina for dinner and thought he would give First Course on Chicago Ave. South a try. As he approached the front door he was not sure what to expect but when he looked inside he was pretty excited. The inside looks like a West Elm showroom. Black veneer furniture, high tables, low tables, a bar with 6 stools and a fireplace that will come in handy in the months ahead. The chef has a semi-open kitchen, looked like someone you could play poker with and the restaurant was in a location that could be a great local gem. You could feel all the love the owners put into the place. He really wanted to like First Course.
The one server appeared to be of HS age and extremely pleasant, maybe the owner’s son. He told Jfood to sit where he wanted and brought the menu. He efficiently recited the specials; a Spicy Caribbean Soup, a flatbread with tomato, mozzarella and basil (very proud of the fact they make the flatbreads in the back), an Opa with pineapple salsa and finally a braised lamb shank with mashed white beans, parsnip and mashed potato. Lots of pastas, salads and entrees as well on the menu to choose from. The first thing Jfood noticed was that the menu had no identity, just a lot of things the chef probably liked to make. Take a look at the menu on the website.
The server delivered four slices of warmed bread and butter. Jfood ordered the sweet tomato, fresh mozzarella (menu stated pulled in the back), basil, aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil for an appetizer and the lamb shank special for his entrée.
The appetizer arrived and Jfood really liked the mozzarella. It was slightly salted, had a nice texture, not too firm, not too runny and held together nicely. The tomatoes on the other had could have been of higher quality. The chef was a little heavy handed on the Balsamic and it could overpower the mozzarella/tomato if you were not careful. The olive oil lent nothing to the dish. Jfood would rate the mozzarella an 8 and leave it at that.
The lamb shank arrived and the first thing Jfood noticed was that the plate was a large salad plate instead of a dinner plate and the lamb shank and mash over-crowded the dish. The shank was smaller than most Jfood has eaten and was placed vertically into the mash. Because of the plate size it was very difficult to maneuver while cutting the shank. The first bite of both the shank and the mash were disappointing. The three-part combo of the mash did nothing together, almost flavorless and the firmness of the white beans gave the impression that there were undercooked pieces of potato. Jfood would reconsider this combo. The lamb was also a little weird in flavor and texture. It did not have that fall off the bone tenderness Jfood was hoping for. The sauce also contained some differing flavors, with almost a “ketchuppy” background. The dish was OK. Jfood will give this dish a gentlemanly 5.
In hindsight it was similar to going to your friend’s house who is a pretty good cook and (s)he whips up her/his new dish. Very good home style cooking, but not quite into the good restaurant level just yet. Jfood truly hopes this place does well for the neighborhood and the owners, but is not sure he would make a special trip to return.
ITA. We live a few blocks from First Course and often get takeout from there (we have a 2 year old so we don't dine out too often) and for that it's great. There are a couple of dishes we like and my only complaint would be that they don't have a paper or online menu available so unless you know what you want you need to ask lots of questions when you call. I hope they continue to learn and improve because they're close but just not quite there yet!