Jfood at Rinata (MSP) - Mixed
Jfood wandered over to Uptown to try a new restaurant, Rinata. Located on South Hennepin in a very young side of town, the restaurant has several tables on the sidewalk and Jfood tried to eat outside. The traffic and tar smell made this unappealing so he moved inside and took a table in the room at the window with only 2-tops.
The server brought over Rinata’s house made Focaccia bread with olive tapenade and olive oil. Three nice and warm slices of moist bread accompanied by a plate of olive oil. In the middle of the oil was a nice portion of tapenade. The bread was some of the best Jfood has ever tasted, and the oil/olive mix was both interesting and delicious.
Jfood asked if he could order half-sized pasta dishes and when his server told him he could, Jfood decided to convert the evening to a tasting menu. And he was very pleased that he was able to try an appetizer and three pastas so he could get a good feel for the chef.
Jfood first started with the appetizer Crispy Polenta with Blue Prawns and tomato olive sauce – Three prawns with their heads still attached arrived nestled against a triangle of griddled polenta. Atop the shrimp was a red sauce with diced tomatoes similar to a Puttanesca. Jfood's first bit was the polenta. It was crispy on the outside and still hot and moist on the inside. Jfood would have enjoyed a little more flavor to the polenta. Next, Jfood extracted the shrimp from the head. The size was probably the 20-25 sized. The shrimp were sweet but were good but not great. The sauce, on the other hand, was fantastic. It was rich, had a nice kick that reminded Jfood of an Amatriciana and was the highlight of this course.
Next Jfood ordered the Ravioli with braised spinach, tomato Sugo and ricotta Salata. Three nice sized raviolis with a mild tomato sauce and some grated ricotta. The filling was, as described, braised spinach, but had little else to offer. The dough was house made, had a mild flavor and the edges were just a tad undercooked. The sauce was also very mild. The combination did not excite Jfood and this was very mild dish to the point of bordering on flavorless.
Next to arrive at Table de Jfood was the Gnocchi with veal picatta, lemon, capers and white wine. The good news is that the slices of veal that overlaid the gnocchi were perfectly cooked, seared and still tender. The gnocchi, unfortunately, were much too dense for Jfood's taste. The butter from the veal preparation overwhelmed the white wine. If you order, make sure you like butter as there is quite a bit in the dish.
Jfood could not leave with these two dishes so he stayed and ordered another, the Spaghetti with house made meatballs and tomato Sugo. He was glad he did. Although the pasta was probably 30 seconds undercooked, Jfood liked the extra little bite it brought to al dente. The sauce was bold and full of flavor, and the meatball, made from pork and a little onion and seasonings was the highlight of the meal. The meatball by itself is worth the trip back and ranks with the Foie Gras meatball at 112 Eatery.
Jfood will also give a major kudos to the service. Although Jfood's server was probably under 20 years old he knew the menu perfectly, made recommendations with authority and was very diligent throughout the service.
So Jfood's impression after one visit is that Rinata has some very good dishes and ones that did not thrill Jfood.
I have been to Rinata and Al Vento many times. They're almost exactly the same restaurant by the same owner. I agree with your observations. The spaghetti and meatballs are truly special, and the focaccia bread is quite nice. As for everything else, it seems very hit or miss. I had a wonderful duck ragu once that was very memorable, but I've also had several ho-hum entrees. Sadly, their inconsistency has caused me to stick with spaghetti and meatballs the last few times.
Wife and I made it here tonight. We had an excellent experience. The service was absolutely fantastic. The waiter was on top of everything, and timed the courses perfectly. The ambiance was solid. We made a late reservation, and so were seated by the entrance, but menus and everything were ready for us.
We started with the olives, me having forgotten that the bread comes with olive oil and tapenade. Both were delicious. The bread (house-made) was lovely. Doughy and rich, without being overwhelming. The olives, redundant though they were, were worth the extra expense, nicely selected and well marinated with anise, basil and garlic.
Wife and I split the beet salad. We were warned that the Caesar was for garlic lovers, and I am one, but we love the beet salad at Al Vento (same owners), and this one didn't disappoint. The layers of beet, pickled onions, micro-greens and bleu cheese cream sauce gave the salad the necessary complexity.
For entrees, the wife had the fettucini with pancetta and snap peas. I had a taste, and was impressed that the pancetta did not tilt the dish into the saltosphere. Everything was distinct and fresh, and the pasta was a perfect al dente.
I ordered the gnocchi with ribeye. It came topped with a gorgonzola cream sauce and paprika oil. I was a bit curious as to how this would work, but the gnocchi was very buttery, and a nice compliment to the beef.
Everything, with NA beverages, clocked in at $50. We were both very impressed. Mid-priced Italian has, until recently, been a hole in MSP cuisine, and Al Vento and Rinata are helping to fill it. We'll be back.
Thank you for your impressions. I ate there a couple of Sundays ago and had the date night special - appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for $20. I had the eggplant involtini, which was good, but a bit overwhelmed by the goat cheese, the caesar (very garlicky), the fettucine with clams and the tiramisu. Add a glass of house wine and a tip, and two eat for right around $70. As you mentioned, the service is excellent.