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Bar La Grassa:6 Days in, pretty smooth, greatness potential definitely there. [msp]

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1st venture last night to the newly reconcepted Babalu space on Washington ave, the Isaac Becker/Josh Thoma etc etc project. If it were a band, it would be a supergroup.

It was definitely exciting and I am predicting that it will become a tough place just to walk into, which is unfortunate because it has the casual air of a place to just drop by. They did a great renovation, utilizing a lot of the open space that the previous tenant had in the lounge/dance area, by adding a raised dining area with mainly booths. Reclaimed timber and black leather are the dominant decor here.

I was a little early for my group, so I decided to sit at the bar. 8 minutes and no service, so i just got up and explored a little. It looked like there were maybe 3 bartenders? To their defense, they were taking tables and talking food shop to guest ordering or having just recieved food.

Cocktail menu was pretty concise, some new school old classics(think negroni, manhattan) and the wine program is pretty wide ranging, and has a nice balance between old/new world styles and prices went from $6(btg) and around $24 by the bottle and up.

As for the food: The menu is broken down into 5 sections, Antipasto, Bruschetta, Dry pasta, Fresh pasta and Secondi, with a small dessert section as well. Pricing was pretty approachable in the 112 eatery mentality.

At the table there is a home-made giardineira style plate, some small pieces of cheese and marinated veg, mainly cauliflower, some beans, celery and red pepper, in olive oil. I would have guessed the cheese in the mix was either and aged provolone or fontinella, but I didn't ask. The bread service was a fried bread(think pizza fries?!!) with a nice salt, served warm. Great to dip in the veg mix.

From the Antipasto we had Sea Scallops with what seemed like a salty braised pork belly. Great hard sear on the scallop, great texture on the pork, and an aggressive salt to it as well. I think this would come off too salty for some, but it walked a fine line well for me. Nice dish, good balance. We also had the chicken and foie gras polpettone. This was a pretty rustic style pate that was a little to hardcore for some of the group. I liked it, good texture, but the chicken liver was dominant, the creamy sweetness of the Foie was lost to me.

For bruschetta we had the goat cheese and olivada, which was basic, rustic and solid. Bread not too hard, nice chew in the center, and a good goat cheese bite, as well as the braised pork shoulder, which was probably the most flat dish of the night. It was served cold, with a bit of a mostarda, which was pretty mild. Everything else was very spiced so there could be some subtle notes that I missed there.

For pasta we had all fresh: Gnocchi, great texture, bit to much orange rind for the cauliflower but the red pepper flake off set the citrus pretty well.
Tagliatelle w/ braised Calamari: Note here, this is a squid ink tagliatelle, which we were not told about, so the seawater aspect of the dish was pretty apparent.
Crab ravioli: Nice, obviously a high quality crab(i.e king) good texture and density to the pasta.
Orecchiette: Nice, rabbit ragu could have used something to pop it, i.e. parm reggiano or romano.

We also had a fennel crusted grilled pork tenderloin to split that was cooked perfectly, really nice char and a good salty broth. I would definitely get it again.

The highlight of my night, and it was the most simple dish of the night, was the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu. It was so well balanced, the textures were perfect, pasta perfect. It's rave worthy.

All in all, I will be there, regularly. If i can get in....

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  1. What, pray tell is the name of this place?

    1. Thought I might just add in the name of this restaurant:

      Bar La Grassa
      800 N. Washington Ave
      Minneapolis MN 55401

      http://barlagrassa.com/BarLaGrassa.htm

      1 Reply
      1. re: KTFoley

        KT-Thanks...this new format got me!!

      2. Bar la grassa
        We dined on a Sunday after the restaurant had been open for 2 weeks.
        The decor was great. Comfortable spot to sit and talk.
        The staff was very helpful. We had received advice to ask about descriptions of the dishes since the menu was short on detail. Our waiter was happy to give us the information and advice. The staff outnumbered the diners so we had plenty of attention. Kind of a wait for the food but they may be working things out.
        Some of the food was great, some not so. The scallops and the lobster and egg bruschetta were both wonderful! The gnocchi with cauliflower was also great. The tortellini in broth was tasteless and consisted of 5 tortellini. A pesto dish with lasagna shaped noodles was nothing special.
        Next time we will go for Primi but skip the pasta
        For 2 appetizers and 3 pasta half-dishes, no drinks bill was $85.

        1 Reply
        1. re: KRAE

          According to the menu, your total should have been around $50-55. Is the Online menu that inaccurate? That's a pet peeve of mine generally, but especially so if they just opened.

        2. We've been twice now, once for dinner, once for drinks and small plates.

          All of our antipasti and bruschetta have been very good. So far this includes the beet salad (hard to get wrong), halibut crudo, anchovy with avocado, taleggio bignet, prosciutto, and sea scallops. For me the standouts were the bignets which were reminiscent of apple pie with cheese, the scallops (whatever the red wine and onion thing they sit upon is, it is delicious) and the halibut (good spice, not too much citrus, good texture of fish which you can still taste). Several of these you may have already had at 112, and they are still delicious.

          They make a perfect negroni. I love this. It's not as easy as it seams and two different bartenders nailed it. I just wish they'd stop serving it in a martini glass. A concise winelist from which the reds by the glass have been excellent (especially the dulcetto) is expected from this team.

          The only miss so far have been the silk handkerchiefs with pesto. The pesto is good, if exactly what you would expect, however the nature of the pasta lends itself to giving up it's heat rather quickly. I had ordered the smaller portion, and by the time I was half-way though, there were cold spots. That isn't to say it arrived cold, it arrived quite hot actually, however having it spread out on a plate made it cool quickly and pesto is not good cold.

          The room and service are both terrific. They've done an admirable job of making it new (it is disorienting to try and figure out how the map had looked at Babalu) and there are many veteran faces in the dining room and behind the bar you will likely recognize from elsewhere.

          1. We went this weekend - outstanding food and service. Take a look at the limited menu for bottles of wine - lots of unique items.

            Pappardelle was the highlight for me - I can't wait to have it again. Chowhubby who dislikes cauliflower enjoyed every bit of the gnocci with cauliflower.

            The other highlights were the lobster and egg starter and the apple slaw.

            Can't wait to return.

            1. Had dinner here the other night. For starters, we ordered the prosciutto, the scallops, and the soft egg & lobster bruschetta. The scallops were incredible. They came with a salty/sweet mystery meat that our waiter said was hamhock. I'm a huge fan of scallops, but the hamhock almost outdid the scallop, for me. My favorite dish. I'm not a huge fan of prosciutto on a plate--I prefer it on pizza, sandwiches, whatever, so I'll only say that I though the prosciutto was good. My friend thought it was great. The lobster bruschetta was amazing.
              For pastas, we ordered half plates of the gnocchi with cauliflower, orange rind, and red pepper and the braised rabbit with orechiette. I've never had rabbit before, so I was skeptical, but I love anything braised, so I was intrigued. Both dishes were delicious. I order gnocchi whenever I see it on the menu, and this version was really good. Better than the version at 112, I think. Though I understand that this is an entree version, whereas 112 offers a appetizer version. So maybe it's unfair to compare.
              For entree, we ordered the skate wing with a side of soft polenta. Skate wing was a huge portion, with butter and parsley, olives and capers. First time with skate wing and I was impressed. I didn't like the polenta--too salty, tasted like Malt-O-Meal. I think that has more to do with me just not liking polenta, rather than any failings for this particular dish.
              For dessert, we had the salted caramel crespelle (crepes) and the chocolate torte. Both were delicious.
              We were constantly being approached by servers to ask how things were tasting. Different servers each time, not just our server, which I found interesting. Mitch mentioned a giardiniera plate at the table, which we never received. We had reservations, were seated at a booth in the bar area, so maybe the bar tables don't get this? If so, that's unfortunate, because I would have liked that. All this, for two people, plus a glass of wine each, came to $107, which utterly surprised me. I can't wait to go back, and I'm interested to see how often the menu changes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: drew13000

                Drew,

                Interesting note about the Giardiniera mix...last time I was there, it was drained of oil. My first thought was they got sick of reprinting menus from the drizzled oil all over them(inevitable), but who knows. The bread we had was also not fried like the first visit, which was saddening because it was great as it was, but probably too much work for bread service. Were you served by a bartender or a waiter, I would say that would have more to do with the lack of giard than the actual lack of the mix in the house. Just a thought....

                1. re: mitch cumstein

                  Well I was one of the people that did drizzle oil on the menu!! We tried it last night and really thought it was great. Loved the atmosphere, loved the food. We could only get reservations at 5pm so it was only about 1/3 full and there were so many servers and other employees walking around that it was a little forced but I'm sure right now they would rather be overstaffed. I had a great cocktail that I can't remember the name of (maybe that was due to the amount of alcohol in it).
                  Appetizers: Salumi plate (very good with the bread) and Bigne with apple: loved these and would definitely order again. Thought they might be too sweet but they were perfect.
                  Pasta: DH had 1/2 serving of Rabbit Orechiette (great)and I had the 1/2 Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu which was amazing.
                  Main: Pork ribs: not a huge serving since we were splitting them but they had a great flavor and were nice with the pasta dishes. Would order again for sure.
                  Dessert: coffee (which was wonderful considering most places seem to have rotten regular coffee) DH: carrot cake (really good but I'm not a huge carrot cake fan) Me: Salted butter and caramel crispelle: Wow, I would have chopped my DH's arm off if he tried to take any.
                  Total bill $103. That was with a cocktail and a glass of wine and two scotches for DH. Thought that was reasonable for quality of food.
                  Our waitress was very friendly. She seemed to be new to the service industry but knew the menu very well and was attentive but not overly so. Overall really loved this place and will definitely go back.

              2. We also tried Bar La Grassa last night and were pretty impressed with the food and the service (especially for a restaurant that has only been open for such a short period of time).

                We had (sharing everything and pastas in 1/2 size portions - I love that they offer the smaller size):

                TALEGGIO BIGNE with BRAISED APPLE: Delicious little dough puffs filled with Taleggio and served with spiced apples. An excellent balance of salty and sweet.

                MARINATED PORK SHOULDER: This bruschetta was cold and had a nice vinegar marinade with some tasty aromatics (including onions). It was good, but not as awesome as some of the other things we tried. More like tasty munchies than wow.

                TORCHIO with ARTICHOKES and MINT: I was amazed at how much flavor the pieces of pasta had (even bites without any artichoke or mint pieces). It had nice chili and garlic to counterbalance the lighter mint and artichoke.

                ORECCHIETTE with BRAISED RABBIT: A nice earthy blend of flavors and perfectly cooked orecchiette. I added a bit of cheese that they brought to the table and this made it even better.

                GRILLED SAUSAGE: Three different types of homemade sausage - all distinct and all very flavorful and tender.

                Salted Butter and Caramel Crispelle with Vanilla Ice Cream: Tender crepes with sweet, very buttery caramel. I love salted caramel so it was a great dessert for me. It was the sort of dessert that needed a sip or two of espresso to balance the sweetness, but with that - it was awesome.

                As you can see, I thought the food was quite good overall and I would definitely like to return. Grand total (before tip) including two glasses of wine each was $90.

                1. I've been a few times now and think they need to refine/eliminate some options from the menu.

                  it seems too ambitious and unfocused; which I'm surprised about considering who all is involved on this 'project'.

                  There are some hits and pasta is obviously a strong point at this spot.

                  I might be in the minority here but I actually don't like the renovations to the space. Let me clarify; I think the space is beautiful, however I think it clashes with the food and the 'theme' here.

                  All in all I think after 6-9 months of refinement and getting a solidified menu down it could be something really nice. But as of now there's a few other spots around town I wouldn't mind going to first.

                  1. Are there two bar la grassas? Cause the one I went to was a let down, the only good part was leaving..

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Mpls Pig

                      What did you order?

                      1. re: tipitina

                        pesto pasta, small order, tallegio cream puffs with apples, cold pork on bread (not sure what its called, but thats whats remembered) Marinated halibut, and the other people at table had one more pasta and a carrot cake.

                        1. re: Mpls Pig

                          ...and what is your feedback on the actual meal (food, service, etc)

                    2. We had dinner at Bar La Grassa last night. it was incredible. Service was excellent. Several people stopped by to see how everything was, but it wasn't obtrusive. We had the sea scallops, which have already been praised on this board, the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, the anchovy and avocado bruschetta, the pappardelle with veal rago, the calamarata and the pork ribs. The pastas were clearly the standouts. The textures and flavors, especially of the calamarata, were outstanding. The pork ribs were incredibly porky, but not at all greasy and had just the slightest heat from the chili flakes. This could be the best meal we've had in the cities this year.

                      1. We had a big birthday dinner there last night. The food was wonderful, but the service was mixed at best. We were a group of 12 and we were given two waiters who were like night and day. One was helpful and pleasant. The other was cranky and neglectful. Cocktails and wine seemed to take forever to come. And the waiters weren't talking to each other, so we got asked about every order and refill at least twice.

                        At one point during the meal, I wanted a glass of wine. The crabby waitress made a face when I asked for the wine list back, so I got a glass of Chianti. A few minutes later, I decided I should just get a bottle for the table. When I asked her to cancel my glass, she said "Good, I forget to put in the order anyway." Sheesh.

                        But the room was gorgeous. And I really enjoyed the food. For appetizers my husband and I shared the proscuitto and also the soft egg and lobster bruschetta, which was rich and heavenly.

                        I had the gnocchi with cauliflower and orange. It was pan seared just like they serve it at 112 Eatery, with a velvety sauce. The small order was more than enough for one person. My husband had the veal tortellini, but the large order was kind of skimpy and the sauce wasn't great. He ended up finishing off my gnocchi.

                        For dessert we had the crispelles, which are now my new fave dessert in town. Buttery, rolled up crepes in a caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream. Divine!

                        I know we were a big party, but the bad service was really unfortunate. Two waiters should have been able to handle us, easily. I'll go back for the gorgeous handmade pastas, but only in a small group.

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                        112 Eatery
                        112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401