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Dec 2, 2009 06:11 AM

Jfood returns to Meritage (St Paul) - Fantastic

It has been over a year since Jfood visited Meritage but the weather was a bit chilly and Jfood was looking for a hug. Since Mrs. Jfood was 1000 miles away he looked to some comfort food for the proxy and where better than Meritage to get a big hug. Traffic was very reasonable on a Tuesday evening and Jfood was also lucky to find on-street parking around the corner. As he entered at 7PM he noticed it was only 10-15% full and he was given a very nice, quiet table in the corner.

The server approached, Jfood asked for some water and some time to make the choices. Two nice slices of bread arrived with a little dish of butter. The bread was cool (this always surprises Jfood) but when he tasted the sourdough bread it did not matter. It was great.

Since he performed some due diligence he had an idea what he was ordering from the on-line menu. When the server returned Jfood ordered the Parisian Style Ricotta Gnocchi with squash, autumn vegetables, mushrooms in a sage brown butter for an appetizer and the Cassoulet in the style of Toulouse with a ragout of Tarbaise beans, garlic sausage, pork and duck for an entrée plus (shouldn’t have done this, but) some Pomme frites with a béarnaise sauce.

The gnocchi arrived and it looked fantastic. The dish was probably half gnocchi and half vegetables. Included were several types of cauliflower, diced squash, and the mushrooms were wild mushrooms. And let’s not forget the little sage leaf to add to the butter flavor. The first bite was heaven. This gnocchi was about as good as it could get. It was slightly browned on the outside to give it a bit of a crunch, soft and delectable inside. And the sage butter was a perfect balance to the flavors. If there was one thing that Jfood would give a minor suggestion though was that one piece of the purple cauliflower was still cool and had not returned to temperature. Other than that this dish was a perfect 10.

Jfood returned to his book (The Sellout by Charles Gasparino) and after a few minutes the server brought the cone of frites. Wow, this was tall. Jfood took one of the frites, dipped into the béarnaise and took a bite. Heavenly, perfectly cooked, great salt ratio and the béarnaise was also wonderful.

Then the Cassoulet arrived. OMG. The server asked if she could bring anything and Jfood responded, “Another stomach please.” This was a soup dish of food. Let Jfood try to describe how Chef Klein presented this dish. It is served in a very large cream soup shaped bowl. When you look down into the opening you see centered in the dish the upper part of the thigh-leg section of the duck nestled in the breadcrumb topping. Since Klein focused on the duck, Jfood would as well. He took a small piece of duck and a few beans in the sauce. Jfood still feels the hug. It was brilliant. The sauce was smoky, the duck was crispy, succulent and salty, and the beans were perfectly cooked. All the elements of comfort food were present. As Jfood worked his way through the beans, the duck, the pork, the sausage it was bite after bite of luxury. Jfood noticed one thing that he notices at home as well with sausage, it seems to loose flavor when it is braised. The sausage in the dish was milder than Jfood would have expected from a garlic sausage. Maybe this was intentional due to the other flavors, but he has no answer, even when he uses sausage in some of his dishes at home.

Server was also perfect. The server was friendly, checked in properly and the timing of the service was great.

So this was a great meal for Jfood and he is really glad he made the drive to downtown SP. Sitting there looking out at the red lights on the trees made him wish he were in Paris with Mrs. Jfood eating the same meal.

Meritage - St. Paul
410 Saint Peter Street (Hamm Building), St. Paul, MN 55102

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  1. great report, thanks for posting. i myself go to meritage a few times a month for lunch and have never been disappointed. the coq au vin currently on the menu is textbook perfect. it will move you to tears of joy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: petergray

      They only serve the Coq on Thursdays so jfood needs to decide if he goes backin 36 hours

    2. I love this place. How revolutionary is it to get some perfecty executed classics in today's dining world. Perfect Mornay Sauce, perfect Hollendaise, perfect Bearnaise. For me, that is an impressive thing and a lost art...

      1. Couldn't agree more. This place is just blowing the doors off right now. We seem to be going there more and more. In fact, my 9 and 13 year old kids now beg to go there. My older daughter ordered the rabbit rillette appetizer in August. I could hardly believe it.

        The service is outstanding. Last time we were there, they did a special fruit plate for my little daughter, who doesn't want to eat much containing any vitamins. But she'll eat fruit. The staff was so accomodating, it made the meal much easier.

        The food is always right on the money. I also had the cassoulet, and man it was good. The wine list is also superb. They have Diebolt Vallois Champagne on the list. Another thing to get are the oysters. Easily the best and freshest in town. As good as the ones I had in Amsterdam. And the physical space is beautiful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Michael Florey

          I had previously posted this on a different thread but wanted to post it again since this is my new favorite restaurant....

          "Went to dinner at Meritage yesterday...this was our first time and the only thing I can say is WOW!!! It was one of our most memorable dinners in the twin cities.

          We started things off with lamb bacon and house marinated olives. Both of these were great, especially the lamb bacon.

          Then came the entrees;

          I had the duck breast - this was phenomenal. It was nice and crispy on the outside and moist inside. It was served with some swiss chard and apricots. Overall the dish had perfect balance.

          My wife had a burger - the burger was as good as a burger can be. But the fries were out of this world....simply the best we've had in town.

          For desert we had some dark chocolate izzy pops with salted caramel ice cream. This was a perfect finish to the evening (ok this was not really the end to the evening as we went to Izzy's and go some ice cream to go :).

          Service - this is where I think they simply went above and beyond. Our server was very knowledgeable without being pushy. He answered our questions truthfully as well (he actually pointed out couple of entrees where he thought could use some improvement). Chef Klein came to our table and asked how everything was tasting and so was the manager. My wife's burger was a little underdone the first time she got it so we had to send it big deal. However, the management made it a point to apologize personally and deduct the charge for the burger from our bill.

          Overall we felt like we were well taken care of and couldn't say anything negative about the food either.

          We will definitely be making another trip over to Meritage in the near future."