Butcher Block (MSP)
Me and the missus, plus our neighbors, went to Butcher Block to celebrate the birthdays of the two women. The neighbors had been to Burtcher Block on one prior occasion and were anxious to return. It was the first visit of my wife and me, although I had been to the place many times went it house Fugaise.
General first impressions: There is an outdoor sign that is mounted in such a way that the name of the restaurant can be spotted when walking on the sidewalk (sign juts out). Fugaise had its name on the awning and door only. So maybe that will increase visibility and people will know that a restuarnt is actually there. The clientele was also dressed down from the clientele that used to frequent Fugaise. That's not good or bad; it just is.
Menu/Food: When Butcher Block first opened, they had a "gimmick" menu offering of chicken wings with your choice of 29 different sauces. I remember that being one of the link options in the menu section of the web site. It is no longer on the web site. For those who still crave a chicken wings, however, those -- along with burgers and such -- are relegated to the late night/bar menu. And the sauce count is down to about ten (but I didn't actually count). The rest of the menu is organized in typical Italian restaurant fashion -- antipasti, l'insalate, pasta, i secondi, and dolce. Every item is under $20.
Our neighbors had sampled a couple of antipasti on a previous visit, and thought those were only okay. So, instead, the four of us decided to split an order of the gnocchi with shrimp and zucchini. It was okay. Some of the gnocchi were soft and light while others were on the dense and gummy side. The dish was also woefully oversauced. The sauce was great, but there was simply too much of it.
We ordered three different salads. Two of us hd the romanesca (romaine, tomator, cucumber, achovy vinaigrette), one ordered the misticanze (mixed greens, lemon, olive oil), and one ordered the roasted beed arugula special. All were delightfully presented and very flavorful. None was overdressed, which was a relief given the pasta. Big highlight. Big thumbs up.
We ordered four different entrees. The cedar plan grilled arctic char with cauliflower puree was simply amazing. It had a great smoky flavor. The fish was perfectly done. The puree a nice complement. Some orange sections on the plate seemed out of place, but the dish was a winner. The pork tenderloin with cannellini beans, apple, ans wilted greens was a very nicely balanced dish. The butcher's steak special with lentils was profoundly flavorful. When we asked the server what cut of meat, she replied shoulder. I shied away thinking it would be too tough, but my neighbor took the dare. It was butchered perfectly so that there were two thin slices of steak that were quite tender. I had the duck breast with a fantastic mushrrom roasted tomato compote type thing.
We ordered three differen desserts -- a chocolate torte (more tart-like) with caramel and sea salt, a chocolate cannoli, and a poached pear that was adorned with I don't remember. All good.
Beverages: The wine list is NOT all Italian, but many growing regions are represented. It is affordably priced. I called ahead about BYO, however, and was glad to learn that we were allowed to bring our own. Corkage is $10/bottle. There is a full bar.
Service: Some still being ironed out here. I made reservations There were four of us, and we were seated at a round table that was much larger than required. It ended up working out pretty good, however, since we shared some dishes, and could spread out. Even so, I had to stretch far for some plates we all shared.
One of the wines I brought was a Champagne (birthday celebrations), and I asked for some sparkling wine glasses. White wine glasses were brought with an explanation that the sparklig ones had broken and are being ordered. Later, however, a bunch of trumpet-shaped glasses were discovered in the basement (the same trumpets Fugaise used). So kudos for double-checking and getting us some good stemware.
When it looked like we were relegated to regular wine glasses, I put the Champagne away and ordered a white off the list. With the arrival of the trumpets, I said we would probably not drink the white (it was not opened). It showed up on the bill my mistake, but was taken off no problem.
Other: The chef (his photo is on the web site) was circulating around the dining room. We sent some wine his way. He was very friendly, and very earnest in wanting to know how everything was.
It was about as crowded as Fugaise was on a Friday night. I hope the space isn't cursed somehow. The salads, entrees, and desserts are all excellent. The pricing is very attractive. Definitely going back.