Jfood Visits Victory 44 - Excellent with Greater Potential
As Jfood drove up route 100 to Victory 44 he kept thinking he had the wrong address or his garmin was playing games. Located in very northwest Minneapolis, this “neighborhood” restaurant offers some of the best and most imaginative food in MSP. It will definitely qualify as an “A-Lister” for Jfood and is worth the additional driving time from downtown or the south side.
The restaurant has two rooms. The left room contains a lengthy bar with a TV and some high tables, and the second room contains 10-12 square tables that, when combined, could accommodate larger parties. As a solo diner Jfood assumed his normal position at the bar in front of the TV, opened his book and waited for the fun to begin.
Chalkboard menus are located on walls throughout both rooms. The prices are an affordable $8-15 per course and the average age of the patrons when Jfood visited indicated that many 20’s and area residents view Victory as their go-to local watering hole. There are various beer offerings both on tap and in bottles/cans.
But Jfood was there to sample the food so many Hounds have raved about. Jfood was approach by a young lady behind the bar who asked what he would like for dinner. The 5-course tasting menu for $30 made for an easy decision. Then the young lady retreated to the open kitchen and began to prepare Jfood's dinner, she was the chef. How cool is that? During the course of the next hour Jfood watched as she approached each dish with calming, almost zen-like attitude, no sudden motions, just fluid and confident movements. She also brought each dish over to Jfood and spent time describing each component. After Jfood finished each course, he had a brief discussion with one of the other chefs and developed a nice rapoire with each.
Course 1 – Smoked trout dip with rhubarb onion sauce, capers, pickled onion and salted crackers. The first course was a great way to start the evening. This salty adventure included two small scoops of smoked trout atop two salted crackers. Perched on one side was half of a pickled onion and the capers were placed on the other side. Three drops of the rhubarb onions sauce circumvented the plate. The saltiness of the trout dip, the salted crackers and the capers were complemented by the acidity of the pickled onion and the sweetness of the rhubarb. It was a very nice balance of salt, sour and sweet components plus the smoothness of the trout and the crispness of the crackers gave the dish complementing textures. Jfood loved the onion and he cut it into smaller pieces so he could savor with as many different combinations as possible.
Course 2 – Beet terrine with beet puree, goat cheese, an orange slice, baby mesclun, with a drizzle of olive oil. Jfood has developed a fondness for beets over the last few years, truly enjoying their earthiness. The chef prepared the terrine by thinly slicing the beet and “stacking” the slices vertically, similar to a deck of cards on its side. You could peel several layers from the “deck” and design combinations of the other flavors on the dish. The chef added a small amount of salt to the mesclun and the single orange section allowed for a sweet component. This dish was also a hit for Jfood as he tried various combinations
Course 3 – Scallop with risotto, carrots, puree of carrot, puree of red pepper, peas, pea tendrils, string beans, and a touch of lemon. Let’s start by stating that the scallop and the risotto were prepared to absolute perfection. The single scallop was pan seared on one side allowing for a crisp texture and a moist texture on the other. The risotto had the perfect amount of bite to its texture, the carrots and string beans maintained a crispiness to both while the two purees lent a flavor and smoothness to the dish. As you combined the earthiness of the vegetables and the sweetness of the scallop, you added some the tanginess of the lemon. The flavors worked tremendously together and this was Jfood's favorite dish of the evening.
Course 4 – Sliced sirloin steak with papardelle with a garlicky butter sauce, fried shitake mushrooms and fried garlic. Perfection in the first three dishes was met with disappointment in this course. Although perfectly cooked to a medium rare doneness, the toughness that sirloin can bring to the plate was present. It was a struggle to cut the meat with the butter knife. On the other end of the spectrum, the pasta was overcooked and mushy. In addition the sauce was not a pleasant al fredo interpretation. The only part of the dish that was enjoyable was the deep fried shitake mushroom. Jfood would recommend that this recipe undergo a major revision. One of the other chef’s approached Jfood when he finished and they discussed the steak and Jfood felt that his feedback was not a surprise to him.
Course 5 – A mélange of small pieces of sliced cookie dough, brownie, citrus meringue all in a swirl of marshmallow fluff. The two itzy-bitzy sized pieces of cookie dough and the chocolate brownie were excellent, and the citrusy meringue was a nice palate cleaner. The swath of marshmallow fluff was a bit overwhelming and a little less would have been a little more from Jfood's point of view. It was a very pleasant ending, so he thought, to an extremely pleasant meal.
As he started back to his book he thought he may detour to Izzy’s for a nightcap, maybe some coffee heath bar in a waffle cone to finish the evening. But the chefs had a different plan in mind. Why? He really does not know, maybe it was the various discussion Jfood had when each course was presented or the discussion and feedback he gave after each course, but as Jfood was about to ask for the check an 8” by 18” plate was placed in front of Jfood and it carried enough dessert samples for a table of four. It looked like Jackson Pollack meeting Ace of Cakes.
Course L’Extra – The plate contained samples of tres leches cake, lemon squares, diced rhubarb, sticky chocolate mousse, a brownie, some deconstructed strawberry shortcake, lemon curd, and a before/after cake that was presented as a slice of cake batter plus a cooked piece.
The highlights of the dessert platter were the sticky chewy chocolate mousse which was a piece of heaven and the deconstructed strawberry shortcake. The latter was comprised of shortcake biscuits with sweet whipped cream and sweet strawberries. Jfood also liked the before/after cake and the rhubarb gave the whole platter a different level of sweetness. What an end to a meal and thoughts of Izzy’s exploded from Jfood's near term desires.
Jfood first trip to this section of MSP was a great success. The calm and interactive staff was fantastic, the food was great, the people that surrounded Jfood at the bar were relaxed without any tension or pretense and the value was better than any restaurant Jfood has visited. After the first three courses, Jfood was ready to give Victory 44 the “great” accolade, but it had some issues after the scallop course. Based on the first three courses, Jfood would definitely place Victory 44 as one of the Top 10 he has visited in MSP, and he will re-visit in a few weeks because he thinks this restaurant should be a Top 10, if not Top 5 addition to Jfood's rotation.
photo of beet, scallop and sirloin
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
After Mexican and Target Field food, Jfood decided he needed a good meal so he drove up 100 to Victory 44 again. Same seat, different beertender but Carley was the chef so Jfood was confident he would have another good meal. This time he decided to design his own Tasting Menu.
1 – Mirin glazed pork belly with bok choy, uden noodles in a Potlicker sauce. Jfood really liked the glazed pork belly and the sauce was in between a soy and a potsticker sauce. Not too overwhelming with just a hint of salt. The bok choy added a nice crunchiness to the dish and the uden noodles added the soft texture. Overall Jfood enjoyed this course.
2 – Chicken and grits, with apricot and jalapeño puree, and fried jalapeño and carrots. Two pieces of chicken breast were stuffed with some summer sausage, sautéed and finished in the oven. The chicken was a bit dry and did not stand up well on its own, but when combined with carrot puree that had a bit of spice from the jalapeño, this was a great combination. And then there was the cheese grits. The flavors and texture of the grits were fantastic. Jfood could have skipped the chicken and just eaten the sides on this dish, they were that good.
3 – For his final course Jfood ordered the “Perfect Burger.” This burger may not be “perfect” but it is pretty damned close. The meat is ground on premises and then the kitchen adds additional fat to make it even better. The flavors were great, perfectly cooked and then the kitchen added the extras, white cheddar, bacon, Dijon aioli and icebox pickles all encased in a Turtle Bread Company roll. It is hard to find a weak link on that list. And yes, this was a burger to drive a long way to eat. Jfood only wished he had room for another, it was that good and now leapfrogs Buster’s as Jfood's pick as best burger in MSP. The fries that joined the burger were not in the same league. Although they were hand cut downstairs, they were inconsistent in doneness, some were well cooked and others were undercooked. But with a burger as good as V44’s, the fries do not even come into play, unless they are over the top good.
So Jfood's second visit was a great way to end the week. This place definitely makes the power rotation and with an outside seating area, a few courses outside would be a great way to spend a meal.
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
Last weekend, I made my third visit in as many weeks to Vic's 44, with two locals and a friend from out of town. The previous pair of trips are summed up here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/679899
Our party of four arrived on Sunday about 6:30pm. The dining room was about half full. We were waited on promptly and were given the amuse course of Garlic Popcorn from the previous week.
I ordered the Beets N' Blue (as did one of my friends), effectively the Beet Salad from the previous week. I felt the portion might be a tad smaller, and instead of two discs of the blue-cherry-pistachio cheese, I had only one. Still, it was delicious.
One friend went with the Glazed Pork Belly, another the Merguez Sausage, and two of us had the Scallops and Risotto.
The pork belly looked like a nice portion and my friend certainly scarfed it down. In his typical fashion he didn't touch the greenery. He isn't a man of a lot of words, but certainly seemed pleased.
His fiance had the merguez sausage. It was the largest plate of food I've seen at V44. It came with some kind of gravy, a large fried onion string, and what might have been spetzel. She really enjoyed the plate and commented a few times that there were lots of different flavors.
My friend from out of town and I bother ordered the Scallops and Risotto. If anyone has been paying attention to my posts, I'm a vegetarian, although I do cheat on sushi when it's free. However, after my previous visit and the somewhat disastrous vegetarian options of "pasta and vegetables" that was overly salty and small on portion, even by their standards, I thought I'd cheat on my veg habits to see what they were capable of.
Our dishes had two scallops each, about the size of Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, and approximately 2 Tbsp of risotto. There was a foam, some peas and some lemon segments. The scallops were cooked perfectly and were very delicious. The risotto was also very nice and the peas were a nice touch of freshness. I tried a bite with the lemon and found everything overwhelmed by it. While a tasty dish, the portion was just too small for the price. I was okay with the scallop portion, it was the tiny amount of rice that I found disappointing.
We had a couple of questions of the food before we ordered ("What is merguez?"), but again, nothing was explained upon being served. The sauce on the merguez and the foam on the scallops is a complete mystery. When presented with our check, we tucked 3 cards into the folder, and the server asked "split?", which when I answered in the affirmative, didn't realize was going to be split 3 even ways between 3 people, one who had a single dish, and one who had 2 dishes and a beer. I felt this was a bit lazy.
I think I need to stick to the Brunch until they have more viable vegetarian options. I think they would benefit from more people going out of their way to eat there if the menu was updated on their site / Facebook and if there was less mystery when ordering.
Mr. J. Food, might I recommend the Panasonic Lumix LX-3 camera? It's is pocket sized and inconspicuous for food photograpy, yet still takes incredible pictures. It's kind of a bridge between point and shoots and DSLR, one of the most well reviewed cameras you'll find.
How far is Victory 44 from the Metrodome area ? We are planning our return trip to Minneapolis in November and like what we see at Victory 44 ! Last eayr we made stops at 112, Alma, and Sea Change. This year it will likley be Bar La Grasa, return to Alma, and maybe one more if time allows.
900 S 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55415
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
806 Second Street S., Minneapolis, MN 55415
V44 isn't walking distance, it's up near 100 / 694 (roughly). It's out of the way, but it's a quick drive. I have driven from central St. Paul the last two weekends and made it to my friends (who is seconds away from V44) in 22 minutes. Worth the drive, coming from someone who hates driving anywhere over 10 minutes.
Note for jfood: Two of the original chefs from Victory are opening their own place. Link here: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/...
Now, on to your review:
I absolutely love this place. Given the pricing and the decidedly laid back atmosphere, it might be my favorite spot in town.
I agree about the steak/pasta course. Something about it just didn't work for me.
About time you made it up there! I have been a regular there for about 3 months dining solo, with wife or even bringing the kids. Some dishes set the standard insanely high when a follow up dish is merely good it feels like a let down but I have never left the restaurant less than satisfied.
I love the concept of giving young talented chefs control of the menu and how they execute dishes and by reducing overhead being able to (I hope at least) to pay them a decent wage. Having the tips surely helps as well.
Try one of their sausages the next time I've had several different sausage dishes there and they are usually great.
My favorites so far: Rutabaga Agnelotti (with a celery foam), and what was called Chicken and Gravy.
Is that a frog?
FYI, that's not an extra dessert. That is the dessert. They do a dessert amuse with the platter.
I ordered the steak last week (rare), and it came with a sort of foam made from the juices as well as a few tempura onion rings. It also came with potato prepared a la the beets you describe. Maybe they should have left well enough alone, there.
But yes, worth the trip, eh? And yeah, our neighborhood will make a mockery of any GPS.