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Spring 2011 Restaurant Week in the Twin Cities

l
linfr21 Jan 18, 2011 06:52 PM

The restaurant list is posted (already). Most menus are not up yet, but any surprises?

http://www.mspmag.com/promotions/wher...

  1. drew13000 Mar 8, 2011 08:00 AM

    RGT, we must have the same tastes. I also went to Meritage and Fogo for Restaurant Week. We even had reservations at Fogo at 7:30 on Friday. You were probably waiting in the same crowded area we were.

    My experience with Meritage was different. Three of us went Thursday night. I arrived early, sat at the bar by myself for about half an hour while waiting for my friends. Great service. We were seated promptly at 8:30, even though one friend was still running late. One disappointment was that online, there was a beef tenderloin listed as one of the options. In person, this was replaced with a veal/spaetzle dish. I don't like veal, nor pork chops, and the trout sounded boring, so I went off-Restaurant Menu to order. My friends had the pork chop and trout dish and were happy. I had the cassoulet, which was incredible. So hearty and flavorful--perfect winter dish. We received very attentive service throughout. The waiter was very thoughful with his recommendations. Same wonderful service I've always received at Meritage.

    Fogo is at an entirely different end of the spectrum, but still awesome. We arrived a bit after 7:30 for our 7:30 reservation, and encountered a very crowded lobby of people waiting for tables. This didn't bode well. I checked in at the hostess stand, was given a buzzer, and was told it would be about 10-15 minutes. Three minutes later the buzzer went off and we were seated. The place was packed, servers were working their tails off, and still excellent service. Several people checked in on us, making sure we got to experience all the meats we wanted, refilling drinks, refilling sides. It was pretty amazing given how busy it was. My brother, his first experience at Fogo, was really impressed. Even though it was my second time, I made a rookie mistake of eating too much at the salad bar, so I didn't eat nearly as much meat as I wanted.

    I agree with those that question whether Restaurant Week is always a good deal. I think both Meritage and Fogo were awesome deals (though I still ordered off-menu at Meritage). I didn't experience any of the animosity that other diners have experienced from restaurants during Restaurant Week. Not this week, nor any other Restaurant Week I've experienced.

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    Meritage
    410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

    1 Reply
    1. re: drew13000
      k
      kevin47 Mar 8, 2011 11:58 AM

      In comparison to menu prices, our meal at Lurcat was about 40% off.

    2. r
      RGT Mar 5, 2011 08:45 PM

      This is an account of the last of our three 2011 Restaurant Week outings. My wife and I enjoy food and we love to explore new places. Additionally, cooking is my hobby, so I am always looking to try something new and then try to replicate it at home. We like to frequent the local places (Sanctuary, Al Vento, etc) and stay away from the chains (we do like some of the higher end chains like Kincaids). Our normal meal is an appetizer or two, a shared salad, two entrees and a shared dessert. I explain this because our third restaurant week excursion was to Fogo de Chao. We had been given a gift card to Fogo quite a while ago, but we just couldn’t see ourselves at the “all-you-can-eat” scene. When we saw Fogo on the Restaurant Week list, we figured it was a good time to get it over with. To make things worse, we booked for a Friday night because we figured we’d need to sleep it off. Yet, we knew Friday night was going to be crazy busy. Our expectations weren’t high.

      We arrived for our 7:30 reservation a few minutes late and were amazed at the number of people waiting. You couldn’t even see the bar, much less get through to order a drink. The hostess explained they were running about 10 minutes behind, and she gave us a device that would flash when our table was ready. We found a place to sit to the left of the bar and expected a long wait. About 5 minutes later we were seated at a nicely located table.

      Our waiter appeared and welcomed us to Fogo. He asked if we had been there before and when we explained we hadn’t, but we had been to other similar places, he skipped the usual explanation and settled on explaining what they had available. He presented a list of the meats available and an extensive wine list. We explained we liked Malbec and he smiled and recommended a couple. When we were selecting he actually encouraged us to purchase a less expensive one as he thought it was better wine. It was excellent.

      Fogo was huge, loud, and extremely busy last night. Yet, where we were seated was really quite nice. My wife and I could talk without shouting and never felt confined.

      With our water a bread basket with something resembling a mini popover/ gouger arrived. Slightly cheesy, warm and flavorful these were wonderful start. Soon our wine arrived and I was pleased with the selection. Off to the Salad Bar.

      Salad bar is a bit a misnomer as there are very few salads. Smoked salmon, prosciutto, salami, asparagus, hearts of palm, imported cheeses, baby red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, multi color bell peppers, pesto, French bread, etc. All of it was fresh, cold and much better than I expected. We ate our first course and agreed it was too bad we had to restrain ourselves as we weren’t as young as we once were. Our bread and water were constantly, but unobtrusively replenished. As we were finishing our waiter stopped and asked we were enjoying our food and if we needed anything. We said everything was fine. He once again asked if we were enjoying his wine recommendation and was pleased when we said we were very pleased.

      As soon as our salad bar plates were removed, new plates arrived along with three side dishes. The side dishes were mild garlic mashed potatoes with a bit of chopped green onion and shredded cheddar, fried polenta squares with parmesan, and cooked bananas. All were well prepared, but nothing amazing.

      I’m sure most folks know the meatfest these type of Brazilian places are. Turn your disk to the green side and the “gauchos” stop and offer one of the 10 different meat selections available. Turn the disk to the red side and they leave you alone. Now, I expected the meat to be okay, but I must admit I truly enjoyed the beef served. It reminded me of the beef I used to get 30 years ago. It had the nice char, sweet, juicy, slightly fatty taste of beef before the heath police stepped in. Bacon wrapped tenderloin, great sirloin, garlic beef, succulent rib-eye, top sirloin, and tender filet mignon. All were good, some were excellent. Perhaps a bit over salted, but delicious. Our waiter would stop any time we were resting and ask if there was anything special we were waiting for. Whatever we requested arrived in a short while. “Lamb, would you like the chops, or the leg?” “Pork, would you like the ribs or the parmesan encrusted loin?” , “You must try the Linguica sausage”, “Have you tried the dark chicken or the bacon wrapped breast?” This guy, and all the staff were amazing for how busy they were. My wife had requested the lamb and he came back twice to make she had received it. He was a very conscientious guy who seemed determined that we have a good time. At one point he stopped and checked on something and stated “…you folks are so nice and patient…”. It was great to have someone who truly seemed to be happy looking out for our enjoyment.

      You have little tongs to hold the meats as the gauchos slice it and you request how much of everything you want. This allowed us to taste a wide variety, without over doing it. Okay, we over did eat too much, but we’ll work out extra hard the next couple of weeks. Even with restraint we were stuffed.

      Our waiter stopped and asked if we were interested in dessert. We both claimed to be content and then he mentioned his favorite was their flan – my wife loves flan, so the flan and the chocolate mouse cake were ordered. Both were very good, we ate all of the flan and ½ the cake. Again, our waiter checked back and asked if he could do anything. We said no thank you, please box the remaining dessert and bring us our bill. He cleared the table and arrived back with the boxed dessert and the bill. He thanked us for coming and said he enjoyed serving us.

      We paid he bill, leaving a generous trip. Someone else picked it up as we prepared to leave. Once again asking if we had a good time and thanking us for coming.

      Strange, we started out with high expectations for Meritage and low ones for the chain Fogo de Chao and after our dining at each place we came to completely different conclusions. I guess it just goes to prove that you need to approach all dining experiences with an open mind. There will be plenty of opportunity to judge things after the fact.

      -----
      Fogo De Chao
      645 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403

      Meritage
      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

      Al Vento
      5001 34th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

      3 Replies
      1. re: RGT
        p
        phimoez Mar 6, 2011 06:48 PM

        I found this review interesting because our best Restaurant Week meal was also at Fogo de Chao. It was the only place that actually seemed happy to have us dining there. The staff was all so attentive and pleasant. I enjoyed everything I had tried, and thought the "salad bar" was amazing. I too would have preferred a little less salt on some of the meats, but overall had a great time. I had two underwhelming meals at Barbette and Cosmos. The service and food at both these places was subpar. I actually had to eat leftover pizza after getting back from Cosmos because I was still starving when I got home. I am sure people will disagree because Fogo is a chain but the food tasted good and the staff was much better than any of the other two places I went.

        1. re: phimoez
          g
          galewskj Mar 7, 2011 11:25 AM

          At least with Fogo, you know what you are getting into - it's the same buffet. I think it is a great value and can't believe how even their sirloins are wonderful.

          1. re: galewskj
            b
            Bobannon Mar 9, 2011 02:37 PM

            I also had an awesome experience at Fogo. I actually think this is the best deal out there for RW. I have hesitated to mention it in the past because I sometimes feel I'll be ridiculed on this board for loving this place. But, this was my fourth visit to Fogo, and my second during a restaurant week and I feel like the quality of the food and the service are just as good as the non restuarant week visits.

            We were seated fairly close to the salad bar and I watched as they consistently and quickly brought out more fresh salad items. Everything was so good and fresh and I too had to restrain myself on the salad bar.

            There are actually 15 different cuts of meat. i agree some were good and some were excellent and great care was taken to make sure everyone got what they wanted and that it was prepared to their liking. A couple of my companions liked rare and one well.

            Dessert was amazing....there were 4 of us and we each selected a different one and shared. i thought they were all great. We had the chocolate mouse, the key lime pie, the cheesecake and the creme brulee. We all loved them all.

            I've had hit and miss experiences at other RW places and have decided I'd rather just try new places on my own. For the most part, it doesn't seem like that great of a deal and I would just rather order what I want and not have to fight the crowds. Fogo is the exception for me.....they are really on their game for RW and it's a great deal. We have plans to go back for the next one.

      2. r
        RGT Mar 5, 2011 08:43 PM

        Went to Scusi on Tuesday. Nice venue, good location, poor parking.

        Service was very nice. It was busy, but the young staff were all working together. After we were seated our waitress came and took our drink order. When she brought our wine (great value on bottles of unpretentious but drinkable reds, whites, & sparkling) she asked if we had ever been to Scusi before. We hadn't and she then explained that their policy was to have the food come out when it was ready – not everyone will receive their meal at the same time. Actually, this turned out great for us, as we like to share.

        First out was the Chef choice salumeria board – six or so thin slices of good Soppressata, three ¼ inch slices of a small baguette, two small slices of a nice Fontina and a teeny tiny little cast iron skillet with some home made diced pickles. Good, but nothing special.

        Next came the Prosciutto Wrapped Diver Scallops. They were two perfectly cooked, nicely seared wrapped scallops. Very good.

        Next out was the Espresso rubbed beef tenderloin, soft polenta, veal demi glace. Everything was hot and the food looked nice. The approx. 6 ounce tenderloin was properly cooked. Nice flavor, but a bit chewy. The polenta was very good in both texture and flavor.

        The Lobster ravioli, porcini tomato sauce were brought as we were sharing the tenderloin. Four squares of 2 ½ inch ravioli with a moderate amount of lukewarm stuffing, covered with a small amount of tomato based sauce. Okay, but kind of boring.

        The desserts were Raspberry white chocolate cheese cake and Wild berry panna cotta. The cheesecake was a nice sized piece of standard, graham cracker crust cheesecake with some raspberry coulis squirted on the plate. The small panna cotta had one strawberry cut in half a sliced thin.

        Overall it was a nice meal, but not a great value.

        My wife and I dine out quite a bit and we like to go to a large variety of places. Sanctuary, W.A. Frost, Piccolo, the Porterhouse, Bin, Kincaid’s, The Lexington (amazing happy hour), as well as Scusi’s sister places Highland Grill and Longfellow grill are of few of the place we have been to recently. We’re easy going people, but we’ve been disappointed in Restaurant Week lately. Rarely does a place put their best foot forward, usually it’s a “special” menu of stripped down dishes that will never appear on the menu again.

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        Highland Grill
        771 Cleveland Ave S, Saint Paul, MN 55116

        Meritage
        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. r
          RGT Mar 5, 2011 08:41 PM

          For us Restaurant Week was a mixed bag. Three restaurants and three significantly different experiences. As they are all long reviews I will split them into three separate reviews. I’ll work my way from my highest expectation to the lowest.

          On a whim, my wife decided we should treat my mother and my 24 year old daughter, so there were four of us for our Meritage dining experience. All frequent travelers who truly enjoy food and dine out frequently at a broad range of restaurants. Thursday, the four of us arrived at Meritage a bit early for our 8:00 reservation and we were promptly seated. The restaurant wasn’t quite full and was a bit loud, but we were seated by the window and overall things looked very nice. Our waiter arrived and gave us the menus and asked if we wished a beverage. I explained that we would be ordering wine so we would let him know our selection when we gave him our food order.

          We looked at the menus and noticed that the Slow Cooked Beef Tenderloin, Pomme Dauphine, Braised Escarole & Black Olive Oil entrée had been replaced with a Stuffed Veal and Spaetzle. Not a big deal as we enjoy veal.

          Soon the waiter came back and we ordered. For a starter two ordered the Roasted Beet, Endive & Orange Salad, Walnuts & Mustard, one ordered the Oysters Meritage, and I ordered the Roasted Garlic Sausage, Lentils and Sauce Diable. Three ordered the Stuffed Veal and I ordered the Grilled Fisher Farms Pork Chop, Spicy Carrots, Polenta & Garlic Kale. For dessert we ordered all of the different desserts, doubling up on the Beignet with Pear Caramel because one of our diners frequents New Orleans and wanted to see how their version would stack up. As there were four of us and we were all red wine drinkers I knew we would likely need two bottles with the meal. After looking at the menu I ordered an inexpensive Boudreaux, ($24) and my wife asked the waiter to please bring some extra water when he brought the wine glasses because, at 86, we like to dilute my mother’s wine. We sat back and enjoy our conversation and looking out the window.

          About 30 minutes later our starters were delivered and soon after our waiter appeared with our wine. It appears that during Restaurant Week “starter” is short for “amuse bouche”. My garlic sausage consisted of two lukewarm ¼ inch thick slices of a 2 inch diameter sausage on two tablespoons of lentils. The lentils were the best part. The beet salad was two 1/8 inch thin slices of beet, 3 tablespoons of endive, and a few pieces of walnut scattered on the plate. The Oysters Meritage consisted of 3 very small oysters on the half shell resting on a bit of pink salt. It was pretty and what was there tasted fine. However, even eating very slowly, we were finished within 5 minutes. (Think smaller than Piccolo sized).

          Our plates were cleared promptly by the busfolks and once again we sat, and sat, and sat. My elderly mother joked that we better not drink our wine too fast as it didn’t look like anyone would be back when we were out. At about 9:00 my daughter asked a passing wait staff if they could ask where our waiter was and when our food might arrive. Soon our waiter arrived to tell us that our food would be out shortly. No reason for the wait or an acknowledgement of his being absent for so long.

          The food arrived 5 minutes later. The pork dish consisted of one ½ inch thick pork chop on a bed of polenta with some kale. Three micro green topped carrots were placed on the chop. The chop was cooked well with a slightly pink tinged interior. It had nice flavor and wasn’t dry. The polenta had a slightly grainy texture and a strange bitter finish. The kale was properly cooked. The veal was a ¾ slice of rolled stuffed veal with a nice sauce ad some mini spaetzle. Unfortunately, the veal was very tough. All agreed that it had very nice flavors, but it wasn’t tender like veal should be. When the waiter stopped by for the obligatory “how is our meal?” ; I replied that my pork was very nice, but that the other’s veal was very tough. He stared and me for 5 seconds and then left. Being nice people we sat for a while and then ate what was there. Again, even eating slowly we were done eating in 10-15 min. (even an 86 year old woman chewing tough veal). Our dishes were cleared promptly and again we sat, and sat and sat. After 15 – 20 minutes I asked a passing waiter to please get my bill. Our waiter showed up and stated that he had just “asked to have our deserts fired”, I said no thank you. He then asked if we wanted them to go. Again I said no, we didn’t want to wait anymore and we just wanted to leave. He left and came back with our bill – no "I’m sorry", no adjustment, just the bill as if we had eaten the whole meal as ordered. As I’m signing the receipt, and (like a fool) still leaving him the regular tip as I figure he really will need the money, the manager appears. Nicolas, the Directeur de Salle, asks if something is wrong. I explain that everything has taken very long, the waiter hasn’t been very attentive and that when we explained the veal was tough nobody cared. He said “Yes, we have had a problem with the veal tonight” and then he asked how long was our wait. I explained that it was now past 9:30 and we didn’t have our desserts. The yahoo actually said “Well, I don’t think that an hour and a half wait is unreasonable in a restaurant like this.” I looked at him and said rather sternly “I’m not going to argue with you, but this has been one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had.” At this point he takes the bill and goes away. He comes back, and gives me his card and asks that I email him and he will make sure when we come back we will have a better experience. I open the bill and he has taken off the $24 for wine. We still paid for everything else at full price, the tough veal, even the desserts we never saw. I even tipped the waiter $25 because he looked more overwhelmed than incompetent.

          Meritage was a huge disappointment. I’m sure Nicolas is correct, on a different night they may shine. However, it takes an amazingly arrogant Manager to admit “there’s a problem with the veal” and do nothing about it; and then try to argue with the customer over an hour and a half wait time.

          Finally, I frequent a number of high end restaurants and have never had anything like this happen before. I wonder if this experience was a result of Restaurant Week. Dumbed down menus, added staff, different clientele and increased traffic can cause issues for the small independent places. It almost felt like they were saying “I’m doing this because I have too, but I don’t like it”. In that case, they shouldn’t participate.

          -----
          Meritage
          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          4 Replies
          1. re: RGT
            mplsean Mar 7, 2011 09:13 AM

            Also dined at Meritage during RW this time around. Didn't encounter anything remotely similar to the experience RGT describes. And as an aside, we went on Friday evening, the last night of RW and were ready to deal with less than enthusiastic service if forced to. In fact it was entirely the opposite. From the front of housers to our dedicated server, to the watering crew, service was top-notch and GASP! on par with 'high end restaurants' people may frequent. Chef Klein even made his way through the dining room table by table to check in with the masses.

            We were seated early, which was fine. Ordered Pommes Frites and Sazeracs while we discussed the RW menu. Both of us chose the Sausage/Lentils starter. Both of us really enjoyed it. Neither of us were insulted by the portion, which was.....a portion size I would expect for a STARTER.

            I did the Pork/Polenta/Kale/Carrots and really enjoyed it. The chop was inch or inch and quarter thickness, again, unsure what the complaint was about the sizing of the pork chop as I found it to be of average or better than average cut. Kale and carrots were both perfectly done and polenta was nice subtle addition to the dish as a whole. My dining companion had the Veal/Spaetzle/Broccoli and loved it. The meat was absolutely fork tender and of correct portioning. The spaetzle was fine and did the job for absorbing the flavorful Veal Demi type sauce that accompied the dish. I should note at this point, we both noted that we were stuffed. Now, don't get me wrong, we split an order of pommes frites 30 minutes before we started the meal but if the portions were so meager I would doubt we would've been sated at this point.

            For dessert I opted for the Tapioca with citrus segments and my partner the beignets. Both were well executed and timely.

            Overall, we both agreed it was our best RW dining experience to date and was a truly overall excellent dining experience. Made our dinner the night before at Barbette seem kind of like Arby's.

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            Meritage
            410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

            1. re: mplsean
              r
              RGT Mar 8, 2011 04:42 PM

              mplsean,

              I'm glad your experience was so much better than mine. It sounds like you had a great time and I wish my visit had been 1/2 as nice as your's.

              I'm not sure why you felt the need to capitalize STARTER. I don't believe I ever complained about portion size. I tried to give an accurate reflection of what I was served. However, I'm really jealous that your pork was over twice as thick as mine was.As I stated in my review, I thought he pork was very good..

              My issues were with timing, tough veal and a manager who freely admitted there was a problem with the veal and yet did nothing about it. I would have loved to have the chef come my table, but we couldn't even get our waiter to pay attention to us.

              I've heard nice things about Meritage. As I stated in my review, on a more normal night, ordering off the normal menu things would have likely been very different. For example, as we were waiting for our food we saw what looked like a crock of french onion soup go by. Something like that would take quite a bit longer to eat that the starters we had, thus accommodating much longer timing between courses. Again, I'm not saying they should have had the soup as a STARTER, only that waiters usually time courses based on what is being served.

              I do appreciate your comments.

              Finally, I love a good Sazerac but they are tough to find outside of New Orleans or my brother-in-laws house. Do you happen to know what they used for Absinthe and what type of Bitters they used? So many try to get away with using Angostura and it really isn't the same.

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              Meritage
              410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

              1. re: RGT
                mplsean Mar 9, 2011 09:06 AM

                RGT - I didn't mean any harm with the capitalization, I was just trying to emphasize what my perception is of an appetizer/starter/etc - in that it's enough to whet your tastebuds and appetite but not sate your hunger. Mea culpa on the caps.

                That aside, I am truly sorry to hear that your evening there wasn't on par with the evening we had there. And sadly, it sounds like they could've made your experience nearly as enjoyable as ours with a few minor tweaks in delivery/timing/service in general. I think that lends itself to a bigger conversation that has been ongoing on the MSP chow boards as well as loosely to the Woodman/Russo discussion - that is, for Minneapolis restaurants to truly be on the same level as world class establishments in larger markets there is still room for improvement(s) in regards to service/timing/etc. And as much I believe in and love and support MSP restaurants, to an extent I concur - albeit in this particular case my experience with Meritage was excellent but can say that I've had sub-par experiences at other establishments in our fair cities. But I digress, like I said this is a topic that continues to come up again and again in Minneapolis/St Paul restaurant culture.

                But back to Meritage. The Sazerac was very tasty. I believe - although not 100% certain - that they use Peychaud's Bitters. And the absinthe I can honestly say I don't recall which they used. The bourbon I'm pretty positive was Rebel Reserve - and normally I'm not big on Rebel Yell or Rebel Reserve but it tasted awfully nice, especially with some of Meritage's pommes frites with bernaise.

                Again, sorry for the misunderstanding on the capitalization and sorry to hear your experience was lackluster. But at least know that folks like myself can attest to having outstanding experiences there, I guess that counts for something right?

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                Meritage
                410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                1. re: mplsean
                  r
                  RGT Mar 9, 2011 07:57 PM

                  Thank you for the kind response.

                  On the Sazerac front, that's good to hear. Peychaud's bitters are essential to a good Sazerac. A few of those pretty red drops really make the cocktail. I'm a bit surprised at the use of bourbon. Usually it is made with Rye whiskey, yet I have had a couple made with cognac, but I've never had one with bourbon. (However, I love bourbon. My family was in the liquor business forever and I still have a few pints of 100 proof bottled in bond that were made in 1917 and bottled in 1934. Yes, they sat in the barrel in a government warehouse until after prohibition. Truly amazing stuff.) Don't worry about the Absinthe. It was illegal for so long that I'm not sure I like the real thing. We've used Pernod for so long that I think that I prefer it.

          2. f
            foreverhungry Mar 4, 2011 09:39 AM

            My girlfriend and I went to D'Amico Kitchen last night. It was our first time dining there.

            Service was excellent. She had the yellow fin tuna crudo, which was excellent. The avocado puree was fantastic with the tuna. I had the beet salad. Another winner. Though not the best beets I've ever had, the earthiness of the beets played really well with the sweetness of the Gorgonzola. The pairing of the two was fantastic.

            She had the gnocchi with braised chicken. It was very good. Great gnocchi, nice sauce. Very well prepared dish, great balance of ingredients.

            I had the hanger steak (the waiter recommended the sea bass...I should have trusted the waiter). He warned that the radicchio wrapped with pancetta was bitter, but then he said he didn't like radicchio, and that if you like that bitterness, then this would be a great dish. First, the hanger steak - it's a cut I really love, so I almost always order it when I see it on a menu, which isn't very often. This hanger steak was charred on the outside - not a nice steak char, but I mean burnt char. Like black ash burnt. Any magic that had been created in Maillard reactions were burned away. The interior of the steak had no flavor. Literally. Somehow, all the beef flavor had been sucked out of this piece of meat. And a hanger steak has a pretty meaty flavor normally. If you closed your eyes, you'd have no idea what you were chewing. The radicchio tasted like putting lemon pith in your mouth. There was zero radicchio flavor, just bitterness. It, too, appeared to have been aggressively charred. (The pancetta was very good).

            For desert, she had the chocolate marsala cake, which she said was very good. I had the plum and polenta upside cake. It was very good. I'm not sure at what point a polenta cake becomes a cornbread bread, but with the first bite, my immediate reaction was that this was a cornbread cake, and calling it a polenta cake was essentially putting a ball gown on a pig. It was very good for what it was, but nothing spectacular. I had first thought the ice cream was also meant to be some flavorless ice cream, until my GF pointed out that it was almond ice cream. I love almond ice cream. The only way this was almond ice cream was if you had some with a spoonful of almonds and chewed both at the same time.

            Overall, she had a great experience with all three dishes. My appetizer was excellent, but the other two fell flat. I was very disappointed.

            -----
            D'Amico Kitchen
            901 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403

            1 Reply
            1. re: foreverhungry
              g
              galewskj Mar 7, 2011 11:18 AM

              I went to Damico Kitchen too, and I really liked my tuna/avocado dish as well as the sea bass. And the chocolate marsala cake was very flavorful, very chocolatey, and very cakey. Nice. A friend had the hanger steak and it was not burnt like yours was. It looked very good and he was pleased with it.

              But overall I was dissapointed in the portions. I am not expecting a 3000 calorie meal but the servings seemed a little skimpy. I debated stopping somewhere for a burger on the way home.

              Also the basil-lemonade-gin drink that the waitress strongly recommended was basically a weak gin and tonic that they put a basil leaf in - I was not impressed for $9. I have to stop ordering off those stupid drink lists if a place is not known for their drinks.

            2. g
              galewskj Mar 4, 2011 08:13 AM

              A friend and I went to Capital Grille last night and it was very good. I have been there twice before and never been dissapointed - with the minor exception that their kona-crusted new york strip is a bit weird.

              The bread basket had 4 different kinds in it - onion, a white roll, a cracker thing, and a brown bread that was slightly sweet and might have had a bit of fruit in it. All were tasty.

              We both ordered ceasar salads and they were very nice. My friend had the filet mignon which I had before as well. He enjoyed it as much as I did when I had it last time. Normally I do not like this cut as it is tender but has no flavor. The one at Capital Grille is flavorful and meaty. I had the tournados (two smaller pieces of filet mignon) with mushrooms and a red wine sauce. It was a very tasty dish. Finally, I was very satisified with the good-size slice of flourless chocolate cake that was extremely creamy and chocolatey. My friend liked his creme brulee. The service was very polished, I could see the waiter was checking up on us often but he would not approach our table unless he noticed something. Overall, the menu is not that daring but the food is very satisfying - standard good steakhouse.

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              Capital Grille
              801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

              1. k
                kevin47 Mar 2, 2011 08:10 PM

                We're hitting Lurcat on Friday night. Have never tried. Will report.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kevin47
                  k
                  kevin47 Mar 5, 2011 10:06 PM

                  Wife and I had a lovely time at Lurcat. I've been keen to visit the spot for a decade, but things never panned out, so I was excited to see what the place had to offer.

                  The entrance is weird. You have to enter through the bar (essentially a separate entity), before being escorted through a narrow hallway to the dining room.

                  We were seated by a pole. This always happens. Otherwise, anyone who drives by the place on 94 pretty much knows what it looks like.

                  I went with the crab cake and miso marinated chilean sea bass. Wife chose crab cake and udon noodles. We split donuts and the chocolate cake. Ordered some squash on the side.

                  Really dug the crab cake. Wife asked what the sweetness was, and I noted that it was, in fact, crab. Believe it or not, the things are not supposed to taste like goo doused with aioli. The red onion added a bit of punch.

                  The sea bass was fantastic. Really fantastic. Rich with bitterness and sweetness, just a tad rare. It came with a nondescript coleslaw, which became descript when used to scoop up the leftovers.

                  Wife's udon noodles had a nice kick to them, with well prepared vegetables accompanying their house-made noodles. No complaints, but nothing we'd come back for.

                  Squash was quite tasty. Crispy and coated with brown sugar, the dish reminded me of polenta fries. A good match for both dishes.

                  Prior to dessert, wife's water glass inexplicably collapsed in her grasp (she is all of 110 pounds pregnant), sending water and glass cascading onto the table. One of the staff explained that this frequently happens. To which, maybe switch out the things, yah?

                  Chocolate cake was chocolaty. We could help but dip the donuts in the chocolate sauce. I mean, that's what pole proles do. The latter were nice and crispy.

                  Overall, we were pleasantly surprised. Part of me had assumed this place was coasting on it's exquisite location, but this is real-deal food. We'll be back.

                2. g
                  galewskj Mar 2, 2011 11:25 AM

                  This is the second time that I have been disappointed with Cosmos. I felt I could have made a better crab cake at home with canned crab, which I suspect is what they are using. The steak had noticeable pieces of gristle in it, but I did like the simple flavor profile of the steak/mushrooms/potatoes. The chocolate dessert was interesting in its presentation but did not satisfy in a chocolate way or a dessert way - yet I give them some points for trying on that one. Overall I think I am done with Cosmos. The quality does not match the price, even for restaurant week. I'd rather go to Haute Dish, Heidi's, Heartland, or even some of the Damico restaurants.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: galewskj
                    s
                    Seige Mar 2, 2011 07:03 PM

                    Tonight was Barbette. Not so sure it deserves Top 25 Restaurant honors, MSP Mag. Got the butternut squash soup for the first course. More flavor than Cafe Ena's, but not much. Short ribs for second course. Good flavor, super tender - NOT HOT! What is with these places and not serving their entrees warm?! Dessert was a banana and chocolate bread pudding which was quite good. Best part of the meal, actually. Maybe my expectations were too high, but come on people... you need to serve hot food! Next up is Amore Victoria on Friday night. Hope we have better luck. Seems like Restaurant Week is really going down hill. :(

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                    Cafe Ena
                    4601 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                    1. re: Seige
                      s
                      Seige Mar 4, 2011 09:43 PM

                      Well, three strikes and I'm out, Restaurant Week. Amore Victoria was nothing to write home about either. Desserts were all around awful. They served half lukewarm/half frozen (yes - FROZEN) lasanga to my friend. Wine was served in regular drink glasses. Took forever to even get silverware, After dinner coffee was forgotten forever as well. Hubby liked his entree, but that was it. I really have the sense that restaurants participating in RW either get too overwhelmed by it all or frankly just don't care anymore. They get you there and then mail it in with cold food and poor service. I think I'll spend my dining dollars at places I know I'll get good food (although I would have expected that from Barbette).

                      1. re: Seige
                        g
                        galewskj Mar 7, 2011 11:09 AM

                        I don't think the poor food at Amore Victoria is limited to just restaurant week. The last 3 times I went there for a regular dinner I was underwhelmed. And like you, 3 strikes and they are out for me. The last dish I had from them tasted like cream of mushroom soup poured over pasta. I even went with a big group to celebrate a friends birthday, and the friend was close friends with the owner. Well the whole group was grumbling about the lousy food and my friend felt really bad about it. I don't know how they stay in business. Actually I do, it's that weird situation in uptown where 50% of sales are from liquor but they're technically a restaurant.

                  2. s
                    Seige Feb 28, 2011 08:51 AM

                    Thought I'd turn this into a where did you go/how was it post. Hubby and I went to Cafe Ena last night for RW. We'd never been there before and were excited about trying Latin American fusion, since that's not something we eat a lot of.

                    Hubby ordered the salad starter; I ordered the butternut squash soup. Hubby said the salad was good. I couldn't try it because it had goat cheese, which I'm allergic to, and we didn't need an epi pen episode. My soup was so-so. Pretty bland, really, in my opinion.

                    Next up - hubby ordered the fennel crusted grouper served with sauteed greens, gorgonzola mashed potatoes, in a tarragon-lemon beurre blanc sauce. I ordered the oven roasted French style pork chop served over caramelized onion mashed potatoes, in a raspberry demi sauce, grilled asparagus, topped with a golden raisin compote. I had a bite of the grouper which seemed very good. My entree - while the flavors were good - the potatoes, asparagus and sauce were not refrigerated cold, but far colder than they should have been and the pork chop was tough. Like challenging to cut with a steak knife tough. Disappointing because the flavors were really good, if only the food had been hotter and the pork chop not like cutting through shoe leather. We agreed that the grouper was the winner this round.

                    For dessert we both had the homemade key lime pie with vanilla ice cream and a mango coulis. I can affirmatively say that neither of us have either eaten key lime pie in which you could not taste a stitch of lime. All I could taste was vanilla ice cream. Huge fail on this one. Smalley's Barbecue may be getting a lot of things wrong as of late, but they annihilate Cafe Ena on key lime pie. Hands-down.

                    So, a bit of a disappointment our first night out. We won't be rushing back to Cafe Ena any time soon, but I've totally got my eye on Patissiere 46 across the street. :)

                    I'm headed to Barbette on Wednesday and a yet to be determined place on Friday. Looking forward to hearing of others' outings.

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                    Cafe Ena
                    4601 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                    1. f
                      foreverhungry Feb 25, 2011 08:12 AM

                      My girlfriend and I decided to once again take advantage of restaurant week. As is our usual (fun) custom when trying to decide where to go, what appetizer to share, or what movie to see, we do our "pick x number off a list, and we'll see which ones overlap". Fun, and helps to whittle down choices. Interestingly, when choosing a short list for restaurant week, we took 2 very different approaches. I looked at the list, and chose my top 6 top rated restaurants - one's that tend to rank high on best-of lists, ones I have gone to and loved and would enjoy going back, and ones I haven't yet been to, but that everyone raves about. I looked at a few menus for ones I was on the fence about, but in general, went mostly by name. My SO took a very different route - she actually looked at the menus. And let me tell you, we had two very different looking lists. I had Sea Change, Vincent, Meritage, and Saffron (among a couple others) on my list. SO asked me, did you look at their RW menus? I said, "no, of course not, why should I? Those are awesome places, they'll have awesome RW menus". Uh, wrong. I was very disappointed by their menus. Those 4 offered both very short menus, and relatively weak menus, given their typical offerings. Some looked like they were slapped together at the last minute.

                      Now, I am familiar with the tasting menu approach, and think it's great, and would like to see more of it in the US. But this didn't seem like a tasting menu approach, as Travail and I Nonni pull off quite well.

                      In the end, we were down between D'Amicos and Masa (ironically, also a D'Amico's family restaurant). Both had incredible menu selections, which, if not restaurant week but their normal menu, with regular prices, I'd still be gung-ho for.

                      I made a rookie mistake by going with name recognition only. It was funny. I'm hoping our meal at D'Amico's next week lives up to their RW menu.

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                      Masa
                      1070 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403

                      Meritage
                      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      I Nonni
                      981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                      Sea Change
                      806 Second Street S., Minneapolis, MN 55415

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: foreverhungry
                        l
                        linfr21 Mar 1, 2011 08:47 PM

                        I have to say, I think the best results is to find the intersection between your method and your girlfriends. I look at some of the high-ranking restaurants, simply because the chance you will get a good deal is theoretically favorable, and then chose between those based on the menus. Last year I went to Sea Change and got what would be a $50 meal for $30, and was satisfied but left wanting for more. Damico was very good several years ago, great portion sizes and interesting combinations of food. My favorite meals have to be from Meritage and Cosmos. The quality, consistency and portion sizes were that of non-restaurant week plates, and you really are getting a deal. A few years ago, I got a meal at Cosmos that would have costed me about $78.

                        Tomorrow I am checking out Saffron, and am excited!

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                        Meritage
                        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        Sea Change
                        806 Second Street S., Minneapolis, MN 55415

                      2. w
                        WeZeL27 Feb 25, 2011 07:30 AM

                        Bloomington Chophouse is missing from the list as well this time around. Not sure if I take that as a good thing or a bad thing. Are they doing enough business to not need the publicity, or doing so bad they can't offer up the deals they usually do... Hmm...

                        I'm sure I'll hit up Parma for lunch at least once since I work near by...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: WeZeL27
                          Db Cooper Feb 25, 2011 08:11 AM

                          We're not doing anything this go around.

                          The simple fact is that it isn't that great of a deal for us. We're not dessert eaters. Never have been. I frankly don't even enjoy sweets that much, except in the morning from time to time.

                          So $30 for dinner when I'm not even going to eat one of the courses or enjoy it???? That's a rip off to me.

                          And generally, we don't spend $30 per person when we go out on food alone. If you add in wine, we get there, but not on food. Even at the best restaurants in town, you can split an app and each order an entree and keep it under $30 per person.

                          People seem to think this is some sort of amazing deal you're being offered. I just don't see the value in it, but to each their own. I hope everyone enjoys their meals.

                          1. re: Db Cooper
                            g
                            galewskj Feb 25, 2011 10:37 AM

                            I understand where you are coming from, Db Cooper. Some of the restaurants on the list are not any cheaper than if you went there any day of the week. I think most of them are a small discount, similar to a free dessert. A couple of them are decent values IF you like dessert. However, there are some relative values on there. You'll save some money at any of the Damico restaurants, Capital Grille, Cosmos, and a few others. For the Capital grille, a steak and salad is $50 so you add sides and dessert and it is a good value at $30.

                            -----
                            Capital Grille
                            801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

                        2. l
                          linfr21 Feb 24, 2011 07:58 PM

                          Now that we are T minus 60 hours or so until the start of Restaurant Week, I am bumping this to the top!

                          Where is everyone going?

                          I am shooting for Cosmos and Meritage. And if my wallet can handle it, maybe Saffron...

                          -----
                          Meritage
                          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: linfr21
                            s
                            Seige Feb 25, 2011 09:18 AM

                            I think we're doing Cafe Ena, Barbette and probably one other place which has yet to be decided. Although I could see us just throwing caution to the wind and hitting Travail or Victory 44 instead.

                            -----
                            Cafe Ena
                            4601 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                            Victory 44
                            2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

                          2. s
                            Seige Jan 19, 2011 08:48 AM

                            Surprised that Heartland's missing and that Longfellow Grill and Wondrous Azian Kitchen are on there given their recent appearance on a less than fabulous list - http://www.startribune.com/local/1138.... Don't think I'll be headed to either of those for Restaurant Week.

                            -----
                            Longfellow Grill
                            2990 W River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Seige
                              The Chowhound Team Jan 19, 2011 12:32 PM

                              Pardon the interruption folks, but we've removed some discussion about Open Table and Open Table fees and practices, which is considered off-topic on this Minneapolis-St. Paul board. If you wish to engage in a discussion about Open Table, please do so on our "Not About Food" board to keep the Minneapolis-St. Paul board narrowly focused on local chow in accordance with our mission.

                              Thank you.

                            2. b
                              BigE Jan 19, 2011 07:44 AM

                              Interesting to see Nokomis in Duluth on there. Otherwise, the lineup looks similar, with the omission of LBV (which DB noted).

                              I'm going to make a serious effort to get to Meritage this time.

                              -----
                              Meritage
                              410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                              1. Db Cooper Jan 18, 2011 07:20 PM

                                No La Belle Vie was a bit of a surprise.

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                                La Belle Vie
                                510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

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