4th- solera, minneapolis
5th- crema cafe/annie's parlour, minneapolis
9th- lone spur, minnetonka
16th- red pepper, richfield
22nd- restaurant levain, minneapolis
23rd- pannekoeken huis, st. louis park
26th- pizza luce, minneapolis
4th- solera , minneapolis (b-)
ok, so way down from the previous grades. what happened here?
service. i will say some of the servers here kick ass. the bartending staff is all that, the people at the tapas bar rocked. our server did not kick ass. one, they were unfamiliar with more than one of the menu item. they were not new. so something did not go right somewhere along the line. was the menu new? some items seemed to be new, but it was more than one item they were unfamiliar with. however, that was small problem compared to the service itself.
the server kept grabbing a plate that still had not an insiginifant amount of food on it or a glass that was not close to being empty and asking if we were done with it. not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but most every time they came by until after thousands? millions? of times repeating the theme 'no, there's still food on it/liquid in it, therefore we are not done with it' but this maybe was three-fourths of the way through the meal before they caught on. and it wasn't that busy when we were there (it was an early meal) that they had to rush us out as they needed the seats. profoundly annoying.
the food. ok, i've said it before... if you have tasty sauces, give us some bread (or at least spoons) to get at the leftover sauce. i want the sauce. as a general rule, it's tasty. forks can only do so much. bread would have the side benefit of leaving people more satiated with the tapas meal. when i left, i was full, but not satisfied, and i was not the only one. and it's not like we didn't order a lot.
as mentioned, they did change some of their menu. i am still in love with the calimari. ditto the chicken thighs in mojo verde with alioli. however, some things were puzzling, like the octupus ceviche with hot red pepper. read that, and you expect some sort of spicy note in the dish. not so much of that was there. ok, none at all. the tomato filled with tuna and capers had way too much tuna in it, you couldn't taste the capers and the fried parsley in it was an odd note. the asparagus in some kind of cheese sauce we were told was tender, but it was more crisp than anything.
newer dessert things (debut night for them) we not completely thought out. one of the ones we ordered, dessert tapas, came with a nice raspeberry cava gelle in a tiny glass, but there was no eating utensil served with it where you could get at half of it. (i've had this problem before....). the pineapple bread pudding could've used some more flavoring (nutmeg, said the professional, but i would've settled for a bit more cinnamon even), there were no standout notes in it, but it was nice, warm, and squishy. the roasted bananas with dessert empanandas (if i recall that one) could've also used more, too. churros were good, and most people liked the chocolate sauce with them, for me it wasn't sweet enough.
nor was the sangria, but that's my personal taste. the sangria was pretty good, otherwise. i tried both the red and the white versions, and preferred the sweeter white one. i also had a glass of the cava with dessert, which is some nice stuff. like champagne, only spanish.
a lot of the prices were happy hour ones (it lasted until 6 pm that day), which made it more affordable though it still tends to run high. and as i said, some people walk out of here wanting 'real' food... so factor that in the pricing...
the bathrooms at that hour were also in reasonably good shape, too, which is always good.
5th- crema cafe/annie's parlour, minneapolis (a, b+)
eat dessert first, and you'd do a lot worse than the crema cafe, home of sonny's ice cream. the cherry vanilla had hugeass real cherries in it (and real vanilla, for that matter), and was all good. the crema ice cream, also a good choice for those who don't like bits of things in their ice cream (it's coffee-flavoured). smooth, tasty, and all that. would've been even better on a waffle cone. and yes, i eat my ice cream (crema?) then i eat the cone. i'm weird like that (and in other ways).
annie's parlour. just had some fries and a diet cherry coke. fries were good, the cherry coke had too much syrup in it and tasted a bit off, like cough medicine-like and all. a new building is going up next to annie's (condos, or apartments....), where the hut of pizza used to be and it totally ruins the view of downtown from the place. grrr.
9th- lone spur, minnetonka (b-)
i am beginning to think that most of the tex-mex stuff on the menu is the same thing only different. this time, the veggie burrito. which tasted like the red pepper one, which tasted like the fajitas. odd, that. not bad, not great. the sucker was hugeass, though, so i only managed half of it, but i did have a cup of the beer cheese soup first (i'd skip it, it was a bit floury, though the hint of spiciness was interesting). then again, it could've tasted like it because i hab a code.
the reuben that mrs. bad restaurant karma got had to be sent back because of the lack of grilling and the lack of melty cheese. they must've microwaved it and flipped it over, but didn't regrill, as the cheese was melty, but the bread was no more toasty. the table service, though, was pretty decent.
16th- red pepper, richfield (b-)
service suffered a bit, as there was only one waiter for the place, which was kind of hopping for a random wednesday night. the whole strip mall has changed since last time, they're redoing the exterior, there's some weird concept stores nearby... i wonder how long this place is for this mall. though they seem kind of anchory, like they've been around there for ages and will outlast random trends.
someone at dinner yesterday mentioned they had the honey walnut shrimp somewhere and it was life-changing. so i saw it on the menu here (well, honey walnut prawns, same thing only different) and decided to order it. a good rendition, not that i have anything to compare it to, but it didn't seem life-changing. could've been the canned pineapple in it, or my wonky tastebuds that still are hibernating with the cold, as this dish was supposed to be spicy and hot, and well, not so much. we started with shrimp toast, which was also pretty decent.
the muzak was still cranking out and stuff, too. very elevatory.
22nd- restaurant levain, minneapolis (a)
all good. well, at least the stuff i ordered. i chose well, i did. though the person i was with was still happy, more or less, with what they got.
we had a bottle of wine with dinner. the wine list had many reasonably priced items from all over, plus a fair amount of by the glass stuff. it seemed a better deal to get the bottle in some cases, as the bottle cost was less than 4 glasses of the wine. which is about how many glasses there are per bottle of wine, more or less. anyway, it was a nice cote du rhone, which is available by the glass or bottle.
the amuse bouche was a curried soup. nice.
my starter was the crab bisque. i was debating that or the levain salad (which oddly has no bread in it that i can remember), but the bisque is a temporary menu item, and the salad's there probably for the long haul. it was a curried broth, with large chunks of dungeness crab and crab-filled dumplings. lovely and tasty.
the starter of the bobwhite quail was ok, but not as solid as the bisque. it was stuffed with walnuts and such, and was served with spinach. the fork was a bit too big for the delicacy of the dish. really good and solid, but just not quite the same thing.
and oh yeah, the bread basket. the restaurant is from the same people who bring you turtle bread co. so lovely. it had baguette, olive bread, a potato roll, an asiago cheese roll. the butter should've been slightly less cold, but it was nicely curled up.
instead of a main course, i just got another app, i was not incredibly hungry. the foie gras. with brioche. which i've had. with honey and walnuts, ok, a bit odd. and pineapple sorbet. which, if you're thinking what i was, seems really weird and possibly gross.
but hell no.
steven brown rocks. (that's the chef.) don't know how he came up with this but it's brilliant. (and i mean that in a british way.) the flavors work so well together you'd wonder why this hadn't occured to so many other people before. (or maybe it had and no one did anything about it, it's a hard sell....).
the person i was with ordered the potato gnocchi with smoked chevre and greens. like the quail it was good, solid, and such, but not great. the thing holding it back from being superlative was hard to pin down... perhaps the greens were a bit too bitter, or the whole thing was too smoky, or the sauce should've been somehow different. it didn't quite come together entirely pleasingly because of whatever that note was.
then the cheese plate. the chevre, nice, the roquefort especially good with the quince paste. there was some brined cow's milk cheese which was no one's favorite, but was tolerable on the bread (more bread! yeah!) with the quince paste topped by a pear slice and dragged through the honey and walnuts.
the pear dessert was spilt next. a poached pear with cream, over chocolate panna cotta in a poive williams sauce (pear williams brings you her skin care line next on qvc...). i would've liked it without the panna cotta. i'm not so much into the chocolate-flavor, and it was a bit too much for me. then small orange pastry cookies with the check. they were also good in the soup. i'm an equal opportunity dunker.
service was all that, and friendly. the dining area needs tweaking, it seems a bit bare, though it does look a lot better all candle and indirectly lit than it does during the harsh light of day. and the walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom is odd. our table was the youngest by far (i'd say at least a decade), but we were not made to feel like we didn't belong (some places do that). it was pretty crowded for a random tuesday. i will say that in some upscale places i kind of feel that i didn't get my money's worth. here i did.
23rd- pannekoeken huis, st. louis park (c+)
weird things they are stingy about, like water in tiny glasses, and not wanting to give you more than one napkin unless you almost beg for it. i had the grilled rachel, which surpringly came with corned beef on it. which i didn't see on the menu. which i removed from the sandwich after questioning the server. who didn't offer to replace it or anything. it wasn't bad after the corned beef surgery, though the rye got a little mushy, and it didn't come with thousand island dressing, i had to get it on the side. the turkey tasted a lot more real than those processed slices you get sometimes.. i got the dutch oven potatoes with it, which are like home fries only different, like larger or something. not quite as bad as the fries, but still not great. needed seasoning or something.
26th- pizza luce, minneapolis (a-)
all the way mad with veggie pizza. athena, split with some folks. this is the first time i recall sitting in the 'restaurant' part of the place since the redo and it seemed kind of odd, like i was switching sides on some unknown team. weird. and there were the fewest people i've ever seen in the place. so if you're thinking uncrowded lunch spot on saturdays think luce downtown. the service was really good, too. especially given we were all a bit indecisive. ok, very indecisive. no, somewhat indecisive.
anyway. the athena has feta, goat cheese (i think), spinach, red onions, black olives, yellow stars and green clover...er... peppers. ok, no yellow stars. tasty, though i like the spinnochi a bit better.
we also got the veggie nuggets (i was doing the veg thing this outing, though i wouldn't eat the 'bear' pizza the more omnivore folks were into, and i don't like chicken wings, so i didn't eat those either...) which are like chicken nuggets, only different. came with a bbq and a nice dijonaise sauce.
lots of folks ordered desserts, like tiramisu, bananas foster (not on fire), a huge chcolate brownie (with chocolate sauce, yet), cheesecake, and a pint of ben and jerry's that was a bit frozen. all looked good, but i wasn't in dessert mode so i was not so tempted. most of the desserts were overly large, in splittable fashion.
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