2nd- kincaid's, bloomington
6th- new china wok, edina
7th- india palace, roseville
10th- emma's restaurant and lounge, minneapolis
11th- ihop, bloomington
16th- la belle vie, minneapolis
23rd- lone spur, minnetonka
25th- naar grille, eden prairie
30th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park
2nd- kincaid's, bloomington (b)
another year, another $20 gift card in the mail, a better dinner. but the place was still crowded (even the in bar where we ended up eating, perched percariously at a table on the route out of the service area, and i ended up with a few chair dings, and some people almost running into my elbow with trays), and the atmosphere loud in there, with generic music in the background (they lost the good tunage).
other things have changed since last year, including the lack of bar menu which made dinner more expensive, but may have improved on the whole experience (fewer things to concentrate on means less chance at screw ups). i did go with one of the specialties, seafood, which may have helped, too. asiago and nut (almond, i think) encrusted ones at that, though i would've liked them better nekkid (at least today). it came with potatoes au gratin and some sauteed veg, so with the coating it was a bit rich for seafood. i was looking for a plain prep, but even when the grill things it comes with extra things that are mostly creamy, which is a bit odd for fish, but there you go. it was above average as a dish.
mrs. brk went with the prime rib, which comes with mashed potatoes and different sauteed veg, plus au juice and real ground horseradish. she used to order prime rib a lot when she went out, and thought this was one of the better renditions she's had. the tatoes weren't bad.
both of us thought that it would not have been worth the full menu price for the dishes and eating in the bar, maybe it's different when you eat in the restaurant. mrs. brk thought maybe an a-, b+, but i would not go that high because it lacks a lot of touches that make a place more than solid (the bread served with the meal was served without butter and was not that good, the aforementioned bad placement of tables, overly loud setting, food that was above average but not inspiring or anything, etc.). she thought that with the $20 off card it was reasonable, but she enjoyed seeing the baby deer in the wooded area behind the place more than the meal, so...
i will say it's telling that on their accolade wall, i didn't spot any kudos that had come from this decade....
6th- new china wok, edina (b) (takeout)
it's odd it took me this long to eat at a place that begins with the letter n, but there you have it. anyway, i'm pretty sure this place is in edina, as it's a member of the edina chamber of commerce, but it may well be across the street from edina and in minneapolis. but more suggests that it is in edina. or close.
the order- steamed veggie dumplings, shrimp lo mein, mock duck, something with beef (i didn't eat it), and veggie fried rice. except the dumplings (which were kind of icky, and also chicken and not veggie), it was a cut above the usual chinese as they use fresh veg instead of the canned ones you get in many places, leads to a more flavorful, probably healthier, and generally better taste in the food. and it requires less sauce of soy and such that way, too.
7th- india palace, roseville (a)
same thing only different.
10th- emma's restaurant and lounge, minneapolis (b+)
this used to be 3 muses, the place that i mentioned that if enough people don't go there, it would probably close soon. and yeah, it did. can't say their closure surprised me entirely, they rated high on the flake scale, etc. but still, having this place open isn't bad. not at all. in face in a few months they may just be better than 3 muses, not that they aren't darned good already. they just need a few niceties down. i can't say i'm much surprised, as it's the same chef, only now she owns the joint.
like the fact that a can of diet coke should not cost $2.25. unless it is a double-sized can that you are serving with festive garnish, maybe, but that's just bad and wrong. and bad. really. as cheapass as i am, i can't give anyone an a that would charge that much for a can of pop, no refills. it goes against my logic module because if you shop judiciously you can pick up 12 to 24 cans of the stuff for that.
also, meat should not be tossed kinda randomly on mashed tatoes and served in what looks to be a pool of blood (no matter how tasty the sauce is). spiderwebs should not lurk in bathroom corners. and if a table is eating lots of bread, why do you keep brining out exactly four slices over and over again? it wastes time, it does. and yes, sea salt is tasty, but it works better when evenly distributed on a dish, which they didn't quite do, so when you hit a clump... saltexplosion!
anyway, i shouldn't whine that much, 'cause it's pretty good in general. the beet salad.. i paraphrase, not vincent's, but quite nice. pumpkin flan was also good, but it floated in a bigass plate and it was a smallish portion. (both apps had salt problems). after the mussels were a-ok. i wish they were an entree option with frites or something, that would've rocked. the broth was probably the best i've had, and really good with the excellent bread. the hangar steak was decent with the yukon gold, sorry, not mashed, puree. the pomegranate seeds dotting the whole arrangement seemed a bit odd.
we had dessert in the lounge, which i prefer to the restaurant. the restaurant was more or less empty by 8 pm, played the jazz station, and is a more formal setting. the lounge had more comfy furniture, better music, and was more relaxed and less empty at that point. it's more intriguing spatially, too. the restaurant is still a bit awkwardly set up.
i wanted a cheese plate, and they checked on availability (it wasn't on the menu), but apparently they don't get cheese til friday and only offer cheese plates on weekends (boo...., what is it with this space and lack of cheese anyway?). but the sorbet (a cherry zinfandel from sonny's, available in stores, apparently) was all that and a bag of... cherries.... i liked the homemade macaroons, too.
the loungemaster offered that if i didn't like the drink he recommended, he'd buy it (the desert rose), which i wasn't fond of due to the lack of girliness, though i did point out that if you serve beer with a cherry and straw it too can look like a girl drink. i got the italian butterfly instead (espresso, baileys, that kind of thing), which went over well. they get points for having framboise beer on the menu.
the decor is a step up from muses, less chaotic, as is the space itself. service was friendly but not quite there, though i noticed from overhearing conversations the servers did more or less 'everything on the menu is good' kind of deals, only more subtly than most. our bill had something we didn't order on it, too. though oddly, besides the spendydietcoke, menu prices were reasonable. maybe the pop overage is floating some of the other stuff. (dwell, dwell, dwell...)
the wine list is very reasonable, most bottles range from $20-50. the menu is seasonal, and contains vegetarian options, but it didn't seem to... varied, even with that. maybe another entree or two that didn't have a lot of the same ingredients as a few other entrees or apps or something. for example, cooked tomatoes were in about half the dishes on the menu as a featured ingredient.
the restroom door is not amusing anymore, alas. in case you were wondering.
update: belated bad restaurant karma- they overcharged me on both the bar bill and the restaurant bill. they said they'd fix it, but that's the first case of post-restaurant karma badness, if i recall correctly.
update... er... update: they didn't even put the entire overcharge amount back on my card as they said they would. so do you think i'd ever go back there? i don't.
11th- ihop, bloomington (c-)
i forgot the grain and nut pancakes were not all that, but it has been a while. i do like the choice of syrups but for a chain, perkins has better cakes of pan and it's not even in the name. i also get a chicken fajita omelet. which they put a bit pancake batter in. not just mine, all of them. supposedly it makes them light and fluffy, but in reality it makes them a vaguely odd-tasting. well, that and eggs that tasted like they arrived at the restaurant not as eggs, but as something already mixed and shipped in by sysco. but the filling was ok, and it wasn't the worst omelet i've ever been served. it took an oddly long time and a few requests to get a glass of water, and it was pretty packed (probably by virture of location). don't know if i'd do this again. ikea food may be not all that, but it usually it is cheaper for breakfast.
16th- la belle vie, minneapolis (a)
a local magazine had a french-themed tasting here in the lounge. i was lucky enough to get in. $30 got me the following... read it and weep, children... 'cause you will be so very very sorry you were not there.
first course- verget saint aubin premier cru 2001 with a mache and roasted beet salad with brie de meaux fondant and walnut vinaigrette. i want brie de meaux fondant every day from now on, please. the wine itself was a bit dry for me, not bad though.
second course- berget du sud vaucluse blanc 2003, seared sea scallop (say that seven times speedily) with olive oil poached tomatoes and pistou. the floral wine somehow brought out the ocean in the scallop.
third course- verget du sud luberon rouge 2004 paired with a pomegranate lacquered quail with braised endives and crispy spinach. this was my favorite course, the pairing was perfect and very seasonal. the luberon is like a cote du rhone only the girly aspects are played up so it's softer and fruiter and less dry. (and my boring story- after i got back from france the first time where i had a luberon, i went around for two years trying to find one... so yeah, one of the few wines i know more than random things about). and crispy spinach... lovely.
can you get pomegranate lacquer at the hardware store?
dessert- decaf with warm chocolate-chestnut crepes with cherry and brandy ice cream. loved the ice cream, not that the crepes were bad. a nice ending.
the above were not part of the regular menu, i was led to believe, but made up with ingredients supplied by one of the sponsors, both the wine and the food. though i could be wrong on that... i could be right. there was nothing bad, it was all pretty perfect. i did wish for bread to get at bits of sauce left over, that was the only drawback, but that probably wasn't part of the whole concept of the dinner.
cheap date that i am, i was not feeling quite post-prandially sober, so i spilt a cheese plate. which was made up for us by tim mckee (food geek rapture!), as it's not on the menu yet. people, put it on the menu daily. pretty please. this was an extra cost, high end for a cheese plate, but it had a large selection and was well worth it.
the plate had santelician cow's milk cheese, nice and runny and mild, cow and sheep's milk robiola, which was pleasant, a timino cow's milk cheese with a washed walnut-liqueur rind, a standout sheep's milk, herb-coated fleur de mckee (no relation to the chef... i asked, and i also asked where i could buy it, it was that tasty), and a roquefort, which was... roqueforty. there was some aged balsamic and pear mustarda, which brought out the best in the robiola and timino. a spot of honey would've been good, but i can live without it. the bread we got went well with it.
so la belle vie in minneapolis. this is going to maybe sound a bit weird, but i would almost say that from the quick look we had at it, the dining room is kind of.. boring... compared to the stillwater one, which seemed warmer and cozier (to my memory... apparently i've not been in a few years at least). though the dinner menu, of course, was still all that.
i'd rather eat in the lounge, which is a nicer, warmer space (maybe all the white in the dining area turned me off vs. the gold and tanner shades of the lounge), and also allows you access to the intriguing bar menu... la belle vie + grilled cheese sandwiches... =... what i don't know, but it has to kick the ass of any grilled cheese i've had. also, i need see if the fries can top vincent's.
not want to, need to.
and i really also want to try the gewurztraminer ice wine. anyway. i kind of felt that this was a mediated look at the place, too. a nice intro to the new space.
23rd- lone spur, minnetonka (c+)
yea for me, i got something different. alas, though the steak fries were ok (good dipped in bbq sauce), the alamo chicken sandwich (remember it? ha. ha.) lacked... chicken. it was very sandwichy, but not chicken. large pieces of toasted sourdough with a bit of chicken, a few mushrooms, and some swiss. it was good, just lost among forests of bread. i came home craving chicken, and that ain't right. service was on the busy side of things.
25th- naar grille, eden prairie (c-)
i'm confused by this place, but that's ok because it's confused too. the place has belly dancing on extended weekends, but also a texas hold 'em poker tourney and djs on other nights.
half the adults at the table probably liked the lunch a lot better than the other half. i guess part of it was how you take the waiter. some of us thought he was a bit supercilious with a bit of obsequiousness thrown in (not sure how that works, but hey...), while i'm thinking others thought he was nicer and trying and stuff. it's all in how you take it.
either way, i was confused by the whole waiter thing as we first had one waiter when half the table was there, only to be replaced by said waiter with a jr. waiter in tow that didn't do much of anything. weird. anyway, the main waiter seemed to think we could not identify the foods we were eating at all, and was either too too helpful or not at all there.
the music... confusing... when you walk in you're hit with a LOUD EARFUL of belly dancing-friendly tunes, but step into the dining area and you get player piano tunes that seems way out of place ('candle in the wind,' for example). the belly dancing tunes are in the freezing lounge area, the dining area with the piano music is warm and fireplace-heated. the decor bespeaks of a quiet place to eat, even in the loud areas, and a place where you should dress nicely in, but it's not too far from a mall. i had to touch the hands-free sensor in the rest room to get out the paper towels. they had lotion in there, which was nice, but it was a bottle of suave sitting a top the sinks.
food confusion... it's a mediterranean grill... er... grille (they like extra letters at naar... schwarma was spelled with more vowels in it than i've ever seen, and other dishes had unexpectedly appearing letters in them too). i expected fish, maybe gyros, things like this. greekish and oceany. alas, though it did have some greek things, and a few french things thrown in plus all-american menu items, the menu concentrated on middle eastern dishes. not a lot was grilled (grilleed?).
buffet. the prices confused me, as they were more in line for an elaborate dinner buffet than the smaller lunch buffet. $14 was so not worth it. everything on the menu seemed way overpriced- it would be more in line for a place attached to a hotel rather than just next door to one. as for food... well, grape leaves were served cold, which is highly unusual, at the very least. so was the pita with the meal, plus it tasted storebought. it was ok with the olive oil and zahar (sp?) spices they had with it.
was the buffet food confusing? you bet. first, it was arranged right to left instead of the more trad left to right, but the soup was after the desserts, and there was no place to put your cup down and fill it with soup anywhere near the soup pot. you had to manhandle heavy covers off things to get at the food. swiss cheese was served on the olive plates. they had minimuffins and baklava.
everything needed salt (especially the hummus, which tasted like the athenos kind you get in the grocery store, not even the holy land deli kind, which rocks). the lentil soup was quite good with the warm buffet pita. everything else ranged from 'i'm sorry i took any of that' to 'i guess it's ok now that i dumped salt over it and put it in a warm pita.' i didn't have the gyros or any of the other meat dishes.
we were going to try one of the desserts, but the place was already redoing the menu after two months of a soft opening plus one month after the official grand opening. anyone think that's a good sign? anyone?
i was told i could not use a coupon on the buffet, but they took it and gave me half of the coupon value (see: confused). my pop didn't have a charge on the menu, but they charged the 12 and under at the table full price for the buffet.
ok, we were correctly told by someone who had been here that the food isn't that great and it was overpriced, all true. so sorry we didn't listen. but sometimes you need to find out for yourself. though as i said, i'm pretty sure half the people liked it more than the other half did.
naar is very very fun to say over and over for a while. i once had a car with a license plate that had NAR as the letters, and it was fun to say 'the nar car' too... i'm easily amused, very much so. naar. naar. perhaps i liked that best of anything. naar.
anyway, in the area go to india palace to not be disapppointed. go to punch. zeno. even $2 spent at the nearby faux-mexican chain would be a better deal. maybe when they figure out who they are they will be better. but it's better than hops, the place that used to be here. how much is that saying?
30th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park (b+)
so mrs. brk had a reuben and fries with that, and the fries were fresh, very fresh, and hot, and boy, they were better than when i had them and they were above average then. not great yet, but getting better. the cup o'beer cheese soup was the best i've sampled lately, though a bit beery for my taste, it did taste of cheese and of beer, not of flour or something unidentifiable.
after that i had a salad called the grilled chicken salad but it's more or less the taco salad with chicken instead of beef. decent, but the shell was way past prime, so i skipped it. lots of chicken with cheese, black olives, lettuce (not shredded from a bag, so points for that), and tomatoes, i ordered salsa and sour cream on the side instead of dressing. made sense to me.
service started slow, but once we ordered it was prompt, and the server did take my suggestion to leave a pitcher of water on the table and save a lot of time. that works out well for all involved. you can amuse yourself with popcorn while waiting to be served. someone had told me that a lot of the golf crew (caddies and such) tend to frequent the place, so between that and the snow there were actually one or two vacant parking spaces when we turned it, though it was still plenty busy and loud.
© The bent sun as risen.