5th- pastrami jack's, eden prairie
7th- fugaise, minneapolis
10th- pizza hut, shakopee
11th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park
19th- stella's fish cafe and prestige oyster bar, minneapolis
22nd- mt. fuji sushi and hibachi restaurant, maple grove
27th- buca di beppo, burnsville
5th- pastrami jack's, eden prairie (c+)
if you're doing the no-bread thing about this time of year, as i am, you can eat out, even following the rules. your choices are as such- go to a place (like a steakhouse) and order meat, potato, and veg, pretty much. or go to a place like this, that caters to the non-bread eating folk during this time o'year.
i went with the 'cohen brothers' sandwich, minus the roast beef. this time of year, that works out to be turkey (good quality deli, but i prefer the roasted then sliced type) and chopped chicken liver on a popover. and that's what it was, just those ingredients. no lettuce, no mustard, nada. kind of naked. the popovers had the same problem a lot of their food does- underdone in the middle because of the huge size. it was not that impressive. i added the cole slaw (see below), mustard, and some salt to the liver bits. it helped some, but it's not something i'd go for again.
since they were short of help, they did dinner (usually table service) like they do lunch- ordered at the counter. what was good about that- you got to help yourself to cole slaw (ok, but too sweet) and the nice pickles. i love pickles, so i helped myself to quite a lot. they had half-sour and kosher dill chunks. good pickles, those. you also did your own refill.
mrs. brk got the cabbage soup, which was sweeter than she makes hers (which also happened here before with some other dishes) and a kosher salami sandwich, also nekkid.
the lack of servers made it a less enjoyable experience, what with the getting the beverage order wrong and such. but i could see how they had to do it that way- i've never seen that place so busy at dinner. this time they had an odd mixture of the clash and billy joel and such instead of the xmas tunes.
7th- fugaise, minneapolis (a)
still no bread. and it's not a steakhouse or a deli. what's the deal?
well, it is possible to eat out when you get a place that's very willing to work around people's dietary needs, food allergies, and that sort of thing, like fugaise is. (someone did do a bit of research, too... thanks.) more of their menu is no-bread compliant than a lot of other places. they were even nice enough to place the bread basket very far away from me. though i still wanted it.
we went here after catching the electric arc radio show at the ritz (highly recommended, btw, though i think next season won't start until september, you can catch them on their website, a la podcast)... who knew that erte and the modern and emily's lebanese deli were so close to bulldog ne and fugaise and such? it seems so far away... but it's just down a bit on university. ah, geography.
anyway... to start, we each got a bowl of parsnip veloute. though it wasn't as transcendant as vincent's sweet corn veloute (best. soup. ever.), it was still very good. it had a hint of vanilla, truffle foam, and crispy fried parsnip bits on top. it was a nice starter in today's freezingass weather.
since both of us were of the same mind, after the soup, we split the next three courses. we had another starter course, the diver scallop with salsify, butter lettuce, and sauce charon, described to us as a tomato hollandaise. they were very good, but i don't recall them as over the top great as the ones that someone ordered when we went here for sole food.
there were also several main courses i could choose from, that could be adapated without bread or breadless to begin with. we chose the adapted marlin (no breadcrumbs, but grilled instead) with fennel and grapefruit salad, fennel puree, and purple fingerling potato coins in a grapefruit citrus sauce. i think the grilled marlin worked with it- it felt very fresh and light and perfect for the spring day it should be (instead of the winter day it more or less is). the flavors were nicely balanced.
and no one will be surprised to find out the dessert was mr. cheese plate.... though out of the four listed, only one had flour (dark chocolate cake). it came with a balsamic reduction, dried figs, and marcona almonds. there was a creamy blue cheese, a machengo, a pecorino and... another cheese that shall remain nameless unless someone reminds me what it is (a later note- gruyere). it was nicely balanced.
service was excellent, the water glass never got to the bottom, the server knew the menu and wine list cold and explained things like we knew what they were talking about, courses came out at a well-paced clip... not rushed, but not slow. they have it down. i was a bit disappointed to see the few tables that were filled when we were there. i wonder if it's because we at a bit on the early side, or if no one wants to go out before easter brunch or what. anyway, this kind of dining always makes a nice change.
10th- pizza hut, shakopee (b-)
since i picked it up myself, and it's just minutes from work, and i had a coupon that made it very inexpensive, i thought this was actually decent for pizza hut pizza, so in the world of 'za, that makes it slightly above average. i keep expecting it to be better. alas, there's not a lot of places in shakopee where i can get a decent pizza dinner in the 15-30 minutes i have for dinner, so sometimes i cope with this sort of measure. hey, it kept the tradition of pizza after the no bread time.
and i am giving a bit of an upgrade to the service, as odd as that sounds, but the lady on the phone didn't sound all harried and p.o.ed in the dinner rush, and picking it up was good, too.
11th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park (c-)
when is the last time you've seen me leave fries on my plate?
usually they have better bar food than this, but on this go 'round my food tasted like nothing. i hate it when that happens.
the chicken sandwich with mushrooms and swiss, the fries... even the salad dressing which is not mayo that they charged $.50 extra for and didn't tell us about the charge and was disappointing... nothing.
it's freakin' creepy.
and i don't like my dinner to dwell in the realm of ennui.
that's my job, dammit, and my food should not reflect that back at me.
plus they were busier than usual, so the un-food took longer to get there. and in the mean time, the popcorn didn't taste like anything but salt.
mrs. brk got spag and meat balls, which were much better than you think they would be, but the marinara was on the sweet side of things. the garlic bread was on the colder side of things.
service was also slightly more inattentive than usual. at least they keep water pitchers out near where we were sitting.
19th- stella's fish cafe and prestige oyster bar, minneapolis (b+)
this is more of an averaging of grades, with a bit of a boost for service.
not surprisingly, it was not me with the better meal.
mrs. brk had a nice fried shrimp po' boy, which was one of the better ones i think i've tasted in the landlocked twin cities. she was also grooving on the house-made bbq chips with blue cheese dressing that we got as an appetizer.
i had a lobster roll. though i should have technically known better, i was swayed by a dara review saying it was a really good rendition. hers, maybe, mine, not so much. it was ok, but the flavors were not strong in this one. it needed salt, lemon, something that resembled help. i though the chips we split needed more salt, though the dressing was good. the fries we each got were above average, which was good.
though it is tco restaurant week, i didn't go for that menu. one, it had beef on it (odd for a fish place, no?), and another... the online version listed the menu with ice wine for dessert, but on the real menu it was port. it was a good deal, though, had i gone for it (a raw three ways plate with the beef carapaccio, shrimp ceviche, and tuna tartare, i think, then a spring salad- with brie, even, the catch of the day with rice and beans, plus the port with truffles for $35).
the service was excellent, which again, rare when i'm there. the server knew the menu, water was in large glasses and refilled quickly, things got to the table at a good pace, and when we wanted extra blue cheese dressing with the chips, we were told it was an extra charge... unlike some places. just a few examples. though the place was not that full. (random side note- the server also asked if we were from out of town. apparently i just don't give off minnesota vibes, gosh darn it.)
the setting was a bit loud, though, and crab shack-like in the way that buca is italian-like (stella's was started by the same company that originally started buca, which they sold off).
the menu seems a bit spendy for some things. my dinner was not worth the $19 menu price, though it was large. mostly as it was not $19 worth of tasty. the equally large and a heck of a lot more tasty po' boy is a lot more reasonable at $14. however, we did have a two for one card, so the per dinner price was more worth it. but hey, if we go on a tuesday (because it's a tco tuesday place), and reserve a table (though it was not necessary today) through opentable.com, and use the two for one card, we could maximize our value... heh.
22nd- mt. fuji sushi and hibachi restaurant, maple grove (a-)
when i was here, i almost forgot i was in the weird fake downtown of maple grove (that place ooks me out on a large scale...). and that's a good thing.
it's on the less traveled part of main street (at least that this point, they seem to be throwing up new buildings daily there- bad pun intended). it's serene, with a waterscape, sushi bar, hibachi area, and some private areas, plus some tables and booths, done in understated japanese-theme (makes sense, no?) decor. the restrooms are done in marble and are also nice, for that matter.. it's serene in here.
as i had, yes, a two for one card here, we had to get two entrees and two beverages. my friend went with a teriyaki combo of steak and shrimp, i went with the maki combo (tuna roll, salmon roll, and a california roll). the first time i get sushi someplace, i find it's better to try the basics, usually in some sort of combination place. unless an outside party assured you it's good. paying even half-price for bad sushi is not a happy thing.
though i found out i should've gotten the spicy ones (these were on the very non-spicy), i was rewareded with the best california roll i've probably ever had. they used some kickass avocados or something, but it was great. the tuna and salmon were also pretty good. the plate was nicely arranged, and there were generous amounts of wasabi and ginger.
it'd be interesting to go here and do the whole omakase bit (a.k.a. 'chef's choice') just to see what they come up with. especially as they specialize in french-style sushi, which places a lot of emphasis on the construction in addition to the flavor.
the terikyaki was also quite good, as was the miso soup. can't say much for the salad, though. it had an odd dressing, lots of large lettuce, and a piece of tomato and a piece of cucumber. please, stop serving me this. i should ask not to get one or something.
service was quite good, and though it took a bit of time for the tea refill, i did have water to occupy me at that point.
and i will say it's another place that needs some seo work. one of those... i dare you to find the web site places.
27th- buca di beppo, burnsville (c-)
this is where someone from work's going away party was... usually i don't go to dinner with 25 other people.
and even though buca's supposed to be for large groups, the servers seemed a bit confused at times (i heard them say, yes we have everyone's drink orders... and of course they didn't have mine). i don't think there was a lead here. they had also told us they could split the bill into 4 (one for each group that ordered) and of course could and/or did not.
we were seated at two long tables. on these tables, which seat about 14-16 each- they had one set of salt and pepper. that seems odd. at least they brought two baskets of bread. and finally, a water pitcher (after the first few rounds of refills).
the ordering was broken down into two groups per table. our group got the garlic mashed, of course, in a size large. which i think they've downsized as it maybe would serve 3-4 people, not the 4-6 they claim. you get 2 pounds, supposedly. it didn't seem that the amount in a bowl would be 2 pounds. we ended up ordering another one for the table.
we also got the pizza special, the pizza alla norma, with no sauce, eggplant, roast garlic, and feta. somehow, i though there would be more cheese per slice (average maybe 1.5 small cubes), and it would melt. the eggplant was charred a bit too much, and it was hard to eat (toppings avalanche) and it was bland... maybe that's why they served it with chile oil. not something i would order again.
a gorgonzola apple salad wasn't bad, but to me it needed more cheese and the nuts and dried cranberries seemed lost in the mix. the apples would've worked better cut into chunks rather than sliced. the other salad on the table, a caeser, was overly dressed and not that good, either. i also had a bit of the chicken in marsala. it was a tad too vinegary. the filled four-cheese baked pasta was on the bland side. there were a few other dishes on the table, but they had pork or beef in them. all in all, the food was just kind of disappointing.
oh, well. it's not like i will probably be at this location any time soon.
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