3rd- d'amico kitchen, minneapolis
10th- pizza hut, burnsville
15th- dominguez family restaurant, minneapolis
20th- shuang cheng, minneapolis
25th- shangrila, devon, pa
28th- bassett's original turkey, philadelphia, pa
3rd- d'amico kitchen, minneapolis (c)
what this has in common with cucina- a menu with the emphasis on italian. and... um... sorry, i got nothing. i do realize they did say in the pr push that it was going to be different. different can be good. can be.
i remember being seated at cucina, the space allowed for them to start the tables spread out a bit more, so if they weren't packed, you wouldn't necessarily have a neighbor. with the smaller space here i was seated in a two-thirds empty dining room at a small table shoved next to a wall with a view of... a curtain and empty tables. it was near some high-cash art, but still. and within a minute of being seated, there was a table for 10 or so right next to me. since there immediately were allergy issues, i requested seating elsewhere. i decided just to move to the bar, as smaller tables are rare here- i only saw the ones near the allergen-laden group. it's not a thoughtful layout.
service as cucina was as a general rule very high standard. at the kitchen i had server that was somewhat absent, though the people doing the seating were gracious and they were all understanding about my having to move tables. but once seated, my bread plate was taken when i was still eating off of it... in fact, i had just taken a bit off the plate when it was whisked away from my retreating hand. i was too bemused to say anything at the time. but that. is. just. wrong.
previously in the bread basket follies, that, they had brought more bread (on another plate, not a basket. random.) but not butter (to refill the completely empty one sitting in an obvious place on the table). sigh. as for the bread itself, the sesame seeded one was pretty good, the baguette sort of bread was just ok. both would've been better if they had not been served almost refrigerator cold. especially as the butter was room temperature. odd, that.
after the breadnapping i waited another 5 minutes for my food, to bring the total wait time between 20-25 minutes. see previous comment about the two-thirds empty, and yes, i ordered before the big old group of people. after the food drop off by the runner, the server didn't show up until i pretty much done with the food before checking in.
from reports, they did move some people over to the kitchen from cucina, but either these people were not working that night or they were not working in the bar. the bar area seemed understaffed compared to the main dining area. i saw quite a few servers for the number of people in that part of the room, and many of them didn't look so taxed (there was quite a bit of standing around).
some of this could be forgiven (not the bread removal) if the food was better. the few things i tried weren't high level d'amico cookery. what i liked the most was the la mora speciale ($8) procesco cocktail with a sugared blackberry. one of the better champagne sort of cocktails i had... a.k.a. very sweet and girly. nice, sure, but at a restaurant the food should stand out more than the cocktails.
the menu has a lot of selections you can get almost anywhere these days, perhaps with an upscale tweak and an italian flavor. the thin cracker crust pizza of the day, which was pomodoro with asparagus, mushrooms, and goat cheese ($9). the last time i ate at cucina i had pizza. it was the perfect caprese pizza... ok, they had to do a ham-ectomy on it and returned with a new one, but that happened in less than the time it took them to do a pizza and side here.
the toppings were piled in the middle and the weight caused many the tips of slices broke off when you picked them up. but the crust end was overdone and thick and chewy, not so crisp. so the dough wasn't evenly rolled out, which seems a basic fundamental of any kind of pizza. as for the toppings, there was not a lot of asparagus there either- maybe three or four halves on the plate-sized pizza, a decent amount of mushrooms and cheese.
with i had a side of 'creamed' spinach with chevre and roasted garlic ($6) with it. yes, more cheese. the addition of goat cheese made the dish kind of new, the lack of butter made it a bit too bitter and the flavor was goat cheese with a bit of texture from the spinach. i expected a hint of sweet with the garlic, didn't pick up on that. i ended up piling much of it on the naked or near-naked bits of pizza, so that was handy. it would've been nice to dip some bread into it (ahem).
is it a fair for me to do rate this place with the standards of a different restaurant concept? ok, let's bring it to the world of upscale restaurants that happen to be attached to hotels. the experience here was quite like the one i had at the hotel restaurant max- odd service and food that was problematic in spots. and my grade for that was the same as the one above.
but yes, here i had high expectations because i had seen the pretty exemplary work that many of the same people had done before. i was seeking the d'amico cucina hallmarks of letting simpler ingredients shine through thoughful planning and preparation. for me, d'amico kitchen was missing the care, expertise and knowledge that the kitchen of the old place seemed to have. ditto service. i'll miss that.
10th- pizza hut, burnsville (c)
more work pizza, though a different location. both the veggie and the cheese pizza were meh, but the cheese was slightly better. it could be worse. it was a bit bready all around, but... eh.
either my taste memory has idealized it a bit, or they messed with the recipe, because this stuff doesn't taste like it used to taste. probably cheaper ingredients than years ago. and my palate is more expensive to maintain? both. but since in the list of place i only have one other go in over six years, it's obviously not a current favorite. though apparently it sucks less than dominos, they're not even on the list. papa john's and papa murphy's each have two listings.
i like pizza, i'd just like it to be better.
15th- dominguez family restaurant, minneapolis (b)
a small, bright, family (literally and figuratively- there were a lot of kids of all ages with parents) run place out near al vento, in the nokomis hood. it's been there a few years and they won city pages 'best tacos' in 2008. i've been wanting to try it for a while, and when restaurant.com started carrying their gift certs (i got $10 off $20 for around $2 or so) i decided... why not. not sure why they did, it was quite busy most of the time we were there.
mom (see... kids with parents....) had the pechuga de pollo ($11.75), which is kind of like chicken fajitas, only not sizzling (grilled chicken slices with sauteed onions, green and red peppers, and mushrooms. she got the cheese on the side- jack cheese). it came with corn or flour tortillas. everything there was tasty, and the chicken was tender and not overly charred as it often is. it also seemed like you would whole chicken breast from the menu description (the online menu has it as 'tender grilled chicken breast topped with....').
thinking of the award, i had the fish tacos ($9.85 for two of them) with chipotle sauce that came with onions and lime. it was tasty, but they used salmon (i think, forgot to make sure), which i wasn't quite counting on. the tacos had an bit of an odd texture, like they took salmon cakes and shaped them for tacos. more odd- the cilantro was completely missed. i could've used it to cut some of the heat from the sauce. instead i used the guacamole pico de gallo that comes with all dinners. also with the dinners you get a pretty decent (i.e. i ate some of it for a change) mexican rice and lighter refried beans than you get in most places. anyway, despite all the odd, i did like the tacos, they had some mad flavor.
the place was quite packed, so the kitchen and servers were rushing around, and there weren't enough people for the rush. they were friendly when they did get to the tables, but there were small delays. but hey, we had the slightly hot salsa and the very nice, just salty enough hot fresh chips to keep us occupied. as we all know by now, i can be distracted by a tasty starch quite easily.
mom thought the place was pretty good, and that's interesting considering she really does not like mexican food at all (not even sure why she said ok to this place, really...). i also liked it, but i will say i was not really good with the restroom in the basement... not that it wasn't clean and fresh and such to use, but it did not seem to be handicapped accessible. i could be wrong, there could be a hidden elevator, but still.
20th- shuang cheng, minneapolis (a)
hey, who knew that egg foo young ($5.49 for a lunch special, chicken or shrimp- i had the chicken) wasn't a brown mass of a thing with bits of random unidentified things in it, but more of an omelet? ok, i did on a rhetorical level, but never saw it in practice until today. the gravy was a light brown, non-cornstarchy version that would not have been out of place turkey and mashed potatoes. nice. the chicken fried rice tasted fresh, and the cream cheese wontons weren't gummy and weird like they often are.
25th- shangrila, devon, pa (c-)
went with the extended family. i had a touch brk- the miso soup ($3) i had was less flavorful and packed with mushrooms, tofu and other goodies vs. my niece's. when the server asked if i wanted a water refill, it was almost rhetorical... yes i do, but apparently i won't get one until i ask again...
i ordered the tamarind duck ($18). the menu read it was supposed to be a crispy half-duck with tamarind sauce and steamed veg. the duck was crispy, it was also overdone and chewy. the steamed veg were absent entirely. the mango salad served with it- one of three at the table- was the only one without dressing.
of the other stuff i sampled from the pan-asian fusion menu that other people ordered, the edamame was average, the spicy tuna roll (random aside- apparently on the bill the 'spicy' cost $.50. that's just odd.) was above average, and the calimari was not at all good. or crispy. it was just kind of odd.
of course, everyone else had better food in general.
28th- bassett's original turkey, philadelphia, pa (b+)
since we didn't get any leftovers for thanksgiving, i went for the roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwich again at the airport ($8.20 with tax), as it would be the closest i'll get to that. it was still nice and very moist, still needed a hit of salt, still would've been better on toast but still quite good and a good size. they roast the turkey right there, even, so you know you get the real thing. the workers at the place were that combination of mumbly and surly that seems to go with many airport food experiences. i wonder if they hire for that.
© The bent sun as risen