Fine Dining, with Hash Browns

A new south Minneapolis Café redefines neighborhood dining

Of course they do--this is from the man who transformed pot roast in our time, you know. His restaurant's own version of pot roast, Minnesota beef daube Provençal ($13), with roasted shallots and lemon-sage potato gratin, is just as big, deep, rich, and satisfying as that legendary dish of the Northeast--though I won't say anything more about it, since it's not on the menu any longer. It may be back one day. Look for it. If you see it, though, don't order it. Wait until you've checked that the kitchen can feed you and still have enough left for me. Because, I, as anyone can plainly see, I have called it. No, I'm telling you, I called it first! No backsies! Rules of the playground! I'm rubber, you're glue...

Oh, wait. Ahem. In any event, many of the big entrées at the Corner Table are just as dazzling: Rainbow trout ($18) was painted inside with a cilantro-based puree, pan-seared, and set on a tropical feast of spicy, earthy black beans, a tart green papaya salsa, and a pool of pale crème fraîche. It was a beautifully light arrangement--summertime simple and very clear.

The place aims to be a neighborhood café with benefits--benefits such as wine dinners and a learned and worldly wine list. This list, by Pampuch and local consultant Jason Kallsen, is truly sophisticated, bypassing the splash of well-known wineries or current hot sellers to focus instead on wines in two categories: one, budget-friendly and guest-helpful (like splits of light Zardetto Prosecco, $6, or bottles of meaty, concentrated Sageland's merlot, $26) or, two, those rare well-knit, complex productions that wine nuts travel great distances for--the vivid Ridge Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel ($50), for instance.

The man who transformed pot roast in our time: The Corner Table's Scott Pampuch (right) and Keven Kvalsten
Jana Freiband
The man who transformed pot roast in our time: The Corner Table's Scott Pampuch (right) and Keven Kvalsten

Location Info

Map

Corner Table

4537 Nicollet Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55409

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Kingfield

I got to attend the restaurant's recent Adelsheim wine dinner, and must admit that sometimes when the restaurant stretches for the fine-dining stars, its reach exceeds its grasp. That night I tried a fairly grainy and tasteless halibut mousse on a dry little piece of toast that seemed like everything restaurant outsiders mock about fine dining; later, muddy-tasting seared tilapia didn't benefit at all from a cloyingly earthy saffron sauce. The only good course was a local meat--a lamb cutlet seared gorgeously rare and presented in a lilting thyme demi-glace. On prior evenings I had found that the most highfalutin dishes succeed the least. Avoid the lifeless sweet corn strudel ($6) and the overly vegetal and crunchy leek-, zucchini-, carrot-, and ricotta-filled crepes. My mantra at the Corner Table came to be this: If it sounds humble, it will be fantastic.

Following that formula, the most charming desserts are the plainest ones--like the layered block made from four sorts of ice cream (malted vanilla, plain vanilla, black cherry, and pistachio, $6). More ambitious concoctions tend to be less successful, like the leathery raspberry peach clafoutis ($5) or one night's oddly flavorless coconut milk layer cake ($5).

But you know, good for them for being so ambitious, because a more cynical crew would simply charge two hundred bucks a pound for their brunch specials and convey their money to the bank in buckets fashioned from solid gold. Oh, those cheddared grits. You know, poets can have their roses in May, their dew upon the morning hedge, their sunsets of fire and flamingo--I'll take the grits. My only regret is that I'm certain I'll never get in the door again once this review hits the streets. Why, oh why, didn't I send flowers when the flower sending was good?

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