Really Fine Dining

St. Paul's newest fine dining restaurant, a rebours, blends the art of bakery on Grand with a finesse all its own

Careful, though--you should save room for dessert. I don't really know which to recommend first. One night I had a playful dacquoise, a concoction that looks just like a marshmallow stack of white clouds, but is actually broad disks of stiff meringue stacked to conceal fresh slices of strawberry resting on a platform of chocolate, the whole thing sitting in a brilliantly fresh raspberry sauce. Stab it with a fork and the dessert explodes in much the same way a sand castle does, but inspires a lot more glee because there are no sand castle makers weeping on their beach blankets. Each bite of this sweet, simple, irresistible thing makes you feel six years old. Wonderful.

In a more grown-up vein, I had a lovely, subtle thing that was a sort of pineapple upside-down cake, in an Asian-fusion style. You see, it was a disk of fresh pineapple, grilled until black in parts, resting on a little cake of rice that was seared and brown outside and as creamy as rice pudding inside. This thing, all roasty, fresh, and subtle, sat in a bowl of quiet, simple mint cream--each bite was so refreshing, so fleeting, and so harmonious that it caused near war at my table as my friend and I sparred over the last bites.

So how do I explain the dissonance between the mostly wonderful notes, and the few awful ones? I fear it's a hazard of having a chef with extravagant ideas, and then not having him on the premises. Me, I've had duck breasts coated with cocoa, with burnt coffee grounds, with espresso powder, with all of the sorts of things that chefs had lately liked to put on them, and so I know what they're supposed to taste like. But I can't imagine what it would be like to be a chef left with an avant-garde recipe and no one to correct the final result. Cooking is one of those things where you either have to delegate almost all of the power, or almost none of it.

A Rebours: Deliciously against the grain
Jana Freiband
A Rebours: Deliciously against the grain

Location Info



410 St. Peter St.
St Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > Brunch

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

But this is actually a very small problem that needs some adjusting. In everything that matters, from the user-friendly wine list (four dozen bottles, almost half priced under $30) to the utterly professional service, much of the credit should go to Michael Morse, who keeps the place humming like a party in its sweet spot.

Seriously, folks, without any hyperbole whatsoever I can say that the opening of A Rebours is the most exciting thing to happen in food in downtown St. Paul in a decade. A Rebours is not just an independently owned, chef-driven, value-conscious charmer, it might actually be the restaurant that gets people in Minneapolis to notice that, a few years back, St. Paul got linked up to them by bridge.

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