Tastes Like Now

Likable new Tryg's redefines comfort food--and brunch!--for the west metro

All of the vegetable sides that I tried were wonderful. A butternut squash puree gilded with vanilla bean-infused cream was like silk on the tongue, all buoyant grace and lilting finesse. The roasted Brussels sprouts, which are blanched, caramelized with clarified butter, roasted with shallots and garlic, and finished with blue cheese, are nothing short of genius. Imagine Brussels sprouts as rich, crispy, and addictive as the bacon-filled potato skins of yesteryear, but with a more sophisticated winter-cabbage edge. Seriously. If you suddenly find yourself in Tryg's bar glomming down handfuls of Brussels sprouts with your after-work beer, don't say I didn't warn you.

The menu and cooking excellence is the work of chef Philip Dorwart, the founding and once-renowned chef of the original Table of Contents in St. Paul. The dish of his I tried that was most reminiscent of the work he did in that small kitchen a decade ago was a marvelous plump fillet of mahi-mahi, seared crisp and served in a bowl of corn broth, the concoction crowned with a light salad of shredded fennel and radish. It was elegantly understated, thoroughly accomplished, and just a jim-dandy of a dinner. Which will have many of you asking, So just where has Dorwart been since Table of Contents crashed and burned, brought down by the weight of its two lackluster spin-offs, Dish and Red Fish Blue?

"Just laying low," Dorwart told me, when I spoke to him on the phone for this story. "I made a decision a few years ago: I want to cook, I don't want to run restaurants. When I signed on at Table of Contents I was one of four partners, and I was in charge of the kitchen end. [Dish and Red Fish Blue] were both projects that I did not want to do; they were not good projects. Suddenly I found myself doing this kitschy, crappy, kid-friendly stuff. I'm somewhat bitter about it, because if anything it tarnished what I built at Table of Contents. But it's been great since I've been here to find out what a huge following Table of Contents had. We probably have at least 10 guests a day who come in and say, 'We're so glad you're here.'

Chef Philip Dorwart and pastry chef Sun Cowles get things exactly, precisely right at Minneapolis's Tryg's
Craig Lassig
Chef Philip Dorwart and pastry chef Sun Cowles get things exactly, precisely right at Minneapolis's Tryg's

"Now things are much better. Tryg and I have really hit it off, and I'm doing what I love: cooking. When I wake up now I love going to work, because I'm a chef. Here at Tryg's, I'm just trying to really focus on the food itself: The cheese in the cheddar-potato pie with the pork shank is four years old, the beef is Meyer beef, all natural, and certified humane. The farmers who supply just about everything are folks I've collected over the last decade. If you call it gussied-up comfort food, that's fine with me; it's simple food, done with the best ingredients we can get."

Nowhere is this simple-food-done-right aesthetic more apparent than in Tryg's brunch: On weekends the place puts all of their 155 seats in service to the best thing to happen to brunch since the invention of corned beef hash. By this I refer to their prime rib hash, cinnamon chicken hash, wild mushroom hash, smoked salmon hash, and roasted duck hash. All of the hash ingredients make their appearance in the dinner menu, and I cannot tell you what satisfaction I get from the simple, old-fashioned economy of the process: prime rib for dinner, prime rib hash for breakfast! (It really speaks to the industrial-food perversions of the last two decades that I find this remarkable at all, but, sigh, there it is.)

That prime rib hash ($11) is salty, roasty, and potent, with tiny squares of Yukon gold potatoes nestled against tiny cubes of the garlic prime rib. A pair of poached eggs dressed with a little bit of delectable béarnaise sauce perch on top of the potatoes. The cinnamon chicken hash ($9) is fantastic, pieces of lightly spiced rotisserie chicken (the cinnamon is a subtle grace note, not a dominant flavor) paired with potato and shreds of sweet leek and perky bits of parsnip. The vegetables really transform the dish into something vibrant and cheerful, and the fried eggs up top were so fresh the yolks stood up like balloons. I also tried Tryg's French toast ($8), made with a pecan pound cake and served with organic maple syrup and lots of fresh strawberries.

One morning at Tryg's I tried a wonderful phyllo tart shell filled with mascarpone cream and topped with a cheerful carnival of fruit cut into fun geometric shapes and piled high. In fact, every dessert or pastry I tried looked as frivolous as a giggle but exhibited serious pastry skills: Pastry chef Sun Cowles has a captivating way with sweets and is able to arrange things in such a lighthearted and fanciful way that your eyes are as charmed as your palate. The chocolate mousse terrine ($6) is stacked stripes of white and dark chocolate caught in a glossy band of ganache and served with a scoop of white chocolate ice cream. It looks like something made of plastic for the Cat in the Hat to eat, but devastates with a trio of profound chocolate notes. The lemon meringue tartlet ($6) is filled with a real French custard, all fresh lemon juice, butter, and glowing egg yolk, but the ebullient star cutout cookie that crowns it, the crinkly phyllo skirt that dresses it, and the pouf of crowning meringue give notice of nothing but fun.

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