Talk Of The Town

A trifecta of impending restaurant openings, and one departure

If you've eaten regularly in fine-dining restaurants in the last decade in Minneapolis, you've likely eaten something Saunders has cooked. In addition to his recent spell at À Rebours, he also cooked at La Belle Vie and Vincent. When I reviewed Saunders's cooking at À Rebours, I was particularly struck by his elegant use of vaporously light sauces. One particular concoction of vanilla and crème fraîche that accompanied a fried soft-shell crab was so ethereal and joyous, the mere memory of it makes me smile. Saunders says the menu at his new, very own restaurant will be 80 or 90 percent based on classic French haute cuisine, which he likes to make simpler, lighter, and more avant-garde. One opening dish will be roast squab with a lobster custard, for instance.

"I like to cook something that has always worked, and tweak it until it's elegant and surprising," Saunders told me when I spoke to him for this item. Expect entrées in the $20 to $30 range, a precisely selected Old World wine list, and polished service. Someone I won't name for fear of getting him fired from his current prominent position will run the front of the house. (Hey, that's what it means to be a young up-and-comer in restaurants.) You can also expect Fugaise to open sometime this September. And when it does open, they'll be serving lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, and every single couple celebrating an anniversary. (FUGAISE, 308 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612.436.0777; www.fugaise.com.)

 

Midtown revival: David Vlach is executive chef of the reinvented Town Talk Diner
Raoul Benavides
Midtown revival: David Vlach is executive chef of the reinvented Town Talk Diner

Location Info

Map

Town Talk Diner

2707 1/2 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Seward/ Longfellow/ Minnehaha

The Heavy Hitter: And what about Five? Five, lest you have forgotten, is the long-awaited Stewart Woodman project. And Woodman, of course, was the opening chef at Levain and, before that, had big-restaurant super-New York credentials, the likes of which we just don't ever see in the Midwest: He was the opening sous-chef at Alain Ducasse's formidable Essex House, for example.

Okay, so Woodman's planned restaurant, Five Restaurant and Street Lounge, in the old Fifth Precinct police station on Bryant Avenue South near Lake Street, is now scheduled to open in mid- or late August. He will open the street lounge first, which will feature a short Asian bar menu with items such as his version of pho, as well as a more substantial sit-down American bistro menu, which will be something like "Levain, but less expensive." Does this mean that instead of pheasant poached in cream we will have plain chicken poached in cream? I do not know, but can't wait to find out.

Woodman says he himself does not know. Once the dust has cleared and everything works in the kitchen, he plans to spend 14 days just cooking up a storm alongside Chris Danskey, formerly a cook at Solera and Aquavit, who will be the sous-chef. Woodman says that after a few months he plans to turn over the day-to-day kitchen at the Five bistro to Danskey and then to move upstairs to the 150-seat fine-dining space, where he will cook the really big news, the utter next level in Twin Cities fine dining: super fancy prix fixe meals that stem from the French tradition. The fine-dining space may be open around Thanksgiving, if all goes according to plan.

When I talked to Woodman, he said he had just finished up the wine list, with the help of legendary local foodies Bob and Sue McDonald. The list's focus will not be on big-name wineries, but on gathering deep holdings of outstanding vintages when they bloom in their various regions.

It's no exaggeration to say that this restaurant has been the most highly anticipated opening in Twin Cities food life since the debut of Levain and Solera. Is five the luckiest number? You'll know sooner rather than later, so stay tuned. (FIVE RESTAURANT AND STREET LOUNGE, 2917 Bryant Ave. S.; www.fiverestaurant.com.)

 

Marianne Miller Has Left the Building--Again: On June 19, exactly 11 days after I gave chef Marianne Miller's cooking, and in general Bobino, the restaurant where she had recently begun working, a rave review ("Chef Driven," June 8, 2005), Miller was fired. In the review, I said that long-dormant Bobino had suddenly vaulted into the top 10 restaurants in the Twin Cities, despite a distinctly dismal wine list and haphazard service, all because of Miller's considerable talent in the kitchen. Anyone who pays a lot of attention to Twin Cities restaurant doings would have known that this was something of an act of faith for me, since the last time I gave Miller a rave review, "The Many Shades of Red", June 2, 2004, she was fired some 19 days later.

This upset me because I realized that lots of readers would have made reservations based on my spanking new review, but would now be walking into a restaurant that was nothing like what I described, which damages my own credibility. The pastry chef I also liked so much at Bobino, Christian Aldrich, has likewise left the restaurant. So, what is Bobino like now?

Without the delightful Miller signature of dollhouse detail and unique butter-and-meadow fireworks, it's not like much.

I visited Bobino after Miller and Aldrich had left, to sample one of the restaurant's last Sunday brunches. It was a mess. I started off with the exact same cheese plate I had been so enchanted with weeks before. Where once it had held a little Noah's Ark lineup of adorable pairs of individually spiced nuts prepared in the kitchen (two almonds, two cashews, etc.) now there were just soft, stale mixed salted nuts scattered listlessly about. Where once the accompanying grapes were cut into careful four-grape clusters, now there was just a pile of uncut, mushy grapes. Literally, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, the pecorino Romano cheese on the plate was in fact a long section of rind from the bottom of the wheel, with barely a millimeter of cheese to eat. "I can't believe this is happening," said my date.

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