Really Fine Dining

Minneapolis is a-changin', and the restaurant scene will never be the same

 

EAT STREET GETS RAW

First, an actually viable restaurant took on the notorious restaurant-slaying corner of 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue. Fancy lofts sprang up on two of Nicollet's premier trash-strewn empty lots. A Starbucks and a Waldorf school popped up. Now, sushi, yes, sushi, a full-blown sushi bar, is appearing on Nicollet, in the city-abandoned wilds between the Lake Street K-Mart and I-94. It boggles the mind. Can you imagine what would happen if the city actually spent a dollar and restored the mighty avenue it destroyed with the K-Mart? I can barely imagine; I think the Louvre would probably just pick itself up from its foundations and hustle across the globe to replace that self-service car wash at the street's dead end.

Fine fare: Tim McKee previews La Belle Vie's remastered menu
Richard Fleischman
Fine fare: Tim McKee previews La Belle Vie's remastered menu

Location Info

Map

Azia Restaurant

2550 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

What sushi bar? Well, I'll tell you what sushi bar! In the next storefront south of Azia, and, conveniently enough, it will be owned by Azia. It's going to be called Anenomie, which I think is a wonderful name, except that the choice of spelling means all the Waldorf children will now have a terrible, secret Achilles heel whenever they end up in spelling bees contemplating certain sea animals with crowns of stinging tentacles at the tops of fleshy stalks. Oh well, to each generation their hurdles, I suppose.

Anenomie hasn't named a sushi chef yet. Owner Tom Pham says he's narrowing his picks from a national search, with top contenders in such far-flung places as Kansas City, New Jersey, California, and Las Vegas. Don't you kind of want to take up a fund to airlift the one out of Kansas City? I keep trying to think of sushi in Kansas City, but I only keep thinking of fried chicken and biscuits. Speaking of things that are good to eat that you don't often see in the same paragraph, Anenomie will also function as an oyster bar.

And it will have the best sake list in Minnesota. I know this as fact, because it will share that list with Azia, which has done fantastic work developing its list these last several years. Today Azia sells some 20 varieties of the Japanese rice wine, many of which are far better than the generic ones you've grown used to in every single sushi bar--better because they're made from higher-grade rice, made in smaller batches, and more carefully made, with more hand labor. Which, needless to say, makes them deathly more expensive, which is why it's so important to spend the next few minutes memorizing Azia's everyday happy hour times (from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.) when you can try the top-shelf sake (and all the rest) for half-price. Remember, it's not just drinking--it's educational. And if you learn very, very much, you might even figure out some way to inspire the little Waldorf children to bring down the K-Mart. Azia, 2550 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.813.1200; www.aziarestaurant.com

 

DUPLEX DREAMS

Finally, do you remember all those conversations you had in high school, and in the wee hours at First Avenue, conjuring up all the things you would do one day, and how awesome it would be? Well, score one for the dreamers: In a month or so, Pandora's Cup, the Hennepin Avenue coffee shop with the fun second-story outside deck, will turn into duplex, an American bistro and wine bar. It all started in Moorhead, Minnesota, years and years ago, when chef Michael Hart, longtime Café Zander veteran, and Michael Trebnick got to dreaming. It continued when Sonja Hayden and Trebnick met, working at First Avenue, and spent the wee hours dreaming and falling in love. Soon the three picked up the long-running conversation while they were all working at the Giorgio's on Hennepin. Hayden and Trebnick spent the intervening years turning the duplex on Hennepin into the thriving, if scruffy, coffee shop Pandora's Cup, and getting married; Hart spent seven and a half years wielding a knife at Zander.

Now the three are partners in duplex--no capitalization, please--which will specialize in bold flavors brought to life through local ingredients and bold wines, offering an affordable experience: Expect dinner entrees in the $12 to $20 range. Hart says his menu will focus on "simple, homey food" with a kick: a bison Salisbury steak stuffed with foie gras butter and a mushroom sauce, with steamed broccoli, for instance. Seared scallops with puttanesca sauce. "I love roasted beets or roasted squash, and things like gumbo, cioppino, flavors that are hearty and intense, but not heavy."

There's definitely a lot of love in duplex. "We love this building," Sonja Hayden told me when I spoke to her for this item, "and we're kind of nuts to plan a restaurant where the kitchen is on one level and the dining room is on another, but it will be a great cardiovascular workout. You know, I've just always dreamed of sitting out on our porch with a glass of wine, and now I'll be able to."

See? Fairy tales do come true, it could happen to you, if you only keep hold of your dreams, and have enough leg strength to run up and down the stairs all night. duplex restaurant and wine bar; 2516 Hennepin Ave S., Minneapolis; 612.381.0700

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