Light a Candle

Temple, Minneapolis's newest high-style fine-dining restaurant, is sexy to the max

Temple Restaurant and Bar
1201 Harmon Place
Minneapolis
612.767.3770
www.mplstemple.com

Seduction is, above all, personal, but some of the most tried-and-true methods for getting it on involve darkness, candles, shimmering reflections in water, and high-octane cocktails. Temple, the new hotspot in the old Tiburon space on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, has all those in spades—and it wants you to relax, baby. Strut into the main dining room and you'll find the lights turned low and dozens upon dozens of big candles floating on water in giant, clear-glass tubes, their beautiful, flickering flames reflected in the 45-foot aquarium that snakes between dining room and lounge. If your sweetheart doesn't look good in this uber-romantic setting, dump 'em, cause they never will.

Or, order a strong drink. Temple's signature cocktails should do the trick nicely—and if you can't put words to your intention, Temple will do it for you: Their drinks feature names that are less double entendre than straight-up dirty talk. I imagine you start the evening with "Honey, You Are Sweet," and progress through "Thai Me Up," "Sex in the Park," and, finally, "Make Her Scream," "Jenna Jameson's Style," with a "Menage a Trois." Boy howdy! Good thing this isn't a family paper. If just reading about Temple's cocktails has you all hot and bothered, race on down for Temple's many happy hours, which run from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to close (usually 2:00 a.m.) seven days a week, and include half-price tap beers and select martinis and bottles of wine.

Unfortunately, when seduction isn't being personal, it's being even more personal, and when it doesn't take, it doesn't take.

The fine-dining menu on offer in the main dining room is as expensive as any in town, with prices rivaling or exceeding D'Amico Cucina and La Belle Vie, and rarely delivers real pleasure. A typical appetizer unites a perfectly good medallion of foie gras with a cold, tasteless puck of ahi tuna ($16), a pairing that makes about as much sense as stapling a Rolex onto the lapel of a Gucci suit—yes, it catches the eye, but where does it go after that?

When I tasted the lobster bisque ($12), its medallions of lobster meat were watery, stringy, and wan. A cylinder of monkfish-liver pâté topped with osetra caviar ($14) was not bad, except that it was served on a bread-plate-sized disc of ice placed in a bowl of salty brown broth; any attempt to put a fork into the thing threatened to throw it off deck into the yucky, salty soup below, and I know it was yucky and salty because there were a few triangles of sesame crostini that sat in the wet stuff, and they were ruined by contact.

After repeated visits, I did find a few appetizers to recommend. The pan-roasted quail with fried duck-liver ravioli ($13) is a solid little dish of a simple, lacquer-brown bird paired with simple, rugged ravioli stuffed with a sweet, lush duck-liver mousse and beautiful, thin slices of buttery, crisply sautéed maitake mushrooms. The artisan cheese plate ($16) combines four wee slices of cheese with a square of honeycomb and intense, sweet, wonderful, big raisins dried in the Mojave Desert.

Entrees never delivered the joy they should. The best I had was a plate of meaty anise- and mandarin orange-braised beef short ribs ($27) in which fork-tender, candy-sweet meat was ringed with a little stone wall of carefully stacked roasted fingerling sweet potatoes. Rare duck breast ($26) was notably tender, and well paired with the pineapple-hoisin sauce that graced the dish, but everything else on the plate, listed on the menu as mandarin pancakes, banh hoi noodles, and baby bok choy, was just an indistinct, wet, salty mess.

The worst entrees I had at Temple were truly gruesome: The green-tea roasted pork tenderloin ($25) was served as red and rare as raw ahi tuna, and came with a taro-root puree that had an off-putting and inexplicably fishy scent. Grilled freshwater prawns ($27) were uncharacteristically difficult to separate from their shells, and once that feat was mastered, the taste was one of marshes and tide pools—not good. I didn't try the $75 stone-grilled Kobe beef filet mignon, or, god forbid, the $28 Chilean sea bass. I asked my server why Chilean sea bass was on the menu, as the creatures also known as Patagonian toothfish are all but extinct, and every chef worth her salt swore them off five years ago. Even when the fish are said to come from the mere 10 percent of the catch derived from sustainable fisheries, they usually don't, and so serving them would seem to promote poaching, piracy, and the extinction of a species. In response, my server giggled and said he had never heard of any of this.

Most of the grace notes of fine dining are missing at Temple. When I ordered a $14 glass of Laurent Perrier French Champagne, I wasn't charmed to find a cut strawberry jammed onto the rim and fruit pieces trickling down into the wine—the whole reason to dig deep and pay for fine Champagne is to enjoy the spectacular scent. This isn't as bad as pouring Coca-Cola in the wine, but fruit belongs only in the cheap stuff. I found the servers in the main dining room at Temple given to hovering and interrupting with discomforting, obsequious questions like, "Is everything tasting fabulous?" One night I was interrupted so many times in the course of the meal, my date ended up requesting that we skip dessert and simply drive around in the car, so we could finally have time to talk. We didn't, but still.

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