In the upper 'burbs, Lake House and Flame stand out

Would you drive 40 miles for dinner? Here are some places that might be worth the trip

Unsurprisingly, Ida outdid herself with desserts, particularly the signature Lake House s'more. A bitter, dark chocolate ganache is sandwiched between a graham cracker crust and a giant homemade marshmallow, blackened on top, with a soft, foamy interior. (It makes commercial marshmallows seem like rubber.) The plate was drizzled with Jack Daniel's caramel and scattered with roasted, honey-coated peanuts. Benchmarking this s'more against the Hershey's/Jet-Puffed/Honey Maid version was like comparing dinner at La Belle Vie to Lunchables.

The combination of the warm staff, the view of the lake, and the comforts of the cooking glossed my visits to the Lake House with a happy nostalgia. Each time, leaving the place felt a bit bittersweet, like coming home from summer camp.

  

Hot new restaurant: Flame in Roseville boasts a meat-heavy menu and a ring of fire above the kitchen
Jana Freiband
Hot new restaurant: Flame in Roseville boasts a meat-heavy menu and a ring of fire above the kitchen

Location Info

Map

The Lake House

8241 N. Shore Trail
Forest Lake, MN 55025

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outstate

Details

THE LAKE HOUSE
8241 North Shore Trail, Forest Lake
651.464.3111; www.thelakehousemn.com
appetizers $6-$11; entrées $8-$28

FLAME
Rosedale Center Plaza, Roseville
651.315.5005; www.flamerosedale.com
appetizers $6-$10; entrées $11-$22

ANOTHER SURPRISE FIND in the northern suburbs: the new restaurant Flame, at Rosedale. Anoush Ansari and Hadi Anbar, the duo behind Atlas Grill, Mission, and Via, recently opened the first independent restaurant among the mall's chain-only options.

My first impression of Flame, as I stood by the host's stand, was that I was having a hot flash—until I suspected its source was the grill in the open kitchen and the ring of decorative torches above it. (The ornamental flames will be great in winter, but when the air conditioning is on, fashion tends to compete with function.) In any case, the place looks sharp; it's another design from the Shea group (they did the showy interiors at Solera, Tryg's, and LoTo), with lots of welcoming characteristics: an open floor plan, crimson hues, big windows, spacious booths, and a whole wall of stacked firewood.

Flame's meat-heavy menu offers the standard burgers, salads, and sandwiches, plus plenty of atypical mall fare, including ceviche, kebobs, and rotisserie meats. While the theme's incorporation in the decor might be a bit overstated, the wonders fire does for food cannot be. The chicken kebob, like those served at some of Ansari and Anbar's other restaurants, is inspired by the Persian fare the two grew up on. The tender meat comes with a skewer of roasted red peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini, which are all infused with a subtle smokiness that pairs nicely with a bed of fluffy jasmine rice and a drizzle of beurre blanc. The dish was a gem, particularly compared to the greasy chicken stir-fries or dried-out chicken sandwiches that hungry shoppers usually get stuck with.

The other items I tried were good overall, though they missed a few details. The ribs had a deliciously jammy barbecue sauce, but the meat had been cooked a bit past tender and teetered on mushy. The mac and cheese had a good mix of garlic, Swiss, and cheddar, but curdled cream made the texture mealy.

I finished off a mess of melting vanilla ice cream and caramelized bananas with just a glimmer of disappointment: The weak blue flame that had burned off the rum didn't hold a candle to a wickedly blazing bananas Foster. Still, if I ever find myself at Roseville in need of refueling, Flame would be my first stop.

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