Domacin of Stillwater and Tian Jin of Chanhassen are bright spots in the suburbs

A classic culinary case of East meets West

Domacin may have the largest restaurant wine selection in the area, with a 300-plus-bottle list that highlights many Italian producers. For by-the-glass offerings, they might have a robust Tempranillo from a little-known Spanish vineyard or an ultra-smooth Oregon Pinot Noir produced by an adventurer-turned-sustainable-winemaker who Outside magazine named among the "25 Coolest People Now." Pantic and his staff like to encourage guests to explore new wines, and as thanks for drinking from the collection's best, he asks guests to autograph the empty bottle for permanent display.

Cesare's executive chef Jonathan Flatt remained through the transition, and his menu of small plates, soups, salads, and entrées hasn't changed drastically in the process. Snack-size items range from cheese plates and mini-burgers to crostini and personal pizzas, including a tasty one topped with chorizo, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and a sweet, jammy tomato sauce. My favorite was the stack of mini-grilled cheese sandwiches paired with a cup of tomato soup, whose acidity had a bright, salty tang almost like green-olive brine. I liked the papardelle with fatty bacon, golden raisins, and pine nuts, too, though the rather rubbery cheese that purported to be fresh buffalo mozzarella tasted more like the cow's-milk version. From the brief list of entrées, I chose the trout and eggs—two skin-on fillets stacked with lacy hash browns and a poached egg that could have been a gourmet fisherman's campfire breakfast if not for the blanched pea tendrils and lemon dill cream.

Since La Belle Vie left Stillwater, the town has lacked a true destination restaurant that would compel those from the west side of the Twin Cities to make the drive just for dinner. Still, Domacin and a few others have done a nice job providing a classy place for locals to meet for a glass of wine or celebrate special occasions alongside the antique shoppers and bed-and-breakfast guests. I think Domacin could still do a little tweaking to find the right balance of casual elegance, as I couldn't tell if the olive oil flight came off as helpfully educational or pretentious, and the $25-plus entrées seemed a little spendy for a place where a guy at the bar was wearing a Cabela's cap.

The good China: Shredded fish in garlic sauce (left) and Chung King spicy chicken
Nick Vlcek
The good China: Shredded fish in garlic sauce (left) and Chung King spicy chicken

Location Info

Map

Tian Jin

463 W. 79th St.
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Chanhassen

Details

TIAN JIN
463 W. 79th St., Chanhassen
952.934.4111
appetizers $2-$9; entrées $8-$17

DOMACIN
102 South Second St., Stillwater
651.439.1352, domacinwinebar.com
appetizers $7-$17; entrées $14-$29

But not everyone is feeling so price-sensitive these days, perhaps. When one of my tablemates joked about buying a rare $8,000, 27-liter Flaccianello "Super Tuscan," our waitress informed us that it was already spoken for—a local had rented out the restaurant for his upcoming 50th birthday celebration and claimed dibs on the bottle. Just don't tell the party crashers. 

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