Gather by D'Amico opens in the Walker

Featured local chefs rotate through the kitchen

Among the menu's other finger foods, the beef short-rib bahn mi pairs the succulent cut with house-pickled vegetables as a smart alternative to the more typical pork paté. The open-faced fried egg sandwich doesn't sound like much, but the grilled baguette is also topped with ham, mushrooms, roasted pobalano pepper, and cotija cheese. Each bite is crisp and creamy, rich with umami, and sparked with just the barest heat. For a sandwich in its sparest but still alluring form, simply slather an order of the smoked whitefish spread onto a slice of bread.

Gather also offers a strong selection of salads. Hard-cooked egg and ricotta salata (the cheese is salted and dried to more closely resemble feta) add protein to a garden-fresh haystack of bias-cut green beans and asparagus spears, razor-thin radishes, and fennel. In another option, salad greens are tossed with bits of organic chicken, fava beans, dried apricots, pine nuts, and candied lemon. But the winning combination is the simplest: feisty arugula topped with thick watermelon wedges and crumbled feta cheese, laced together by Serrano vinaigrette. It's even more stimulating than the other salads: sweet and juicy, peppery and fresh, salty, tart, and just a little spicy. I'm assuming I wasn't the only person who was inspired to pick up the ingredients on her next shopping trip and try to reverse engineer it.

In July, guest chef Alex Roberts, owner of Restaurant Alma and the Brasa eateries, added two more spot-on small plates to the list. (Chef Isaac Becker, of the 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, will be the guest chef in August.) Beef carpaccio came with a twist: The meat had been smoked in order to stand up to the bold flavors of fried shiitake mushrooms, black garlic, and saba (a pressed grape juice that's boiled down to a more intense version of balsamic vinegar). A summery bibb lettuce cup contained shrimp that had been poached in butter and fish stock, then spiked with pickled vegetables and crunchy bits of kataifi, a shredded phyllo dough. As with the cuisine at Alma, each dish was carefully composed but not overwrought, simultaneously familiar and surprising.

The new restaurant's offerings are lunch-focused, like this tomato soup and grilled cheese
Sasha Landskov
The new restaurant's offerings are lunch-focused, like this tomato soup and grilled cheese

Location Info

Map

D'Amico Kitchen

901 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

Gather by D'Amico
Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
612.253.3410; info.walkerart.org/visit/dining.wac
appetizers $7-11; entrées $12-$18

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Brown says he sees the guest chef program as a chance to share the stage with a dozen of the best chefs in the Twin Cities. Certainly the cross-pollinations will only inspire more creativity in both kitchens.

D'Amico's full-service restaurants have a reputation for offering a classy, consistent dining experience, and Gather meets that standard. All the details, right down to the breadbasket selection, are thoughtfully curated: A slather of Nordic Creamery's luscious gold on New French Bakery's seed-studded or raisin rye breads signals the beginning of a civilized meal. The only real misfire I encountered at Gather involved espresso drinks ordered on two separate visits that had a strong enough burnt taste to render them undrinkable.

Some diners will look wistfully at Gather's dessert list and miss 20.21's whimsical chocolate Spoonbridge and Cherry. True, Gather's goat cheese panna cotta with amarena cherries doesn't have the same sculptural ambitions, but its spare look belies spectacular flavors. The cheese's whisper of savory funk adds complexity to the sweet cream, and the custard's richness is balanced by the accompanying garnishes. A sesame crisp adds nutty sweetness, and Italian cherries preserved in syrup add an off-the-charts sweet-sour flavor that's a whole lot tastier than the former dessert's cute but ersatz marzipan fruit.

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