BEST RESTAURANT--MINNEAPOLIS - 2001
There are two basic things that define the best restaurant in Minneapolis--and make no mistake, this is a hotly, hotly disputed category. Basically, the two things are bliss and its necessary support, friendly pleasure. Bliss for what is on the plate or in the cup, and pleasure in the overall experience. There can be bliss on the plate, but no pleasure in the experience if your server is eavesdropping on your table in an oily, obnoxious way. There might be bliss in your Champagne flute, but pleasure is diminished if you know you're paying four times what the bottle's worth. Pleasure and bliss, bliss and pleasure, it might not sound like a complex calculus, but in fact it's quite maddening, quite fragile. Right now, at this moment, this month, only Restaurant Alma comes through with both the bliss and the pleasure. Bliss in the seared ahi tuna on shaved fennel salad with a ginger and blood orange marinade ($10). Bliss in the pan-roasted rib eye with oil-poached potatoes, onion jam, and bordelaise sauce ($29). Pleasure in the ever-so-smart, ever-changing wine list that is priced so you can take a chance on something you have never tried. Pleasure in the not-too-uptight service staff. Restaurant Alma is intellectually appealing, too, a joint effort of chef Alex Roberts and floor manager, sommelier, and baker Jim Reininger. It feels like a real place, a personal place, where the people in charge are never more than 20 steps from your table. Restaurant Alma is right now simply the restaurant to which we most like to go.