BEST NEW RESTAURANT - 2004
Service has been in free fall in Minnesota over the last several years as the heavy-hitter, big-ticket restaurants of yore lost their luster, and their professional staffs were absorbed into the general population of the clueless. Decor hasn't had much to boast of either, as nouveau riche Miami-Italian glitz passed more and more for classy. Food, food was certainly on an uptick, as interested, interesting chefs achieved fascinating heights to the applause of eager audiences. The only problem was that Minneapolis looked like it was in danger of becoming a great food town, without ever becoming...well, never mind a great restaurant town, not even a good restaurant town. Luckily, Cosmos opened last year and gave us an example of what a great restaurant is supposed to be. The cooking of chef Seth Bixby Daugherty is boldly original, yet manages never to be fussy or weird. We nearly tripped over ourselves trying to race out the door when we read about the cantaloupe-Marsala stew he recently paired with foie gras--he has such a winning way of creating complex flavors in stews, you know. The service is beautifully trained and subtle. The beverage program is the work of brilliant minds. (Have you seen the apple martini with its skewer of perfectly tournéed apple balls?) The bar is gorgeous and the weekday breakfast is easily the best downtown. And the room feels like a destination, like a movie set, like a futuristic European getaway, in the way that only a very few Midwestern restaurants ever have. In short, Cosmos is the one restaurant that we wish that every restaurant worker or owner within a 200-mile radius would visit, to see how this stuff is done on a grand scale. And that, that is the one thing this state dearly needed.