BEST RESTAURANT--MINNEAPOLIS - 2004
The main thing that sets apart a great work of art, be it a novel, a painting, or a movie, from some crap at the mall is that it should be a fully realized vision, a completely thought-through, whole, interrelated, and complete event in which all the physical details serve the overall vision of the creators. Miraculously, Solera is such a being. Sure, you could say it's just a tapas bar. But that would neglect the beautiful flower-pod-doohickey that is the mosaic host stand. It would ignore the funny alien tapas bar chairs, the silvery figurines that make the salt and pepper dispensers, and so much more. Follow any train of thought you might have at Solera, and you'll find it fully realized: The wine and sherry list is like a university-level course on current thinking in Spanish viticulture. The food will meet you on whatever level you want: If you're just looking for a happy-hour snack after work, try the lemony, spicy calamari and a beer. If a romantic dinner for two is more your speed, the $30, eight-course menu gives you something to bond and linger over. And if you're a serious food-head, pull up a seat at the tapas bar and talk with one of the chefs. There isn't a restaurant in Minneapolis right now that hews more closely to its highest choices, nor a restaurant we'd rather go to.