BEST RESTAURANT FOR APPETIZERS - 2005
900 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Years ago we read a magazine restaurant column that advised readers to order another appetizer instead of an entrée, to ensure the greatest experience of the chef's skills and elite ingredients. So, we tried it in the Spago in Las Vegas, and have yet to recover from the withering disdain of the waiter, who saw this not as a thrilling tribute to his chef's skills, but as a cheapskate's gambit. Sigh. Today, life is better for anyone who wants to sample real cooking skill but isn't seeking a pound of protein in the middle of a plate: We have Solera! With all its little plates of tapas, Solera is the only restaurant in the history of Twin Cities dining that could support a fascinating meal both before and after a show at the nearby Orpheum or State theaters. How's that? Well, beforehand, why not get a glass of chilled sherry and a plate of individual grilled asparagus spears, all grassy and springtime-accented with a breath of char, wrapped with salty, savory Spanish ham, and accompanied by a piquant sauce thick with Mahon cheese? Add a plate of sweet dates stuffed with spicy chorizo sausage, or perfectly tart and light goat-cheese fritters. Now you'll be able to enjoy the show without your stomach grumbling, but without falling asleep in a food coma half way through the second act. After the show, come back for a bottle of good Spanish red wine, smoked cod that glides through the mouth like a glassy whoosh of sea smoke, an order of veal meatballs which are nearly as light as custard, hearty ribs in paprika sauce, and as many of the other 40-plus tapas the restaurant offers on any given evening. Yes! All of the skill and elite ingredients, without any of the implication of being a cheapskate. We may never leave home again.