There aren't too many restaurants or chefs out there that can execute a take on a classic dish while still embracing the will to be weird. Downtown Minneapolis's Sanctuary manages to hit the nail on the head every time. On their ever-changing menus, you can often find familiar French or Mediterranean-influenced fare, but with a list of ingredients that leaves you scratching your head.
By the time the first forkful hits your mouth, though, chef Patrick Atanalian's vision becomes clear. This week, chef Atanalian let us into his kitchen to watch as he put together his latest menu, which is available now for your dining pleasure.
Sanctuary does a menu overhaul once every two months. Chef Atanalian says that to put together his newest dishes, he researches his extensive library of books for ideas, which he then transforms into plates that are clearly his own.
"I know we change every two months, so I start to work right away," he says. "I just sit in my library, I have a library at home that we built which is pretty cool, so I just sit down there and get some ideas and see what's on and what's not. You have drinks going on and you've got music going on. It's kind of a party, but it takes a lot of work."
On his newest menu, you'll find a dish featuring pan-seared Alaskan halibut with mussels and Provencal vegetables served in the traditional fashion: cold with a creamy, garlicy aioli. The result is southern France on a plate.
Other dishes are less conventional. Braised smoked pork butt in a chile-garlic tomato sauce is served over chocolate potatoes. Yes, you did read that right: chocolate potatoes. Atanalian explains that the idea was rooted in a Mexican mole, a complex sauce utilizing a variety of chiles and spices with a chocolate base. Instead of bringing sweetness to the dish, the chocolate adds earthy tones that, when in context with the spicy pork, bring home comforting Latin flavors that are actually quite familiar.
The new duck BLT combines a full seared Wild Acres duck breast, candied duck bacon, mustard, lettuce, and tomato -- but instead of bread it comes served between two waffles. The whole thing is then drizzled with a rosemary maple syrup. To these eclectic offerings, they've also added octopus tacos, steak frites, and lobster pho.
If you're interested in slightly lighter fare, the kaniwa dish is fresh, fragrant, and gluten free (if you get it sans potato). The baby kale salad is made with a goat cheese dressing and comes garnished with Asian pears, roasted walnuts, and shallot vinegar faux caviar. It's a salad that hits a critical mass of flavor components, making for a harmonious balance.
Sanctuary is one of those Twin Cities restaurants that all too often falls under the radar, but with chef Atanalian's boisterous personality projected onto every plate, it's worth rediscovering.