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First look: Vann delivers inspired, lakeside respite of Scandinavian seafood in Spring Park

Vann's hamachi requires unique consideration

Vann's hamachi requires unique consideration Stacy Brooks

“Vann is the Norwegian word for water,” explained our server as he handed us the menu at a recent preview of Vann Restaurant, which opened in Spring Lake on August 10.

The name is an obvious choice, given the restaurant’s plum location on the shore of Lake Minnetonka. A wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the water, and the constant stream of traffic to the nearby boat ramp can’t distract from the view. The decor is a modern take on coastal chic, with lots of navy and white, copious shiplap, and vaguely nautical light fixtures.

The water theme carries over to the menu, a tight listing of four appetizers and four entrees that focus on seafood of all sorts: from octopus and caviar, to scallops and halibut. The dishes’ flavor profiles nod to coastal cuisines around the globe, from Norway to Japan.

While seafood is the main event, the menu also has a couple of vegetarian items (a tomato salad and a mushroom entree) plus a dry-aged duck breast. The wine list has a nice depth, with selections by the glass and bottle, as well as a few beers and ciders. 

We started with the hamachi, lightly cured and topped with uni. (Don’t know what hamachi is?  We didn’t either, so we asked our ever-helpful server. It’s a Japanese fish similar to tuna.) At first glance, it’s a delicate dish: Translucent slices of fish, tiny bits of chili, garnished with a sprinkling of flowers. But taste-wise, it’s a mixture of unabashedly fishy flavors that combine into something smoother. It’s interesting, and we don’t mean that in a passive-aggressive sense—it made us slow down and consider what we were eating, in a way that food often doesn’t.

Next up was our entree of steamed halibut with a crayfish cream sauce and a side of chanterelle mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and more edible flowers (those seem to be a running theme). The halibut had such a smooth texture that it gave us a Zen-like feeling of relaxation. We couldn’t discern a specific crayfish note in the sauce, but it did have a levity and freshness that’s unusual in a cream sauce—it satisfied without weighing down the taste buds. The mushrooms and peas were well-prepared, with a woodsy quality that was a graceful contrast to the seafood.

For dessert, we ordered both the gjetost tart and the chocolate cremeaux, because 1) “journalistic research” and 2) we have no shame where dessert is concerned.

Akin to the filling of an artisan truffle, the thick and creamy chocolate cremeaux is not to be missed.

Akin to the filling of an artisan truffle, the thick and creamy chocolate cremeaux is not to be missed. Stacy Brooks

Gjetost is a Norwegian goat cheese, with a rich caramel color and texture that our server described perfectly as “like peanut butter.”  Presented in a shortbread crust with a garnish of gooseberries, it’s an entirely savory dessert. If you prefer a cheese plate over cheesecake, this is for you.

The chocolate cremeaux was more our style. It’s akin to the filling of an artisan truffle, thick and creamy and intensely chocolate. It was accompanied by a tart passionfruit sorbet, which we enjoyed more as a palette cleanser than as a pairing.

All of this—the edible flowers, the exquisite sauces, the fancy desserts—comes at a price. Vann Restaurant is a fine dining establishment, and that makes sense given the tax bracket of the surrounding area (lakeside mansion with a replica Statue of Liberty in the front yard, we’re looking at you). But for the rest of us, for whom fine dining is an occasion and the experience needs to be special enough to justify a hefty bill at the end of the evening, Vann rises to that challenge.

Vann delivers a killer view, food that’s a balance of the unexpected and the straight-up satisfying, accentuated by warm and knowledgeable service.

Plus dessert. Take a page out of our playbook and order two.

 

Vann Restaurant
4016 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park
952-381-9042