While it was arguably the most romantic canoodling den in the city, Brasserie Zentral's annex Foreign Legion may have been even too much so. Like a grown-up tunnel of love, oh so dark, mysterious, and spring-loaded with surprises — one of the best cheese and charcuterie selections in the state, fine wine flights to pair, and a guy behind a big marble slab to make it all happen for you. The prosciutto slicer alone or the Pata Negra ham were worthy of the museum-quality lighting that shone down upon it all.
But it just didn't work. It was the best-kept secret for those in the know, but not enough people knew. So Russell and Desta Klein are doing the savvy thing and pushing restart.
They've opened the dungeon-esque space to let in some natural light, but if you're still in the mood for a scotch under sexy light, the front area continues to offer dim alcoves and shadowy areas for whatever you had in mind. While Foreign Legion was always a great happy hour option, they weren't retaining enough diners at the dinner hour.
"I might have had the best Bresola in town, but people didn't really care. They just wanted a meat and cheese plate," says chef/owner Russell Klein.
But do you know what people do care about? Pizza. So the kitchen has employed some brand spanking new electronic technology pizza ovens that basically zap the heck out of the crust in a couple of minutes, giving it a bubbly, crisp-chew crust that you'd swear came out of a wood-fired oven, but it didn't. Those ovens are gorgeous too, and sitting next to that imported Italian ham slicer, I'd say this is still one of the sexiest open kitchen spaces in town, and now with all the natural light you can actually see it!
So they'll be retaining a limited cheese and charcuterie selection, but they're adding pizza, pasta, salads, the whole casual Italian works. Klein and crew are still hammering out a full menu — when I visited on Tuesday the paint was still literally drying on the new space, so if you go, expect a limited menu for the moment.
That said, the website is already advertising a promising selection of fusilli putanesca, pappardelle, spaghetti aglio e olio, a smattering of pizzas, and salads, and even a s'more napoleon that seems like a good idea no matter what is happening in your life.
While the summer light slowly but surely fades away, I'd recommend one of the tables in front, which now sit at floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking the street and the light rail lines. Watching the train zip commuters to and fro, and pedestrians dashing off to important meetings and such, while you sip and nibble and swoon — this is a great seat if you can nab it.
And now, you can stay for dinner.
105 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis