Residents of Bloomington, Edina, and Eden Prairie can now skip the drive to the city to enjoy not only crudo, but pasta and top-notch steaks as well. Just don’t call it an Italian restaurant. Chef John Mullen, most recently of 6Smith in Wayzata, says that crudo aside, it's a modern American menu.
The restaurant, off of I-494 and Hwy. 100, occupies the space that most recently housed Colette Bar & Bistro. Lela is serene, done up in calming shades of gray, white, and taupe, accented by commodious upholstered brown leather booths. Think California chic meets steakhouse comfort. As you enter from the parking lot (three cheers for free parking), the first thing you notice are two curved glass walls that serve as both a partial enclosure for a large table in the middle of the room, and as wine storage. It is a dramatic focal point.
The bar occupies one entire side of the L-shaped room, and cocktails are definitely a focus here. The menu nods to the classics while offering up some enticing signature drinks, as in the London Calling, a perfect summer sipper that combines gin, balsamic, St. Germain, and strawberries. The wine list boasts range, and includes a premium section of slightly more expensive wines, a nice option if you are in the mood to splurge.
Just around the corner from the bar is a counter where you can sit and watch the action in the open kitchen. While the menu includes fresh pasta made in-house and a selection of entrees, go with a group so you can share small plates and big steaks.
The crudo is impeccably fresh. The restaurant sources its fish from the Fish Guys locally and from Honolulu Fish Company. The Peruvian ceviche features whatever mild whitefish is freshest that day, marinated in lime with habanero and cilantro and garnished with fried plantains. Like all of the food at Lela, great care is taken with the artful presentation.
If raw fish is not your thing, try the baseball-sized pork, beef, and veal meatball appetizer. Mullen uses a recipe from a friend’s grandmother, and the result is an elevated version of a homespun favorite. The lobster deviled eggs may incite fork fights over who gets the last piece of the generous portion of lobster.
But the sharing doesn’t stop with appetizers. All of the carefully prepared steaks are served family-style, carved and ready to pass around the table. Which is a good thing considering the Cowboy Ribeye weighs in at 36 ounces, while the Porterhouse is a whopping 40 ounces. Steaks arrive with a salt flight, a selection of four gourmet salts that diners can use to enhance their meat. It's a fun and fanciful touch.
Lela serves lunch every day from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. during the week, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Will diners make the drive from Minneapolis to Bloomington for crudo? Perhaps not. But that just means that residents of the southwest ‘burbs won’t have to wait for a table at Lela.
5601 W. 78th St., Bloomington