Mona: a first look

Chef-owner Lisa Hanson's new restaurant opened to much excitement. Finally a dining and destination lunch spot in a part of town that had been underserved. Hanson took what was once a Chinese restaurant and transformed it into the sort of room where a client can be entertained and a collection of cube-dwellers can find refuge.

We stopped by for a little taste of what's in store at downtown Minneapolis's newest restaurant.

The room opens into a modest-sized bar surrounded by tables and booths, then flows into a bigger space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a wide-open kitchen. The late afternoon light spilled in over the white tiles of the kitchen and bathed patrons in a soft afterglow at the end of a workday. The dark, patterned wallpaper and maroon leather-upholstered booths add a classic supper club vibe.

The dinner menu consists of about two dozen small plates of reasonably priced food, ranging from a white bean salad and hummus plate at $5 to an elk rib eye at $13 and a rabbit and foie gras plate for $14. The bar is amply stocked with top-shelf options. The drinks we ordered were a bit uneven: two Manhattans, one arriving as a glass of straight, unadorned booze, while the other was a pitch-perfect specimen. If there's going to be a drink mistake, it could be worse.

The food we tried included the chicken and waffles ($8), marrow on toast ($7), French fries with pimenton aioli ($4), and the polenta topped with mushrooms ($7). All dishes were just a few bites and fun to order in a pile to share with the table. The chicken was an extra-crispy leg atop half a Belgian waffle. The pimenton aioli was creamy with a pleasant zip. Not every dish was a winner at first taste, but it's a spot likely to be humming once the kitchen hits its groove.

333 S. Seventh St., Suite 190, Minneapolis
612.259.8636; Mona website

Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday 5-11 p.m.

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