Do you tend to stay on the safe side of the menu? Are you a soup, salad, and sandwiches kind of guy? We present six dishes to make you rethink your mundane ways.
Garlic Montanara at Mucci's Italian
We thought we'd seen all the garlic breads. The one wrapped in foil with little divots for butter and garlic and herbs; the one handmade with a decade-old starter. All the garlic breads.
But we've never seen this Italian staple the way they do it at newly opened Mucci's Italian. Montanara is a flat bread from the Romagna region of Italy, traditionally deep fried then finished in the oven. At Mucci's, it tastes as though it took a long bath in sizzling garlic butter, arriving at the table all but dripping with irresistible, fragrant fat. You could make a meal of this alone, with a side of their divine red sauce, and should probably do just that.
786 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
Deep fried avocados from Sushi Fix
It might seem antithetical to bathe cool, creamy avocado in batter then deep fry it, but the odd maneuver somehow works. In addition to this cream-meets-crisp, cool-meets-hot jigsaw, the attendant pot of spiced aioli and hot sauce makes it a mind-bending bite of Mexico. Minus the meat and tortilla, this is everything you ever loved about a taco, in one strangely deconstructed bite. And, you gotta go to a sushi joint to get it. Strange, but great.
862 Lake St. East, Wayzata
3. "Potato salad" from Handsome Hog
Deconstructed dishes, when it comes to peasant foods like potato salad, tend to make us squirm. But when it works, you give credit where credit is due. At the newly opened contemporary barbecue joint Handsome Hog, all the potatoes — purple Peruvian ones full of smoke, sweet ones braised with bourbon, Yukon Golds flash fried until frizzled — are festooned on a plate like birthday confetti.
All around that are the things that give potato salad its signature flavor: bacon, egg yolk, tarragon, dill, pickles, and paprika. Instead of one-note mayonnaise-y bites, here you get to chase a potato adventure around the plate. Who knew potatoes could be an adventure?
203 E. Sixth St., St. Paul
2. Lamb Tartare at St. Genevieve
Order the lamb tartare at St. Genevieve and when it lands, you might think your server got your order wrong. Nope. It's just that things have shape-shifted. The crimson red, precious raw flesh is simply tucked away inside a crisp cigar of delicate phyllo, flash fried until shatter crisp. The tender meat remains cool as a cucumber within, while the exterior retains a bit of heat from its bath in the hot oil. Nothing more than best-ever olive oil and shavings of chile, caper berry, citrus, olive, and herb complete this strange, surprising bite.
5003 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis
1. Smoked Salmon on Chocolate Cake Bruschetta with Goat Cheese Mousse, Raspberry Foam, and Chipotle Syrup from Sanctuary
When was the last time you considered combining smoked salmon, chocolate cake, goat cheese, raspberry, and chipotle? Never, we're fairly convinced. And that's because you're not the sort of weirdo that chef Patrick Atanalian is. Which is to say, a delightfully focused weirdo, one who obsesses about balance, texture, and aroma.
This little bite has got it all— smoke, heat, fruit, chocolate, seafood. And while it's Wonkaesque in its daring, it actually works. Never weird just for the sake of it, this comes together in the mouth like cracking the code to the Rubix Cube.
And when that's all gone, set your sights on dishes with ingredients like "magic peppers," rum and Coke gel, and yeoman tonic syrup.
903 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis