So classic is the newly remodeled Commodore, so evocative of the grandeur of more elegant, more dignified times, the notion of bringing food into the place is almost sacrilege. Slop sauce on the checkerboard floor? Slurp noodles while the grand piano tinkles? Slice gristle under the deco gold of the cocktail lounge? Surely you jest. The sheer act of mastication here seems indecent.
But of course, the people of the Commodore must make a living. So, what is the kitchen to do? Restrain themselves, of course. Remain as classic as humanly possible, and as elegant as a straight-backed lady of leisure.
There's no place for frippery in a room where F. Scott Fitzgerald took his repast, and so the chefs were wise to keep things clean and concise.
Chef Chris Gerster said he'd make attempts to stay as close to 1920s and 1930s dining sensibilities as is practical, and since you and I and even our parents weren't a twinkle in anyone's eye back then, we'll have to take his word for it. But it's true: Things feel time-honored and standard, like a Sinatra tune or a silver butler's tray. Ever been to a really grand, expensive wedding? One where the offerings won't embarrass the grandparents who are footing the bill? It's like that.
Beef tartare was the textbook iteration, offset by a snappy little Minnesota addition of refrigerator pickles. The recipe for those alone was flawless. I could eat them one after the other, like potato chips.
Or how about an olive oil poached salmon, cooked precisely to luscious mid-rare temp within, anchored by a coddled lake of potato puree that's practically a sauce, it's so smooth? Not a damn thing wrong with it, either. A little fig-almond relish offers just enough interest, like pairing a funky handbag with a little black dress.
Pomme frites are Parmesan and rosemary dusted and paired with house made garlic aioli and are just the thing to make whetting whistles with their incredible cocktail program even more enticing.
Bar manager Christa Robinson has outdone herself with one of the better prohibition-era cocktail programs we've seen in town, and in a town rife with them, that's saying an awful lot.
Her Sidecar, with apple brandy, lemon ginger liqueur, fresh lemon, and a rim of smoked bourbon sugar was bewitchingly indulgent as kicking back with a cigar while somebody rubs your feet. On the other end of the spectrum, the Fitzgerald (pictured top, right), named after you-know-who, with DuNord Fitzgerald Gin, house made sour, Angostura bitters, and a lemon twist, is lemonade for grownups— a bracing restorative for all that ails you. And, goes the lore, Fitzgerald was known to drink gin, as he insisted you could not detect it on the breath. So if one were in need of a middle of the day pick-me-up. . .
Since the real star of the show at the Commodore is the room itself, the food and drink program is wise to linger, hand tucked behind back, in the shadows like a preemptive and all-knowing butler. All one needs to enjoy oneself here is a pair of eyes, a cocktail in one hand, and an understated nibble in the other.
Bring your eyes and your hands to the Commodore and get yourself a feast for both mind and body.
79 Western Ave. N., St. Paul