For an indication that the economy is really and truly improving, at least for a certain swath of the Twin Cities, look no further than this new restaurant.
When Ryan Burnet, the restaurateur responsible for Burch, Bar La Grassa, and Barrio announced he was going to assist in rectifying the dining void on the eastern end of downtown Minneapolis, we had no idea he was going to do it in such a grand and sweeping way. In the base of the Latitude 45 apartment building, the space mimics an awe-inspiring penthouse apartment, with the exacting and clean lines only the very rich can afford. The tile floor alone is a jaw-dropping centerpiece, and the soaring ceilings and broad airiness that makes you think of landing a private jet inside. Add what is probably the largest open kitchen in town, and you'll think this aloud: Now, this is impressive.
The menu is subtly designed for the sorts of diners who can eat out frequently, but don't want their waistlines to tell the tale. Not exactly gluten free, and not exactly Paleo, but sort of pretty close, with an emphasis on high-quality meats and vegetables, a conspicuous absence of very many carbs, starches, or dairy (though they do make ingenious sauces out of high-end cheeses like brie and Mahón, so that's pretty cool).
The resulting focus is high on clean, vegetal flavor without the cloying richness we know and love/ hate about a lot of restaurant cooking.
The space is lit with the kind of track lighting usually reserved for fine art, but here the art is on the plate, each one composed carefully to please the eye with lots of dots and daubs and sprinkles — not annoyingly so, but impressively so. It's lovely to behold.
While the menu falls staunchly into the "New American" category of eating — a cheese and citrus preparation of chef's darling shishito peppers, house-cured salmon, wood-fired flatbread, wild mushrooms with a farm egg, etc. — it still manages to be new and surprising.
A crispy snapper skin has been crosshatched and seared in a very hot pan so that the surface furls up into little rice puff textural pebbles that feel fun in your mouth like pop rocks. Add to that little confetti of peppers and scallion and frizzled shallot, mint yogurt for richness, and charmoula for levity. It's as agile and inventive as a surprise party.
We love it that all of the above dishes, plus a handful of others like calamari a la plancha and a mixed-grain salad fall into the small plates and under $15 category, so you can mix and match or simply have something that eats like an entree, but there will be no need to carry anything home in a doggie bag. We like this a lot indeed.
A couple dishes had over-seasoning issues like this bison hangar steak, as well as one of the few more decadent dishes, a scalloped potato side. But they've only been open six weeks and we imagine they'll get the tiny wrinkles ironed soon enough.
Of course, all of this wholesome adherence to good heath and clean living deserves a little reward, and the dessert program is truly top notch, with an emphasis on tarts and pies and what lovely ones they are.
Chocolate hazelnut tart is candy bar-esque in its straightforward decadence, all luxuriant creamy filling, crisp and crunchy textural interest and a quenelle of best-ever caramel ice cream. What else can you ask for in this life? Pecan pie with banana ice cream was equally on point.
The cocktail program is as classic as classic gets — like an iconic Cartier, what's good has already been done. There's no call for sparkle or flash. So, a pitch-perfect gin and tonic, an "Eastside 75" with gin, elderflower, lemon and cava, a rum negroni, and so on like this. There's also a comprehensive beer list and a serious wine program including a reserve list for those who truly know what they are doing and can afford it.
305 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis