Tea is the new coffee and kombucha is the new tea and David Duckler is peddling both, which means he's a busy guy and has decided he doesn't need to be into food, too. So he's sold his Verdant Tea Tasting Room to his chef Katriel Menendez and Menendez's partners Ozzy Amelotti and Pablo Vinuesa.
Both partners hail from Argentina; Menendez traveled to the Twin Cities four years ago and says he fell in love with the place and with the people.
"They were so nice."
See? Minnesota nice is so real, we're getting Argentinian transplants because of it.
At the time, there was nothing in the way of Argentinian food around here (and there's still very little save for the famous Fogo de Chao gaucho steakhouse), so Menendez made it his charge to open a restaurant someday. Now the dream is reality and Verdant Tea Tasting Room is Verdant Lounge.
The chef wants to emphasize that Verdant Lounge won't be strictly Argentinian (though over half the menu will be). The kitchen takes inspiration from all over the world, including Spain, the Arab world, Italy, and Asia. Menendez says Argentina takes much of its culinary imagination from Italy and Spain, so you'll of course find lots of pasta and meat.
"We are meat lovers. We have a BBQ steak sandwich called lomito which is really, really good. We have empanadas with onions wrapped in a dough, we have BBQ and we have our chimichurri sauce."
We've also spied humita, a creamy corn porridge with sweet peppers, onions, and cheese, and Matambre steak rolls -- rolls of beef stuffed with spinach, ham, peppers, and a bunch of other tasty stuff.
But lovers of the former Verdant Cafe shouldn't fear, he says. There will still be lighter Asian fare as well as all the tea and kombucha provided by Duckler.
And the feel has changed too. It's now a tablecloth spot with candles, live music on Saturdays, and an emphasis on dinner.
"More romantic," Menendez says in a rich Spanish accent that makes me believe him.
Stop in for live Spanish guitar on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
"We just want people to come in and forget about the rest of the world for a while."
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