The North Loop continues on its sure and steady march toward becoming a Nordic-style Brooklyn. The discerning consumer must continue to stop and ask herself: “What do I think of all of this?”
Early previews of the Hewing Hotel and Tullibee had us a little dubious. We feared overly precious touches of rooftop saunas, bone broths, and baskets of farm fresh eggs. Pinterest meets hipster with a Minnesota Nice touch.
But after a night at the hotel and a glimpse into the cooking, our first impression is that it really is nice. Very nice.
Hospitality here ventures into “above and beyond” territory. Aside from the falling-over-itself desire to please, the Hewing is a boutique hotel that manages to straddle the line of modernity and approachability.
The front lobby and bar area are appointed with myriad little conversation alcoves designed for hanging, chatting, sipping, reading, or just zoning out with a cocktail. It’s warm and welcoming, without the ice-cold design elements that certain luxury hotels use to impress or intimidate. This is a place you’re going to stay overnight in, after all. It might as well comfort, and the Hewing does.
Room fixtures offer nods to our fair state, including wallpaper covered in fish hooks, snowflakes, acorns, deer (or is that venison?) More Minnesota touches emerge the longer you stare.
Flooring mimics the “hewed” woodworking technique from which the hotel takes its namesake, and high-end glassware and local linens company Faribault throws make the place a cut above others in its class.
Here’s another detail we loved: a mini-bar that’s actually affordable, offering local snacks and drinks like Thumbs cookies or Tattersall bottles. These allow a busy traveler to grab a couple items for an easy souvenir (or an airplane nibble) minus the sticker shock heart attack. It’s a small but important thing. A mini bar you’re actually likely to use is just another thing that makes the Hewing feel different.
The restaurant, Tullibee, is the most ambitious hotel restaurant in the Twin Cities to date, with the possible exception of Monello, the modern Italian kitchen in the Ivy Hotel. A new-to-Minneapolis chef, Grae Nonas (but not new to cooking-- he’s got an illustrious New York and Los Angeles resume) will predictably be the next big culinarian to obsess over.
The Aparium Hotel Group is the umbrella company that owns the Hewing. When Aparium decided to infuse the Hewing with a Nordic face and menu, they were taking a chance. Obviously, Minnesota is about more than fish hooks and lutesfisk.
But at least based on a first look, Tullibee’s approach is subtle enough to be taken seriously, and delicious enough to overlook any potential missteps with the genre. The “woods & lakes” menu edges around the Scandinavian repertoire and employs the darling techniques and buzzwords of today: foraging, butchery, and fermentation.
The ubiquitous charcuterie board is here (called “Koltboard”) with pickled fish, sausages, cured meats, and little piles of pickles, mustards, and chutneys. It practically screams: “You’re in Minnesota now!” We’ve acquiesced to the trend and Tullibee’s kotltboard is too good to quibble with, especially on a chilly night with a boozy drink alongside.
A breast of Wild Acres duck and an entree of young chicken were both pitch-perfect studies in how to prepare those classic dishes. But side dishes and veggies are where the kitchen really wowed us. An “egg yolk fudge rice” accompanying the chicken was a weird, wonderful Everlasting Gobstopper of sweet, salt, tang, and umami. Each grain seemingly morphed into something new. We've never had anything quite like it.
The drably named “celeriac” was in reality an airy cheese-dream of a bowl, in which the best-tasting cheese sauce you’ve ever had provides a base for shaved and charred celeriac, the whole of it practically dissipating under the fork with its levity. Very cool stuff. A tangle of “curly roots,” essentially Zoodled root vegetables, escaped the mundane with its mushroom and curry dressing.
The modernist touches and expert execution are what will have us looking in again and again to see what else Tullibee is capable of.
Cocktails are by the Bittercube team and wines were selected by local wine expert Ann Owen, formerly of La Belle Vie and Tilia.
All of which is to say, the Hewing and Tullibee haven’t missed a beat. And if they have, they’ll likely fix it, tout de suite.
Opens Thursday, November 17.
300 Washington Ave., N. Minneapolis
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