You Don't Have to Be a Star

When I first, first heard about the restaurant RockStar, it was couched in the most annoying way possible: You know, RockStar. Because chefs are the new rock stars. Oh really? I thought archly. And what do Mick Jagger and Madonna think about that? So I spent several months transfixed by the idea of various chefs in tight leather pants, diving off stacks of amplifiers into writhing mosh pits. Incoming Emeril! But by the time RockStar opened last month, the story had changed: "RockStar, because this is where guests will come to be treated like a RockStar," explained chef Steven Brown, onetime chef at the Loring and head of the kitchen at the Local when it had fine dining. Nice save, I thought, still pretty archly. But by the time I got a copy of the menu e-mailed to me, Brown was even further along the path of downgrading: "RockStar smockstar" he lamented, adding that for all the people that now know about the place it figures most prominently as the premier restaurant in town for successful hiding during adultery. Then I really felt bad: Dude, leave the eviscerating to the critics! Sheesh, way to take the fun out of it.

That said, I probably won't get to the place for a bit--giving them a chance to get on their feet--but the menu looks unusually ambitious, and seems to herald our most important restaurant opening since Vincent last fall. At lunch there are lots of interesting soups (turnip and leek with black truffle oil and grilled greens, $4.50) and salads, as well as a couple of sandwiches, like a grilled tuna melt with celery leaves ($5.50; hey, is that for me 'cause I asked for it in my last letters column? Aw, shucks). Dinner is particularly intriguing:

Most of it is small dishes exhibiting Spanish or Italian influence, like a mussel stew in tobacco-smoked paprika broth with sherry ($6.75) or grilled asparagus with fennel pollen and a duck egg ($7); to full-on entrées like alder-wood-smoked steak ($19) with Spanish onions and olives, and a crisp whole red snapper in a red wine sauce with charred leeks and golden raisins ($17.50). Amusingly, there's an option in the bar for a rock-star experience: $100 gets you a bottle of Belvedere vodka, a raft of mixers, and a cocktail shaker. Now all I need to make my life complete is a place to open across the street that'll serve that, but along with four bottles of Cristal for $1,000, called HipHopStar. I've got to get all the jokes out now, see, because the place looks to be no joking matter.

RockStar, in the Piper Jaffray Building at 222 S. Ninth St., between Second Avenue South and Third Avenue South, Minneapolis; 612.333.9911.

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