It’s Day Four of the New Year, and I’m prepared to declare the Best New Restaurant of 2013 (or possibly the millennium) — which opened on Day Two.
Rash? Oh, no. If you’re an avid foodie, this is the long-awaited Second Coming. Borough — just follow the star to the Warehouse District — is manned by the trinity of chefs Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton, émigrés of Robbinsdale’s Travail, my second-fave in the metro, and bar baron Jesse Held (Town Talk, Marvel, Eat Street Social). “Other establishments may claim to have the best food in Minneapolis, or the best cocktails. We,” informed our server, “have both.”
He’s not lying. And their home base is swell — an upmarket combo of big-window dining room, stools bellying up to that Inner Sanctum of alcohol, and others facing the Holy of Holies itself, the kitchen’s altar boys. There’s also a cozy, below-street lounge. Designed in urban chic, they’re accented by zany, winning touches like mis-matched gilt-framed mirrors and dangling lightbulbs under cheese-grater shades.
But the menu! It concentrates on small plates ($6–$18) plus a quartet of full-bore entrees ($16-24). They’re created, a la Travail, in genius-in-a-chem-lab fashion, as time-consuming to prepare and plate as a medieval tapestry, yet at the same time — here’s the joy — presented in aw-shucks, just-enjoy fashion, making even the hesitant feel comfy.
The First Week Foragers were present in full finery, ordering lots of burgers. But, although they’re probably terrific, don’t waste your appetite. Instead, consider cauliflower.
Certainly, the chefs did, de-, then re-constructing it via a pool of satiny puree supporting seductively crisp-fried florets, addictive as popcorn, tossed with rings of red-hot chilies, briny caper berries on their slender stems, and — um — oysters. Get it? Sweet/savory, smooth/crunchy, firm/soft. And that’s just the beginning.
Brussels sprouts get VIP treatment, too, melding bitty globes with roasted leaves, playing their bite against the unabashed sweetness of candied walnuts, apple slivers, and cider — all reined in, yet intensified, by a foamy robiola cheese fondue.
Then foie gras, the prince of guilty pleasures, here presented in a meaty slab of pate — pure velvet to spread on tiny toasts livened with a punch of black pepper, and accompanied by pecans and yams —yams! — in pearl-sized globes of puree rather than tart fruit, the customary sidekick of the fatty liver. On the same plate — time to suspend disbelief — a teaspoon of salty ice cream(!) and slice of marshmallow(!!). My pal and I differed here. I could have skipped the wink to s’mores, and he’d just as soon ditch the ice cream. (But what does he know?) In this case, more is maybe too much….
Onward to sweetbreads, and not, let’s note, fried, as usual — if sweetbreads are ever ‘usual’; rather, poached and attended by honey, pine nuts, and pine itself — well, cedar. Rich, savory, earthy, elite. But why a cube of bread pudding on the plate? I’m still figuring that one out.
Finally, octopus — again, spared the fryer — partnered with butternut squash, salty soy, sharp daikon, musty cilantro, lively lime, and a toss of peanuts. Nice, but not memorable. (The menu also salutes bison tartar; a take on fish & chips; pork belly; and much, much more.)
Three clever desserts. We drifted toward the mousselike chocolate creation, smartened with chevre that played against sweet cherries. Then a hint of Cognac kicked in, along with the more-usual suspects: ice cream, hazelnut, espresso. Clearly the pastry chef lives on adrenaline. And those lovely cocktails! I sipped the most delicious Old Fashioned of my life.
OK if I move in?
730 Washington Ave. N., 354-3135