Okay, I know this is a lot to cover in an abnormally short blog post but just bear with me. I'm still out and about checking out new places, but I'm also working hard at home on two really big projects. Nay, three really big projects. And I'm doing them for you. So you'll just have to be patient for now while I toil away and soon I'll be able to shift more attention back to this blog and its purpose. (Also, I'm at the mundane data research part of my business plan, so if anyone enjoys gathering crap like census data, let me know.)
First up: Sea Change, the new restaurant at the Guthrie. I was expecting scant vegetarian options at a restaurant heavily focused on seafood, and I got exactly what I was expecting. There's actually only one vegetarian item on the Sea Change dinner menu: the cold beet salad. I can barely type the word "beet" without making a Mr. Yuck face, so I requested that the kitchen prepare a vegetarian entree and that our server make haste with the bread basket. (I was starving and my dinner companion, Inari, decided to take a 4-course tour of the menu.)
Have you ever had a poached, panko-breaded and fried egg? It's a very interesting array of textures, especially when you pierce the yolk and it starts oozing out all over the place. I got two such eggs, which I don't believe were from a chicken -- my apologies for hazy details; Inari and I went to Sea Change about three weeks ago -- nestled around a plate of sauteed, steamed and fried vegetables and smears of vegetarian emulsions.
I didn't love it. Don't get me wrong, for a plate of vegetables, the entree had so many fresh and complementary flavors that I was chasing the last green pea around the plate with my fork. But I, like many vegetarians, do not like uncooked egg yolk. I was served something similar at Nick and Eddie once (pre-Steven Brown) and politely ate around everything the raw egg yolk touched. I'm sorry, but it skeeves me out. Another area of improvement for my entree would've been a touch more seasoning, as in herbs. The focus at Sea Change is fresh, sustainable and local; this certainly applied to my vegetables, unadulterated as they were, but the dish was missing more savory flavors (which the eggs were not providing, either).
I'd like to go back to Sea Change on a night when Executive Chef (and 2009 James Beard Award winner, lest we forget) Tim McKee is in the kitchen. He wasn't there when Inari and I were, and I suspect I'd get a more flavorful, inventive, La Belle Vie-caliber meal if he's in the house. Inari was ooh-ing and ahh-ing with every bite, using words like "perfect," "amazing," and "never had better," and I was insanely jealous.
LUSH Food Bar in Northeast Minneapolis is a little hard to find in the dark, despite being in a giant square building right on the northeast corner of Central and Spring. LUSH's interior matches its unassuming exterior, with concrete floors, art-less cinder block walls and stark blue lighting. For an establishment that claims to put food before liquor -- either by choice or by Northeast's weird zoning laws which put BOOM/Goodfellows out of business and are allegedly pushing Tickles to relocate downtown because their liquor sales consistently surpass food sales but it's just a rumor I heard so don't quote me -- the setting is kind of cold and uninviting. I can see LUSH being a successful bar and nightclub, but nothing about the atmosphere says "cozy" and nothing about the menu says "food-driven," so I haven't eaten there yet. However, LUSH is a fine place to grab a drink and socialize, which I highly recommend that you do. They have great happy hour specials and a $20 Bottomless Champagne Brunch on the weekends, which might be a great opportunity to check out what the kitchen can do. Also, my friend Erik bartends at LUSH now so go see him.
Kings Wine Bar will officially be open for business tomorrow, August 15th. Leif was invited down for the test-run night this past Tuesday by one of the co-owners, and he was nice enough to take me along with him. Kings sits at the cozy corner of 46th and Grand, directly across the street from Chef Hector Ruiz's Cafe Ena, which makes it an instant neighborhood destination. The room is soft and inviting while still playing at plenty of bold colors like gold and red. My only quibbles with the interior decorating are that A) the chair backs are just a smidge too short (or maybe I'm just too tall), and 2) when you're washing your hands/checking your hair situation in the mirror after finishing up in the bathroom, one-quarter of the restaurant is directly behind you. Watching you. Some kind of door or draped curtain or something might make customers feel more comfortable during a normally more private moment.
I also invited my friend Cristina along, so the three of us ordered a handful of plates. Leif raved about the chicken and cheese ravioli, which of course I didn't try. None of us could resist the goat cheese fritter, served on top of balsamic-dressed greens. It was a giant nugget of tangy, creamy chèvre surrounded by a thick, crunchy breading and topped with a spicy shallot and crushed red pepper relish. That sucker is sized for sharing, so make sure you bring a friend or two to help you out. Having the mild hangover that I did, I went for the comforting baked shells and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs and a tiny drizzle of truffle oil. We also tried Kings' take on gazpacho, a dark red concoction bursting with leafy green flavor, but absent of that bready, olive oil essence found in the traditional Spanish soup. None of us could identify a particularly mysterious flavor, but we ended up getting too deeply involved in our conversation to remember to ask. Next time.
Kings is a relaxed, bistro-style restaurant with good food, wine, beer, coffee and a nice patio. They will be open from 8:00am until midnight, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar plates, 7 days a week.