Twin Cities Restaurants: Two Hits and a Miss

My husband G. Grod and I recently passed our eighth wedding anniversary. We celebrated by getting a babysitter and making a dinner reservation at a Twin Cities restaurant friends have praised, but that we had not yet tried. The chef is a veteran of many local and national big-name places, and started his own place not long ago. The menu was strong, and we were excited about the food. We shared a foie gras appetizer and french fries. Both were quite good. Then I got the fish special and G. Grod got a steak. The server stopped by immediately, and we said things were good. But soon after, I found that the fish was overwhelmed by the winter vegetable preparation that accompanied it. G. Grod’s steak was overdone. We gave the server this feedback when he did finally return, but by then we had finished the entrees. We ordered desserts, and had a very good berry tart and a spiced chocolate cake. But our impression of the restaurant was of infrequent service, and expensive though only OK entrees. Our experience didn’t leave us eager to return.

I wondered at the time whether the problems were due in part to dining on a Friday–did an increase in the number of diners mean diminishing quality? My next two restaurant experiences didn’t disprove this theory. I ate out with friends at 112 Eatery on a Wednesday. The service was attentive and friendly, and the food was quite good: french fries with aioli, romaine salad with roquefort, the lamb sugo pasta, and the pot de creme dessert, which was great when mixed and matched with the banana cream dessert that a friend got. The burger received raves. I must remember that the pot de creme easily feeds two.

I did another night out on Thursday at Gardens of Salonica. I’ve been to Gardens a lot over the years we’ve lived here, but I went with a friend who was very familiar with the menu, so I tried some things I hadn’t before. I had the Greek salad, which was lightly dressed and bright with lemon. We shared a sampler platter of feta dip, potato/garlic dip, and artichokes on pita. I got greek fries and leek lemon boughatsa–a phyllo packet, and shared some of a friend’s stuffed cabbage leaves. Finally, I tried the galaktoboureko, a layered custard with phyllo in an apricot honey sauce. Service was helpful, attentive, water glasses were refilled, and the food was well prepared and delivered quickly.

I may be comparing apples and oranges. The latter two restaurants are small, and more neighborhood places than destination joints like the first. But of the three experiences, I’d prefer to frequent a small place that does its thing well, than a large place that costs more, and is more ambitious, but less of a sure thing with quality and consistency.

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