When we were in Minneapolis last month for family festivities, we planned one dinner out by ourselves. I made reservations at Restaurant Alma in the Northeast section of town, which was walking distance to our hotel. The plain brick building did not look very promising from the outside, but the interior was lovely with high ceilings and brick walls that had an intimate and contemporary feel. The menu offers three course tasting menus, where you select any three dishes for $45 per person, although everything is available ala carte.
Alex Roberts, chef/owner was busy in the open kitchen, but came out and exchanged greetings with people he knew. After four consecutive nominations, in 2010 he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef/Midwest. The cuisine served at Restaurant Alma is hand crafted with fresh, seasonal, organic and local ingredients. The chef was quoted here as saying, Food is my luxury. I don’t have a boat or a cabin, which says quite a lot, this being the land of ten thousand lakes after all…
The menu features seasonally inspired versions of simple dishes and changes every 6-8 weeks. The restaurant is named Alma after the Spanish phrase alma del tierra or soul of the earth, which I found out by reading the poetry displayed on the walls in the women’s loo.
The bread plate offered thick slices of wheat bread and focaccia that were fragrant and warm, tasting as if they were fresh out of the oven. I found the wheat to be impossible to resist, especially spread with butter.
We shared everything and began with the Marinated Chickpeas & Squid, farro, rosemary soffrito, chili pepper ($10). It was fresh and brightly flavored although I was disappointed that the focus on the dish was on the chickpeas and that the squid was treated more like a garnish. More squid for me please!
The wines were served in such beautiful glass I had to take pictures. I ordered wines by the glass from California… a glass of matchbook chardonnay
The Pasture Raised Bison Tartar served on bibb lettuce ($11) was delicious. The meat was pristine in the manner of sashimi and infused with the subtle flavors of shallot oil, mint and ginger. The finely shredded carrot and radish provided a bright fresh crunch along with the crisp lettuce underneath. To me, this was finger food because it invited me to pick it up with my hands.
Mr. K enjoyed the Grilled Quail, fresh ricotta, roasted scallions, vin cotto ($13). He gave me a leg/thigh which made me feel like the 50-foot woman as it was about the size of my pinkie. It was succulent and meaty and I loved the crisped skin that was infused with savory sauce.
Bucatini Pasta, fennel & garlic sauce, bottarga, breadcrumbs ($13). The long noodles were springy and elastic and were served in a rich soupy sauce, topped with delicate fronds of fresh herbs. The grated bottarga (cured fish roe) and crunchy bread crumbs added a heady blend of flavors and textures.
The entrees were served on elegant white platters, and we split the Gently Cooked Trout, which was topped with king crab sauce, and served with sauteed green tomatoes, summer beans (27).
Up close, you can see the lovely strands of delicate crab flesh nestled under the green beans. I think this was the first time I’ve ever had fried green tomatoes and they were amazing in this dish.
Montoya Pinot Noir
Next was the Pan Roasted Sturgeon, warm potato salad, snap peas, smoked chorizo jus ($28). The skin on this was crisp and transluscent, all of the fat had been rendered out leaving just the most gorgeous crunch
Even though we were stuffed, I couldn’t resist the Dark Chocolate Pudding Cake, mostly because I wanted to try the surly ice cream, which turned out to be made from a local beer. It tasted creamy and effervescent piled over the rich chocolatey bread that was so good dragged through black currant coulee, and topped with pistachio (8).
They included chocolate treats along with the bill, something to sweeten the deal. I tucked these away in my purse and enjoyed them with coffee the next morning…
We were glad to walk back over the bridge, this is the Mississippi river btw, the evening weather was warm and balmy, so unlike the chilly summer we’re having in the Bay Area. While Mr. K liked our meal, he thought the fantastic dinner at 112 eatery we enjoyed last year was better. This was a bit more expensive, but I like to try new restaurants, so maybe next time we’re in town, we’ll check out Brasa, the moderately priced rotisserie also owned by chef Roberts.