21 December 2006

Erte, in the Northeast Minneapolis arts district

A holiday tradition in Minneapolis is the Ballet of the Dolls dance troupe production of A Nutcracker (not so) Suite. After a three-year hiatus, the troupe did a new production for the 2006 season. For most of the readers of this blog, it will be too late to catch this year’s production. But for someone like me, who doesn’t care much for classic ballet, this is a fun, creative, and humorous production.

Earlier in 2006, Ballet of the Dolls moved into the newly renovated Ritz Theater in the emerging Northeast Arts District. It’s located just north of Broadway on University Ave. NE. It’s exciting to visit the area. There are many new galleries, pottery studios, antique shops. There also are creative new restaurants opening side-by-side with the old neighborhood bars.

We decided to try Erte Restaurant for dinner before the show. I was very impressed. The service was very prompt. When we sat down, the server filled our water glasses and delivered a plate of bread and butter and assorted olives.

We started with black bean cake nachos. It was a big platter of red, blue, and yellow corn chips. They were covered with lots of cheese (a couple different varieties), sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. There were four black bean cakes on top of the nachos. They were very tasty and a little spicy.

Entrées come with a small salad. It’s a nice touch that you don't see too often anymore. Too often, the salad is extra, and too often it’s too large, especially if you’re having another starter like the nachos.

I had the forest mushroom risotto. It was terrific. It had small cubes of squash cooked in and lots of wild mushrooms. It was finished with blue cheese which provided a great accent to the mushrooms and squash.

Another great entrée was the duck breast. You’re served two nice duck breasts, lean and cooked to medium rare with a cherry glaze. There’s a little of the skin and fat on top which adds nice flavor, but can be easily removed if you don’t want the fat. It was served on a sweet potato mash.

One of our group had Erte’s ‘Applause’ Salad. The waiter recommended it as “an item you’ll want to come back for.” It included crisp apple slices, shredded carrots, goat cheese curry crusted croutons, nuts, on top a bed of spring mixed greens dressed with chutney vinaigrette. The waiter’s boast was right on.

The only dish that was disappointing was the pork chops. Perhaps it was intended as a no-carb meal, but all you’re served are two nicely cooked t-bone chops on a plate.

We ordered a bottle of Malbec wine from Argentina. When it was served, it had a bite to the taste. But it mellowed nicely. We weren’t sure if it was because it had a chance to breath or if it just tasted better served with the food.

As I said at the beginning, there are other interesting new restaurants in the area. But I would recommend Erte and definitely will be making a return visit someday.

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