16 December 2008

Birthday dinner at Porter & Frye in Minneapolis

Back in May, I did a post about a lunch I had at Porter & Frye at the Ivy Hotel in Minneapolis. My comment in the post was that I couldn’t wait to come back and try it for dinner in the lower level dining room.

So I picked Porter & Frye for my birthday dinner. Guess what? When my wife and I arrived for our reservation on a Tuesday night (my birthday), we were informed that the lower dining room was not open that evening. So we ended up eating in the bar, like we did for the lunch on my previous experience.

We settled in to our table and began to peruse the wine list. Porter & Frye has an interesting concept for its wine list. They have a variety of wines listed at several price points. You can choose a 3 ounce sample, a 6 ounce serving, or a bottle. So, for example, they have nine wines listed at $38 per bottle. But if you prefer, you could get a 3 ounce serving for $6 or a 6 ounce serving for $10 of the same wines. They also have a second list of reserve wines.

After discussing it, we decided to order a bottle of Qupe Syrah from California for $38. A few minutes later, our server informed us that they were out of that particular wine. Okay. So we were disappointed, but the cocktail list also was interesting, so we decided to order drinks instead.

While we were waiting for our cocktails, the hostess came over with two glasses of Champaign. She recognized that we were disappointed that the downstairs dining room was closed and that the wine we had ordered was not available. So as a gesture, she gave us a complimentary glass of Champaign. Nice touch.

We started our meals with a scallop appetizer. It consisted of two nice sea scallops, seared and wrapped in lamb bacon. It was an excellent starter and a wonderful blend of flavors. Linda thought the scallops were too rare, but overall, the dish was very enjoyable.

The house salad also was very good. I thought it was like a cross between a Greek salad and a wedge salad. The wedge of iceberg lettuce was served with artichokes, cucumber, feta, and cherry tomatoes. It was dressed with red wine vinaigrette.

For her entrée, Linda ordered halibut. She said it was the best halibut she’s ever eaten. It was cooked through, to her liking. But it was moist and flaky, not at all dry. It was served with snap peas and wild mushrooms. As a garnish, the plate had some puffed wild rice; very unusual.

For my entrée, I ordered short ribs. The meat was moist, tender, and very flavorful. It was served on a white bean mash that was very good. On the side, as a condiment, they served a horseradish foam. It had a good, solid, horseradish kick, but the texture was all light and airy. It was very unique and very memorable.

We didn’t really want dessert, but it was my birthday, and the hostess knew it, so she offered us a complementary dessert. Of course, they didn’t have either my first choice (apple pie) or my second choice (carrot cake). So we got some creamy thing (pane cotta, I think, with berries). Check the photo. They served it with a lit candle.

So what’s my conclusion? I give Porter & Frye a solid ‘B.’ The food was inventive and very good. But the menu is not large, and if you’re not in the mood for something a bit unusual, you might have trouble finding something that you want. The service was attentive and accommodating. But it still was disappointing to eat in the bar rather than the downstairs dining room. I’ll go back someday. But Porter & Frye doesn’t make it into my top 10 Twin Cities restaurants.

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