30 December 2009

Dinner at D'Amico's Kitchen, Minneapolis

I really wanted to love this restaurant. I wanted to say that it was a replacement on my Top 2 list of favorite special occasion restaurants in Minneapolis. After all, it's located in the same space as one of my old Top 2 - the Chambers Kitchen. And I had a wonderful lunch there with my brother. But the sad fact is that when my wife and I went there in early December for a belated birthday celebration, it just didn't live up to expectations. I've thought about this a lot. It's not that it was disappointing. It's just that it wasn't as good as I wanted or expected.

The space is lovely. I already said that in my previous post. For our dinner reservation, the service was perfunctory. No specific complaints. But compared to the service my brother and I had at lunch, just not on the same level.

So let's get down to it - the food. I guess the only way to put it is, the food is inconsistent. And if I think about it, I should have caught a hint of that from the lunch with my brother.

For starters, I had a zucchini carpaccio. It was a wonderful, flavorful combination of paper-thin slices of zucchini squash dressed with a wonderful, light vinaigrette flavored with mint, pine nuts, and French feta. My wife's starter was equally as engaging, but quite different in style. She ordered the saffron risotto balls. These were golf-ball sized bundles of saffron risotto, breaded and fried, and stuffed with braised veal. I would have to say, these two items were the highlight of our meal.

For an entree, I ordered an evening special, veal Milanese. Except, the menu called it a veal chop. So what I expected was a nice piece of grilled veal like I get at some of the high end steak houses. Instead, what I got was a breaded veal chop that was fairly thin and frankly overcooked. I had thought about getting the braised beef shortribs. At $11 cheaper, I think that would have been a better choice.

My wife ordered sea scallops with Brussel sprouts and dates. It was very good. But it just didn't compare to the scallops that she had at Sea Change for her birthday dinner a couple of months earlier.

So what it all boils down to is this. I would go back to D'Amico's Kitchen. I'd gladly have another lunch there. I'd have a dinner there, but there'd have to be a particular reason why. Maybe this is the kind of restaurant that's better for lunch than dinner. (That's how I feel about the St. Paul Grill.) I think that some of the items are marvelously delightful - my zucchini carpaccio, the tuna crudo I had with my brother at lunch. Other items are good but kind of out of character, like the fried calamari that my brother had at lunch or the fried risotto balls my wife had at dinner. And the entrees range from sublime, like the oriechette I had at lunch or Linda's scallops. while other entrees are very ordinary like the veal Milanese or my brother's veal meatball sandwich.

In the end, I can't say that this is a new favorite special occasion restaurant. As I said in my review of Sea Change, this is an outstanding replacement for my old favorite of Cue at the Guthrie. But as unlikely as it may seem, my second favorite special occasion restaurant now would have to be Meritage in St. Paul.

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