14 February 2010

Valentines Dinner at Meritage, St. Paul

I've awarded my first 5-star designation on Yelp. Meritage is, without a doubt, 'as good as it gets.' It clearly deserves to remain one of my top two special occasion restaurants, even if it is in St. Paul.

You can read my review of the food on my Yelp post. But this restaurant is more than just good food. It has a very attractive decor. And the people are really nice. At least the staff who we encountered seemed to be very enthusiastic about the food and sincerely wanted us to have an enjoyable evening. We had some trouble selecting a wine. Our server was very helpful, but we still couldn't decide. The manager on duty noticed our dilemma and offered to help. My wife described the kind of wine she wanted. He brought her a taste of a zinfandel and it was just what she wanted.

The only thing was it was a California wine, not French. So I think the main lesson is, you should drink the wine you like and don't worry about where it came from. And of course, I do like California wine. It's just that being in a French bistro, I kind of wanted a French wine.

Which leads me to another thing I like about Meritage. It's sort of a cultural experience. If you read the Yelp review, I mentioned all of the menu terms from our meal. I had to look most of them up.

Rillette is a method of preparing meat, cubed and cooked slowly in fat, then blended together with oil to form a paste.

Pain perdu is French toast. In my review, I commented that the pain perdu that we had as a starter at Meritage didn't really resemble any French toast I'd ever had. But that's what it's supposed to be.

The braised short rib that I had for my entree was called a daube. I had to look that up to learn that it means 'stew.'

But it's also a cross-cultural experience. The chef includes several Jewish and Eastern European inspirations. These include a matzoh ball soup, a dessert of Nutella on matzoh crackers, and a stuffed cabbage called 'holischkes,' a term I've never heard of before.

At the end of the evening, the chef/owner, Russell Klein walked through. He stopped and chatted with us. He said he remembered us from our previous visit. I don't know how he could, but maybe.

This restaurant definitely deserves to be on your 'must-try-it' list.