18 December 2012

Birthday dinner at Bar La Grassa, Minneapolis

When I wrote my first review of Bar La Grassa two years ago, I explained all the reasons why I liked it but couldn’t rave about it. At the end of the post, I promised a do-over. Well, it was a while coming, but here it is.

The first time we went to Bar La Grassa, we didn’t like our table. This time we got a better table. I also didn’t like the lack of descriptive language about the menu items; I’m over that now. And just like our first visit, the food was very good and creative.BarLaGrassa2

We started with a couple of bruschettas. One was peperonata with gorgonzola cheese. The other was eggplant caponata. Both were excellent. Because we are big fans of gorgonzola, I think we liked that one better. But we didn’t realize how large they would be. Each plate had two large thick slices of bread and the toppings were generously piled on. We could easily have gotten by with one order between the two of us.

Next we went for two half portions of pasta. One was a foie gras tortellini. It was very rich and delicate. The other pasta was agnolotti with mushrooms and taleggio.  Agnolotti is another kind of stuffed pasta. For this dish, they are stuffed with taleggio, a soft Italian cheese.

For dessert, I had a tart tatin – closest thing to apple pie on the menu. I also had an espresso.

Toward the end of dinner, I commented to my wife, “As good as this is, it doesn’t compare to some of the Italian restaurants I’ve eaten at in DC.” Many people say Bar La Grassa is the best Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. It may be, though actually my current favorite is Tosca in Linden Hills. But so many  times, after an Italian meal in DC, I can’t help lamenting – Why can’t we have an Italian restaurant like this in Minnesota?

As much as I enjoyed Bar La Grassa, here are four recent DC restaurants that I think are better – Bibiana, Acqua al 2, Potenza, and Fiola. Unfortunately, I discovered on my last trip to DC, Potenza is no longer in business.

I’ve struggled trying to articulate what makes those DC restaurants better than Bar La Grassa or Tosca. There isn’t a single factor. Part of it is ambiance. The DC restaurants I listed are mostly fairly formal and elegant. Bar La Grassa is kind of a hipster venue (a trait I noted in my original review) and a little pretentious. Tosca is a friendly neighborhood place, relaxing and casual, but not really elegant.

When it comes to the food, the DC restaurants don’t have anything over the Minneapolis Italian restaurants in terms of flavor and preparation. But I guess I’d describe the DC restaurants as having classic Italian menus. Bar La Grassa is innovative definitely not ‘classic.’ Tosca has classic preparations, but the menu is quite small.

I’m not sure if this description adequately defines the difference. But I have a solution. I’m going to bring Linda along to DC in January. (We’re going to attend Barak Obama’s Inauguration.) We will eat at one (or more) of the restaurants I listed. Maybe she can help me articulate the difference. Or, maybe she’ll totally disagree with me. I guess we’ll see. Stay tuned.

No comments: