29 December 2014

KwikPick: Christmas Eve at Mill Valley Kitchen, St. Louis Park

We used to avoid going out on major holidays like Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. But we wanted to spend the evening with some friends, we weren’t interested in any of the new movies, and eating Chinese seemed like such a cliché. So we made a reservation at Mill Valley Kitchen. It was a very enjoyable meal.

Food: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Ambiance: 3/5

Value: 3/5

The only other time I’d eaten at Mill Valley Kitchen (MVK), it was a group celebration dinner with some friends. I remembered it as a pleasant meal, but hadn’t hurried back. My wife has had lunch there a few times. But I have eaten a couple times at its sister restaurant downtown – Marin. I wrote a review of that a year ago. The two restaurants are very similar, though I think I like Marin better.

Like Marin, MVK prides itself on top quality, very fresh food that’s prepared very simply and healthfully. The food we ate on Christmas Eve certainly lived up to the restaurant’s goal. My wife and I split a kale salad to start. The menu specifies that it’s ‘baby’ kale, but we didn’t really expect the small tender leaves that we were served. It was good, but we were expecting more robust crunchy leaves of kale. My wife had scallops which is a favorite of hers. The tomato-fennel sauce was spicier than she expected, but she still enjoyed it. I had duck breast with black lentils. I thought it was excellent.

Our actual server was pretty good; I probably should give her a 4. But we did have an issue with being seated. At first they directed us to a table in the bar, but that was not the ambiance we wanted for our dinner. There were open tables in the dining room, but the first one they took us to was near the door leading out to the patio, and while it was not a frigid night, it was still Minnesota winter, and it was a bit drafty by the door. So we asked to be moved again, and this time the table was just fine.

In terms of value, we had a nice meal, we each had a glass of wine, and the total with tip still came out below $100. That’s not bad, but it’s also not inexpensive. I gave a nice tip because the server was working on a holiday. (At least I thought it was nice.)

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a self-consciously health-oriented restaurant, and you don’t want to hassle with downtown parking (to go to Marin), I’m sure you’d enjoy Mill Valley Kitchen. I still would probably prefer Marin.

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