We always have a bit of a dilemma deciding where to have dinner for a special occasion. We’d kind of like to try something new. But we don’t want to be disappointed if a new restaurant doesn’t live up to the reviews. We could go to any of several favorite standby restaurants. But, like I said, we’d kind of like something new.
As we contemplated where to have a Valentine’s Day dinner this year, Harriet Brasserie solved that dilemma for us. It’s a favorite, reliable standby. But for Valentine’s Day 2015, they dispensed with their regular menu and instead provided a special fixed price menu. We liked the look of the menu (considerately posted on the restaurant’s web site a couple weeks in advance). So we got both – something new at a reliable standby.
It was a fun evening. Harriet Brasserie is located in an old firehouse, in the Linden Hills neighborhood where we bought our first house 38 years ago. Our children used to play on the fire trucks if the firehouse doors were open when we walked by. Since then, it’s been a couple of different restaurants. But Harriet Brasserie is by far the best.
The interior décor is casual and rustic. The service is friendly and attentive, and it was especially so on Valentine’s Day. For example, we opted to get a bottle of wine rather than the wine pairings that were offered with the menu. We were wavering between two choices. The server offered to give us a taste of each. Nice, but not unique. We tasted the wines and my wife was particularly excited about one in particular. Trouble was, we got mixed up which was which. No problem, our server said. He just brought us two more tastes. By the way, the wine we picked was a Tannat from Cambiata Winery in California. It was a nice wine to sip in between courses and it went particularly well with the braised beef that was the main course.
The only thing on the menu that my wife was not excited about was the oyster starter. So I ate hers. I like oysters, but I’m not an aficionado by any means. The kumamoto oysters that we were served were very small and not particularly briny. It was accompanied by an herby sauce that reminded me of pesto (not the caviar accompaniment noted on the menu).
The salad of sunflower sprigs was quite unusual and very tasty. The dressing was a little spicy, probably from the wasabi. On the plate was a small piece of rare fish – opa (opah?) There was a schmear of sunflower butter on the plate that we ate with the fish. We also liked the soup but it was garnished with sprigs of ‘micro cilantro’ which my wife did not like, since she’s sensitive to cilantro.
The main course was excellent. I loved the braised beef and the grilled prawn that was also served on the plate was very good as well. And the dessert was good as well (though I’m not much of a chocolate fan).
So overall, Harriet Brasserie is great for dinner any time. But for a special treat, watch for future chef dinners.