08 March 2015

Warming up to Coup d’Etat, Mpls.

Serious reviewers generally dine at a restaurant multiple times before writing a review. Makes sense. You ought to try several items on the menu (for nothing else but to determine consistency from the kitchen). And a repeat visit gives you a chance to test whether the first time was just a bad night, or alternatively perhaps it was an uncharacteristically good night.

So this post is both a confession and testimony to the wisdom of making multiple visits: Most of the reviews I post on Krik’s Picks are based on just a single experience. But after my third time at Coup d’Etat in Minneapolis, I’ve changed my mind about my initial first impression, which was not favorable.IMG_0333

There’s a lot to like about the restaurant, starting with the space and ambiance. It’s a big open room with high ceilings. Tables on the second level have a great view of the bars (there are multiple) and action on the lower level. It does tend to be quite loud, but that just adds to the energy and vibrancy of the restaurant. My wife and I have eaten both upstairs and down. Both were fun experiences, but after last night’s dinner, I’d say we somewhat prefer to eat upstairs.

The second thing that’s notable is the restaurant’s lineage. It’s part of a group called Jester Concepts. The group includes Borough and Parlour in the North Loop. We love both of those restaurants and have especially enjoyed getting a light dinner at Parlour before heading across the street to Bunkers for an evening of rowdy music and dancing. The similarities are especially evident in the beverage department. We loved the creative cocktails at Borough and Parlour, and the libations at Coup d’Etat are equally as appealing.

Last, but certainly not least, is the food. Our past experiences at Borough and Parlour have been impressive for the creative menu, fresh food, expertly prepared, and attractively presented. Coup d’Etat fits that mold very nicely.

Despite all that, our first visit to Coup d’Etat was not favorable; not a disaster, but definitely disappointing. On that first visit, we had a table on the second level, overlooking the hustle and bustle of the bar below and the throng of people coming and going. From my wife's chair, she could watch the bartenders concocting their creative elixirs. She also could see the food move to the counter where it was picked up by the servers. After a while she commented, "I bet that's my pizza that they just put up. Our food must be coming soon." She had ordered one of the nightly special pizzas. I had ordered lamb chops. Well, we waited and waited and waited. Finally my lamb chops came up and our server delivered the food. The pizza was cold ... not lukewarm. Cold. We sent it back. It was too late for them to do another pizza, so we just canceled her food and I shared my entrée with her.

The server and manager were profusely and sincerely apologetic. But once a restaurant goes into damage control mode, it’s difficult to recover a favorable image. When we left that night, we concluded that we’d rather just go to Borough or Parlour rather than return to Coup d’Etat. But, a few months later, we planned to have dinner with a couple of friends and jointly opted for Coup d’Etat. That was a much better experience. No complaints whatsoever.

Then, this past weekend, as the early vestiges of spring began to appear in Minnesota, we decided to give it yet another try. And I must say, this was our best experience so far. Once again we had a table on the second level. We picked out some interesting drinks to start the evening, then turned to the menu. On our previous visits, we’d observed that the serving sizes are ample, especially for light eaters like us. So we picked a starter to share, one entrée and one side dish again to share.

Our starter was agnolotti – a stuffed pasta like ravioli. This version was stuffed with a sweet potato filling, and the plate included macadamia nuts, bacon and kale. It could have been a small entrée for one person, but very satisfying to share for two. The side plate we ordered with our entrée was cauliflower. This was a delicious and ample plate of cauliflower florets seasoned with Moroccan spice and served with pickled sultanas and preserved lemon. I had to look up the sultanas. We thought they were white raisins but the flavors were unusual, which the pickling would explain.

The entrée was a rib eye steak. When it was served, we thought the kitchen had divided it in half because we were sharing it. But when we saw another order served at the next table, we observed that it also was split in two. That reinforced our feeling that the size of the entrées will easily feed two people. The server said the steaks would be served medium rare. We thought they were a little rarer than that, but acceptable to us. On the plate was two potato-stuffed raviolis. The whole dish was beautifully presented and delicious.

Our server was very friendly and helpful with his advice and recommendations. He tempted us with dessert, but we ultimately opted not to.

So on the basis of this third visit, I’m changing my mind, or perhaps more accurately, I’m refining my view about Coup d’Etat. I would definitely return and recommend it. And I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of another sister restaurant scheduled for later this year. It will be an Italian restaurant located in the Hotel Ivy. I’m hoping it will live up to the great Italian restaurants I’ve experienced in Washington, DC, and find missing in Minnesota.

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