25 February 2016

An amazing tasting menu at Victory 44 in Minneapolis

My wife and I treated our son and daughter-in-law to a joint birthday dinner in January. His birthday is in December, hers is in February. So January was a nice middle ground. They picked the locale - Victory 44 in Minneapolis. I've written about the restaurant before, once for a wine dinner they had about a year ago and once for lunch after I retired in 2013. Both times were with my son. So you can tell that it's one of his favorites.

The restaurant is in the Victory neighborhood of North Minneapolis, located on 44th Ave. N. (hence the name - Victory 44.) The dinner menu consists of a creative assortment of dishes. You might be tempted to call them small plates. They are quite reasonably priced. But in general, each serving probably is enough to share between 2 people. When you order, you can pick your own assortment of plates, each of which is individually priced.

But the real V44 experience is the tasting menu for two. And on Tuesdays, (the night we went) the date night tasting menu was $70 for two.

So here's how the tasting menu worked on the night we were there. There are basically 8 items on the menu. For purposes of the meal, they are paired into 4 sets. The diner gets to choose one from each pair ... plus a dessert. Since it's for two people, there's a little negotiating to decide which items to pick. Fortunately, my wife and I have pretty compatible tastes so we tended to lean toward the same choices anyway. Then, my son and daughter-in-law generally opted for the other choice. So at our date night dinner for four we were served almost every item on the menu, and we all could taste each item.

So just for the record, here's what we ate:

First course - Devils on Horseback and Ham & Pickle Tots. The version of Devils on Horseback served at V44 is a date with Gorgonzola cheese wrapped in bacon and roasted until the bacon is crisp. The Ham & Pickle Tots were a house-made variation of Tater Tots with ham mixed in and served with a dill pickle sauce.

Second course - Snow peas and smoked beets. Since my wife and I don't particularly like beets, we did try them. But because we didn't want the beets, our server generously substituted a plate of V44's famous Loaded Bacon Fries. They were amazingly good.

Third course - Cheddar Pierogies and Squash Farotto. The 'farotto' was prepared risotto style with farro substituting for arborio rice. I've read about that technique but never tried it. It was very good. The Cheddar Pirogies were the only disappointment of the meal. They weren't bad. But to me, they just weren't noteworth.

Fourth course (main entree) - Fried Chicken. The other option was Pork Sausage. That didn't really appeal to any of us. So we all got fried chicken. It was excellent.

As I mentioned early in the post, each serving is split between two people. But by now, we'd each tasted 7 items, and we were getting full. But there was still dessert to be served. One of each - Banana Pudding and German Chocolate Cake. We all took a taste. But most of the dessert got packed into take-home containers.

We did have a bottle of wine with the dinner. It was a petite sirah by Miro. It was very reasonably priced. I realized after we ordered that we have a bottle of the same wine on the shelf at home. Our server initially suggested a pinot noir as a good choice to pair with all of the items. But we don't particularly like pinot noir. The petite sirah was a very good choice.

Tuesday night date night was not busy. There were only a few other diners in the restaurant. That meant that our server was available to give us particularly attentive service. She was great - very helpful with her suggestions and very knowledgeable about the items being served.

V44 has adopted a no tipping policy. So when you consider that $70/couple also includes a tip, that makes the Tuesday date night tasting menu a remarkably good deal.

I only have one quibble with the restaurant. Even though the tasting menu is a good deal (on date night or not), it's still pricey enough so that we'd consider it to be a special occasion experience. My quibble is, when we go out to celebrate a special occasion, we're also looking for a nice ambiance. The ambiance at V44 is very casual and relaxed. That's not bad, and obviously the regular clientele like it that way. But for some people, for us, it might make them consider another restaurant for a touch more class.

Despite that quibble, I doubt that you could find a better tasting menu in the city. It offers plenty of variety. The food is remarkable for its quality, preparation, and creativity. And the value is fantastic. It's definitely worth a visit.