13 February 2017

The Commodore, St. Paul, serves a nostalgic journey

My wife and I used to go to the Commodore when we were younger. That would have been in the mid-1970s. For us, the main attraction in those days was live music in a venue that recreated the feel of a classy jazz club. If I remember right, we used to hear the Wolverines Classic Jazz Orchestra play there. Sadly, the Commodore closed in 1978 after a gas explosion and fire.

Dining room at The Commodore, St. Paul
So when the Commodore reopened in late 2015, we were excited to give it a try. But, you know, life happens. So it took us more than a year to finally make our way to St. Paul. We went on a Saturday evening in February with 4 other friends. I'm happy to report that it appears to be successful. It was hard to get a reservation, and the tables were full of enthusiastic diners when we were there.

Any review of this renovated and reinvigorated establishment has to begin with the decor. It's amazing. There are 3 different lounge areas, each with its own bar. Consequently, each lounge is cozy enough to feel intimate. It's easy to contemplate relaxing in any of the lounges, sipping a cocktail, while waiting for your table in the elegant dining room.

Cocktails at the Commodore, by the way, are excellent. They can serve up a classic drink just fine. But the menu features several creative and inviting concoctions. My drink was called Stormy Weather. It was scotch-based with sweet vermouth, a touch of amaro to add a little bite, and something called 'root liqueur.' I was afraid that 'root liqueur' was a code name for root beer, and it did have a root beer essence. But the overall drink was well-balanced and satisfying. It was served in a beautiful coupe glass that had been rinsed with absinthe to give the drink some floral tones.

My wife had a cocktail called 'Dorothy Parker.' She saw it listed on the menu online. But when she perused the menu, it wasn't there. She asked the server who said of course the bartender could make it for her. Apparently the cocktail menu changes regularly, so if you have a favorite that's not on the menu, just ask. My wife's drink, by the way, was served in an elegant martini glass.
Selection of appetizers with cocktails

With the drinks, we ordered several selections from the appetizer section of the menu. We had Parmesan fried risotto, polenta & green tomatoes, and bacon-wrapped dates. All were very creative, attractively presented, and delicious.

Most of us at the table had a salad. Thoughtfully, the Commodore offers a choice of a half serving which is very nice, especially if you've started with some appetizers. I had a wedge salad, which was served with shredded carrots and turnips, thinly sliced radishes, and sesame seeds. It was good, but not particularly memorable. I felt the best salad at our table was the butter lettuce salad, which was excellent.

Everybody at our table was very pleased with their entrees. I had the evening special of braised beef on potato puree. It was excellent.

We all agreed that the Commodore is a great addition to the Twin Cities food scene, and well worth coming to St. Paul to enjoy. The only thing missing - they need to bring back live music. According to some of the news reports when it opened, that is part of the plan. And our table was right next to a stage that would have accommodated a trio or quartet. But so far, the stage is empty. I'm hopeful that we'll see live music there again soon.

Butter lettuce salad tasted as good as it looks

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