DeRushaEats: Chef Ben Jacoby's Craftsman
It's been two years since legendary meat master Mike Phillips left The Craftsman on Lake Street in Minneapolis.
It's been two years since I've been there.
How is new chef Ben Jacoby doing? Based on my recent visit, he's doing pretty darn well.
They're OK. I liked the Diablarita, a slightly spicy margarita with this thai chili syrup that was really great. It reminded me that margaritas can taste good.
The Dark & Stormy wasn't quite dark enough, and the beet cosmopolitan was tough to stomach. It used house-infused beet vodka that tasted way more beet-forward than I anticipated. It almost tasted like beet juice.
Mike Phillips made this plate famous. It's still fantastic. The plate was beautiful, the textures and flavors varied and delicious. Mostly pork—some sausage, a terrine and rillette, even some duck on the plate. Charcuterie has become a cliched item on so many menus, but Jacoby's plate is clearly made with love. It's perfect ($15).
After the meat fest, I ordered a vegetarian dinner: the polenta with winter veggies (right). That was a mistake. There was nothing wrong with the dish, but nothing particularly right with it either. The polenta was fine, the veggies were both underseasoned and underportioned.
By contrast, my wife ordered the fish special and it was spectacular. Perfectly cooked steelhead with a wonderful medley of gorgeous vegetables and a really nice root vegetable couscous. The piece of fish was enormous—a serving for two, really.
Our friend had the grilled grass-fed hanger steak with fries, and that was simply done, but the kitchen nailed it. The steak was juicy, nicely seared, and pink on the inside. The star of this dish is the rich, grass-fed meat—and the chef wisely didn't interfere.
The Craftsman is worth a visit just for the charcuterie plate, and that's saying something considering the high level of char we have going on in this town. I've always liked the arts & crafts style of the room, the friendly hospitality, and the inviting vibe of the guests at The Craftsman. Ben Jacoby started washing dishes at this restaurant. His work ethic has gotten him far. I'm excited to see him push his potential even farther.
The Craftsman Restaurant
4300 E. Lake Street, Mpls.