Parka as the über-Minnesota restaurant
(page 2 of 2)
To create his entrée list, Harcey tweaked recipes for his mom’s meatloaf and grandma’s goulash—which didn’t call for beef cheeks, freeze-dried corn, or cheddar-cheese mousse. Mom’s beef/pork loaf is rich with ricotta cheese, sliced for sandwiches, served with fries, and topped with the last thing you’d find in Grandma’s pantry: powdered duck fat. We devoured the skin-on potatoes so fast that the fluffy white stuff floated all over the table then stuck to our clothes. Judging from the telltale puffs scattered across the floor, others were just as eager.
Harcey has a knack for deconstructing classic dishes to enhance their best aspects and pare away the rest. The fish fry is encased in an ultra-light, tempura-like wrapper and cleverly paired with pineapple and roasted cucumber, two garnishes you’d never see at an old-school supper club. The pot roast is braised for 24 hours, separated from fat and sinew, and reformed into neat cubes that would look more at home in a modern-art museum than a Crock-Pot. In Harcey’s hands, the pork chop meets a similar fate. The meat is pulled off the bone, turned into sausage, then returned to its commonly recognized shape. The hand-formed “chops” are wrapped in caul fat and cooked sous vide before being seared in butter: triple protection against drying out. Only the too-tough spare ribs, rubbed with root-beer spices, didn’t win me over. An interesting idea—a riff on cola-braised meat—but the spices seemed as odd as the cloying, kugel-like vermicelli pudding served on the side.
Sweetness plays better in Parka’s homey desserts, including deconstructed banana-cream pie and a more easily sharable plate of cookies and bars. The assortment comes with a flight of local milk, as if to remind adults that it’s as legitimate a beverage for them as their offspring.
Broadly, Parka taps into the current culinary zeitgeist: food as intellectual stimulation and conversation starter. As diners seek more adventurous, unexpected culinary experiences, restaurants provide on-plate entertainment that diners previously sought from the big screen and the stage. Dinner-and-dinner is the new dinner-and-a-show.
Parka diners seeking even more diversion can supplement their meal with a little shopping at the adjacent Forage Modern Workshop show room. The hip home store not only shares a space with the restaurant, but also a handcrafted, Midwestern aesthetic. The collaborative restaurant/retail business model already seems to be working well. Perhaps too much so, at least in my experience, as I went in for lunch and left with a bedroom set.
THE PERFECT DISH
Harcey upgrades the classic apple cobbler by adding apple butter and dehydrated apple chips. Knowing that apple-pie lovers tend to fall into two camps—those who take theirs with ice cream and those who add a slice of sharp cheddar—Harcey combined the two with a scoop of house-made cheddar ice cream. It’s comfort food taken out of its comfort zone.
Dogwood coffee, Rustica bakery, and Victory 44 combine forces to create a Grandmas-Gone-Wild café.
Ideal Meal: Share the broccoli salad, ham-and-pickle tots, and pot roast, plus a bowl of the rice pudding
or apple cobbler.
Tip: Harcey also helped design a terrific new food menu for Rustica.
Hours: The kitchen is open Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Coffee and baked goods available
7 a.m. (8 a.m. Sat.–Sun.) to 10 p.m.
Prices: Starters $8–$10; entrées $11–$14
4021 E. Lake St., Mpls.