Best New Restaurants of 2010
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Is the Great Recession over? A flood of new restaurant openings in 2010 are making restaurant hounds feel very bullish. Which are the best of the best? Here they are, in order. Of course, Twin Cities restaurant lovers have been waiting all year for two particularly important spots to debut, but as of October neither Stewart Woodman’s reborn restaurant Heidi’s nor Steven Brown’s new unnamed eatery have opened. How will they fit in with the top 10 of the year so far? Answering that question is what makes restaurant-hounding so much fun. And what a fun year it’s been.
Barbette isn’t technically a new restaurant. But of all the chef changes in Minnesota over the past few years, the one here is the most dramatic and noteworthy. Why? Because the uptown stalwart is now helmed by three-year French Laundry veteran Kevin Kathman. He’s a chef with a big commitment and interest in all things vegetarian—so if you’re a vegetarian, this is the big restaurant news of the year that you need to know about. Dinner is when Kathman really pulls out the stops, especially on Monday nights, when he offers a four-course meal for $32 or so.
One late-summer meal of Kathman’s started with a bowl of ivory-pale lobster broth in which a dozen edible flowers floated, their purple and yellow petals bobbing in cream seas. The profoundly creamy lobster soup was a good example of what’s great about Kathman’s cooking. It was intensely flavored, and yet, to the palate, read as, above all, easy—like the difference between a loose bouquet of wildflowers and a rigid hothouse construction. This graceful intensity was created by roasting lobsters and then making a traditional stock by deglazing the lobster pan with brandy and amplifying it with armfuls of tarragon and lots of cream and butter. Into this pale richness were floated many crunchy, slightly peppery flowers (they tasted like very thin, mild radishes), the whole thing combining in such a way that it seemed charming, romantic, and as amusing as a giggle—flower soup, how silly! Another light and playful must-order: whipped Brie with truffles. This recipe, which Kathman learned at French Laundry and has further developed on his own, involves taking the creamy centers from wheels of Brie and paddling air into them until the cheese is smoother than pudding, then adding wee bits of black Italian truffles until the resulting creation is earthy, sensuous, and truly nothing short of sexy. (It goes particularly well with champagne, and Barbette has one of the best sparkling-wine lists in Minnesota, for those of you looking to make a vegetarian swoon.)
Vegans, please know Kathman relishes your requests. “Vegetables are profound from beginning to end—the aromas, the incredible difference in the end product you get from different cooking techniques,” he says. “Sometimes people come in and request a vegan tasting menu, and I’m like, ‘Bring it on!’ We Iron Chef it out.” Some dishes that have evolved from that Iron Chef-ing: sweet-corn falafel; hand-rolled tagliatelle with Hen of the Woods mushrooms; roast-garlic-and-braised-parsnip risotto; and a variation on Kathman’s signature butternut-squash ravioli, made with tissue-thin, just-made pasta sheets, candied pecans, and sage crisped in butter. At first glance, Minnesota didn’t get any newsworthy vegetarian restaurants this year, but if you take a second look, you may see that it really did.
1600 W. Lake St., Mpls.
In a just and perfect world, the recently re-opened Forum would have the same prominence for Minneapolis tourists that the Empire State Building has for New York City tourists. Tour buses would pull up, and a guide would lead the group through the space, pointing out the important art-historical details that make Forum such a significant art-deco landmark: First opened in 1929! The mirrored walls with their scenes of north woods and mythical Viking grandeur evoke the glamour of the silver screen! Then everyone would snap pictures of one another, sit down, order a fascinating period cocktail, and tuck into chef Christian Ticarro’s flawlessly classic wild-rice soup or his sumptuous lobster macaroni and cheese. Now back on the tour bus, we’re off to Mary Tyler Moore’s house and the state capitol. Think about it: We don’t have another restaurant like that, and the fact that we now do is worth celebrating, so grab your next out-of-town guest and raise a glass to the fact that Minneapolis has been reunited with one of its great monuments.
40 Seventh St. S., Mpls.