The newly reopened landmark is beautiful, fancy, and, well, weird

Let me say, right off the bat, that I appreciate, respect, and even venerate the important Victorian mansion that contains Forepaugh’s, the landmark St. Paul restaurant. Also, let me say that I am profoundly grateful to all those who have invested time, heart, and money so that future generations can enjoy this St. Paul landmark. Let me say finally that I support landmarks generally; they keep us from getting lost.

However, I’m not so sure that you need to eat at the landmark that is Forepaugh’s just now. The restaurant was recently reopened by Taher Inc., and in its newest incarnation seems beautiful, stately, expensive, and peculiar.

Yes, peculiar. A poutine in which the Canadian comfort food of French fries and cheese curds drenched with gravy was changed to look like haute cuisine (the fries in a tall metal cylinder), and rendered dry and dumb: Why use a mere teaspoon of gravy and add squirts of a “chili glaze” tasting like sweet Chinese-food duck sauce? Then there was the heirloom-tomato salad, which showcased rubbery, hard balls of mozzarella. No dish on the menu had any obvious relationship to any other, and heaven help anyone looking to pair a wine from the restaurant’s excellent list to, say, the poutine and the typically elaborate, overly fussy, nouveau cuisine halibut with coconut curry, fingerling potatoes, eggplant, hearts of palm, Chinese long beans, and shiitake mushrooms. The beef Wellington, long the restaurant’s signature dish, was tender. But, at $38, is tender enough?

The desserts, by pastry chef Carrie Summer, are Forepaugh’s strongest suit; her deconstructed banana-cream pie is sophisticated and amusing.

Still, due to the beautiful décor and abundance of private rooms, I can wholeheartedly recommend the spot for private gatherings, groom’s dinners, and the like. It’s particularly perfect for lovers of history, good wine, and landmarks.

276 S. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-224-5606 »

* For an inside look, watch our virtual tour of Forepaugh’s.