Diets are no fun—unless you’re dieting at Mill Valley Kitchen. Then dieting isn’t too awful. Mill Valley offers calorie counts for every food item they serve, as well as calculations for each dish’s grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Suddenly, you’re no longer ordering food with the usual calculus of pleasure and cost, but factoring in other metrics, too. Why get the Italian chicken-sausage whole-grain flatbread at 620 calories when a bison burger is only 320 calories? No wonder everyone around you is talking about their diets. On my first visit to Mill Valley, I ordered the grilled plum salad, which sounded tasty with its mix of spinach, walnuts, goat cheese, and red onions in a raspberry vinaigrette. And only 200 calories! The salad arrived swiftly, a vast beautiful pile of green leaves, fresh and abundant. I poked around with my fork and was disappointed to find unseasoned raw walnuts, scads of raw onions, and only the sparest amount of dressing. Twenty minutes later, I was still chomping away on undressed greens and trying to decide whether I really did support the grass-pasturing of animals: was it fair to force cows to eat undressed salad all day?
The pork banh mi sandwich that followed was a meager portion of delicious pork between two slices of hard bread. It exploded when I bit into it (probably from the lack of “glue” known as condiments). I’m not unaware of the national crisis of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, but is Mill Valley the solution? If so, it’s a very pretty solution, with a good wine list and eager service. Still, I never encountered a single dish there that made me yearn for a repeat visit. I like the healthy foods at such restaurants as Spoonriver, French Meadow, Lucia’s, and even the Dakota much, much more. Such places prove that fresh and healthy doesn’t have to be austere.
3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-358-2000, millvalleykitchen.com