R. Norman’s

The new downtown steak house is just desserts

Besides Porter & Frye, Minneapolis’s other big-splash restaurant of the season is R. Norman’s, an upscale nouveau steak house on the corner of Seventh and Hennepin. As at its sister-restaurant, Bellanotte, no expense was spared here on marble accents, like the glowing bar-top. Unlike its sister, though, the vibe at R. Norman’s is very onyx-and-Rat Pack: very slick, very splashy, very executive-luxe.

Unfortunately, most of the cuisine doesn’t live up to the restaurant’s good looks: The crab cakes are full of expensive crab, but arrive at the table charred and brown. A strange “bruschetta salad” stars cheese-toasts drenched in a sugary balsamic reduction. Scallops are “blackened,” which here means they are rendered chewy and dry, before they’re paired with a peculiar relish of sweet corn and barbecue sauce, then drenched with a sauce which tastes like black-bean salsa from a jar warmed with plenty of butter. Even simple dishes like barbecued ribs, hash browns, burgers, and fries are just ho-hum.

So, am I telling you to just write off this corner of downtown? Not so fast.

When it comes to drinks and desserts, R. Norman’s is a great new addition to Minneapolis’s theater district. Beeline for the bar’s classic 1950s-style ice-cream drinks, like their Grasshopper, Golden Cadillac, Pink Squirrel, or brandy Alexander, presented in tall martini glasses. Even better than the ice-cream drinks is the tableside bananas Foster: For this, the restaurant wheels a full cart out to the table, lights a portable-stove, fills a frying pan with fresh bananas, butter, and brown sugar, and then sets the room alight with flames from alternating shots of banana liqueur and rum. Everyone oohs and ahs, and the banana mixture is poured over big scoops of Sebastian Joe’s vanilla ice cream. It tastes heavenly, easily the best bananas Foster in Minneapolis, but it’s also an important moral lesson for us all: Sometimes a big-splash flash in the pan should be enjoyed for what it is, not what it isn’t.

700 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-238-7770 » Lunch Mon.—Fri.; dinner daily.