A restaurateur’s comeback offers refuge from the ordinary

THOUGH GARGOYLES define the look of Sanctuary, the new Minneapolis restaurant’s true guardian spirit is its effusively welcoming frontman/co-owner, Michael Kutscheid. Always dressed to the nines, Kutscheid is as much of a fixture as the statues. For more than a decade, he’s been involved in all manner of restaurant projects, but hasn’t owned his own place since Kapoochi’s closed in the mid-’90s.

Sanctuary, then, is a comeback, both for Kutscheid and his chef, Patrick Atanalian, a maverick whose resumé includes the New French Café, the Vintage, and the Loring Café. Atanalian recently returned to the Twin Cities after a stint in his native France, but a decade ago, he shocked local diners by serving dishes such as halibut in a Gummy Bear—crayfish broth and barracuda with turtle meat in vodka crème fraîche. His Continental-style menu at Sanctuary shows the same inventiveness—but with a newfound sense of restraint.

Atanalian creates dishes by combining unexpected elements (garlic chili pork tenderloin in bacon consommé, with lobster and green-mango salsa) and presents plates with an elegantly deconstructed style that patrons are reluctant to disturb. Vegetarians aren’t left to settle for a salad, but instead are offered such delightful options as walnut-yam beignets served with braised fennel. Perhaps most emblematic of Atanalian’s powerful style is a beef-carpaccio appetizer that combines the primal flavor of the meat with the potent taste of white anchovies and delicate rings of red onion. If it looks deranged on paper, it tastes fantastic in real life—and exemplifies the sort of zaniness experienced eaters have come to expect from Kutscheid and Atanalian.

Sanctuary not only provides riverfront condo dwellers and Guthrie Theater regulars more dining options—it also gives the rest of us another reason to dine downtown. Comebacks are often fun to watch; this one also provides something delicious to eat.

903 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-339-5058 » Dinner Mon.—Sat.

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