There’s one restaurant in the Twin Cities that people speak of reverently, but these days it almost never gets written about. Restaurant Alma opened in 1999, and its chef/owner Alex Roberts won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2010.
It’s been a long time since my wife and I ate at Alma, so for her birthday last week we made the reservation, and found out why it may be one of the best fine dining deals in town.
$50 for a three-course meal—and not small servings or a tasting menu. This is a full starter, middle, and entree. Alma’s always been a place that celebrates local food and seasonal ingredients, and the menu right now tastes like Minnesota, right now.
The Halibut Tartare and the Wild Nettle Souffle were both outstanding. The coconut-jalapeno sauce with curried cashews on the souffle—what an inspired combination of flavor. The fresno peppers and fresh cherries in the halibut tartare was equally surprising, fresh and delicious.
I loved my carolina rice grits, with shrimp and fried garlic with a hint of chili oil. The rice flavor was different than the normal corn grit—a little nuttier in flavor, with maybe a little more sweetness. Really nice.
The rabbit agnolotti (shown above right) was the only miss of the meal for me. The nettle pasta was perfect, but I didn’t get much rabbit flavor from the dish.
Both entrees were also great: our server said that Alma’s duck has ruined duck for her everywhere else because it’s done so perfectly. She was right: the duck two ways was perfectly carmelized on the edges, with a lovely rhubarb compote. My wife’s sauteed wild hake was also quite nice, served in a very tasty fennel cream sauce.
Alma has a great wine list, put together by wine director James Hirdler. For $18, he’ll create wine pairings with each course, and I highly recommend going that route. We really loved the Thierry Puzelat le Telquel, and our server promptly printed out a little receipt with tasting notes and the name of the wine so we could look for it later. So cool!
Service was spectacular, the food was near perfect. I promise I won’t wait five years to visit Restaurant Alma again.
528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis
Dinner only, opening at 5 p.m. daily