Is it a successful night out eating when your five and seven-year-olds have the following conversation:
Five-year-old: Brandade is my new favorite food.
Seven-year-old: Better than pizza?
Five-year-old: I love brandade!
Seven-year-old: Me too! (Both start singing “Brandade! Brandade!”)
That happened at Don Saunders’ new neighborhood restaurant, The Kenwood. And the brandade (salted cod, cured overnight, flaked, and processed with potatoes, milk, garlic, and a hint of cayanne pepper into a creamy dip-like dish; pictured lower left) was worthy of singing about.
I’m a big fan of Chef Saunders from his now-closed restaurant Fugaise and his current place In Season. The Kenwood is different—it aspires to be more Tilia-like: fine dining techniques in a casual, almost always open spot tucked into a neighborhood (Kenwood, obviously).
The restaurant looks like what I can only imagine the living rooms of some of the fancy, enormous homes in the neighborhood are like: elegant, upscale casual. And the food is excellent.
We started with a very simple grilled romaine salad ($6, shown above right), topped with boquerones ($3). The salad was topped with a very clever egg yolk emulsion and a dijon vinaigrette. Boquerones are for people afraid of anchovies—because the anchovy is marinated in vinegar and garlic, so it takes some of the intensity out. It was delicate and delicious.
Scallops are always a good test of a kitchen, and the small plate here is spectacular. They were smaller scallops, instead of the monsters many restaurants serve, which in Saunders’ hands proved to be extremely flavorful and sweet. The plate was artfully arranged, with orange, fennel, and sunchoke (artichoke-like-vegetable). My wife and I shared it ($14) and it didn’t sit in front of us for long.
The oyster sandwich was great: beautifully fried oysters with little cubes of pork belly adding a bit of sweetness. Then crunchy sweet and sour cabbage with a mustard aioli. All for just $12.
The kids menu isn’t your ordinary fare, and it might be the one thing the restaurant needs to tweak to really be successful as a family dining destination. The food is excellent—my wife and I loved the pesto pasta my seven-year-old ordered (although he found it to have too much of a pesto flavor), and the steak and fries would have been a glorious dish for adults. While the $12 for the steak is absolutely reasonable and the $7 for the pasta is as well, I’m not sure if those prices (no drink included) are sustainable for repeated visits.
That concerns me, because if I lived near Kenwood, I’d want The Kenwood to be my neighborhood haunt. I live in Maple Grove, and it’s worth the drive. A place where an intense food-lover will find exciting, interesting dishes, the more casual diner has plenty of approachable options, and the kids are welcomed. Sing it with me: BRANDADE!
The Kenwood Restaurant
2115 West 21st Street, Mpls.
612-377-3695 · thekenwoodrestaurant.com