SCENA TAVERN. PHOTOS BY TJ TURNER.
Each month, in our Restaurant Rumble conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two new restaurants as a duo and pick a winner.
Joy: Another bi-level, beautiful restaurant with an incredible bar menu—the second one on this block.
Jason: This is a big restaurant, with big ambition. Which might be a surprise since the same guy who owns Green Mill owns it.
Joy: He brought in an all-star team to assist with the opening. Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson, who are both Food & Wine Best New Chefs, were charged with the kitchen. Bittercube Bitters, led by Nick Kosevich, created the bar program.
Jason: The drinks are awesome. I loved the food, too—during one meal, my friend announced that she would bathe in the chicken liver terrine if she could.
Joy: I had mixed results. The first time I had the clams with salumi, I dove straight to the bottom of the bowl; but on my last visit, it was a sad shadow
of a dish.
Jason: Let’s talk crudo.
Joy: Yaaaaaay, more cold, raw fish.
Jason: Come on, Joy. This has been the year of crudo with Il Foro and Monello!
Joy: I had the scallop and it was fine, ditto the yellowfin. Nothing to crave. But I know they do special crudo/martini pairings that have people raving.
Jason: I thought the crudo was awesome—we had hamachi and cucumber that really let the flavor of the fish shine. I’m into the delicate balance of fish, citrus, and spice.
Joy: There’s something about this place that gives me pause: The room is so over-the-top, so without soul.
Jason: I’ll give you that. This is an Uptown restaurant—brash and Vegas-like. But the culinary side is all heart: killer wine list, perhaps the best cocktails in town, and perfectly executed dish after dish—especially the pastas.
Joy: That mortadella carbonara is worth hoarding and saving for leftovers straight out of the fridge for breakfast the next day.
Jason: Or the piadinis—round, Italian flatbread pizzas. The scrambled egg & cotechino sausage was my favorite.
Joy: I adore the piadinis’ crust, and they’re a perfect foil for the drinks. I wonder what this place will be when it grows up, when the stellar consulting staff moves on? I do have faith in the talents of chef Marc Paavola. I’ve tasted his food at other restaurants and he’s got the skill and the consistency to continue to pull off this menu.
Smoke and Stormy Cocktail.
Scena Tavern Quick Tips
Best seat: At the bar or at the crudo bar in the open kitchen
Celebrity chefs: Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone designed the menu, and Nick Kosevich created the cocktails.
Where to park: Valet is cheaper than the Calhoun Square parking ramp.
Clockwise from below right: Scrambled Egg Piadini, steelhead Crudo, Chicken Liver Terrine, Reverse Martini, The Guardian & The Spectator cocktail, Scallop Crudo, and Red Prawn crudo.
March’s Restaurant Rumble pitted the grandeur of Scena Tavern against the rustic charm of Italian Eatery. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the March issue of MnMo.
Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-200-8641, scenatavern.com