Suzette’s of Jordan

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

While there are many things that can be said about the European cuisine at Suzette’s of Jordan, there are two primary themes: uneven execution, and an overblown claim on Suzette’s website that it serves the finest European cuisine in Minnesota.

No, it doesn’t. Not now. Possibly someday, but only if the kitchen makes a commitment to rise to its own claims.

Suzette’s opened its doors in 1998 on a little-populated stretch of Highway 169 across from Jim’s Apple Farm. It was originally a Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Parlor, and much of the interior still has that feel, with country-style curtains on the windows and puffy blue booths. The chef and owner, Banrith Yong, survived the Cambodian Killing Fields and eventually escaped to Thailand, and then Switzerland, where he began his culinary career before moving to Jordan and opening Suzette’s.

The menu is charmingly old-school European, with escargot, chicken Marsala, and chateaubriand. It certainly doesn’t reflect the creative, sophisticated menus at places like La Belle Vie, and that’s OK — there’s nothing wrong with being old fashioned (call it retro, make it sound new and exciting), if the food is done extremely well.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

That’s where Suzette falls down, but in odd and inconsistent ways. On repeated visits with multiple companions, we found the same dishes to have drastically different levels of quality, both in terms of preparation and presentation. It appears that Tuesday night is a better night than Saturday to visit, so if you order the Suzette Mixed Grill ($32) on Tuesday, your beef tenderloin might have a bit of char on it and not be cooked completely gray in the middle, as it was on Saturday, though we ordered it medium-rare. It seemed to have fallen victim to a too-cool pan for pan-frying. On Tuesday, your petite lobster tail may not be cooked to rubber, and your piece of pork tenderloin might not be tough and drowning in a gloppy, sugary cranberry sauce. It’s a sad statement that on a Saturday night, the only properly cooked items on this plate were the vegetables, which were crisp-tender, but lacking seasoning.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

On either day, the escargot appetizer ($8.50) would have been acceptable if the accompanying puff pastry weren’t drowning in an overly greasy garlic butter, and the crab cakes ($12) suffered from an oily cream sauce. On Saturday, the crab cakes were basically dumped on a plate smeared with sauce, while on Tuesday they were at least more carefully plated, with a sprig of parsley. The shrimp bisque had no trace of actual shrimp, just a fishy aftertaste to what otherwise tasted like canned enchilada sauce.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

A dessert of bread pudding ($7) made from croissants almost succeeded, even though the croissants weren’t made in house (the server wasn’t sure where they came from), but it was served over an overly generous sloshing of a brandy sauce that was nearly all brandy. The sauce wasn’t cooked down, so it didn’t have the mellow, rich taste and thicker consistency of a proper brandy sauce. It actually exuded brandy fumes. The garnish on Saturday night consisted of three raspberries tossed randomly on the plate, whereas on Tuesday, the plate included some much-needed color with additional fruit thoughtfully arranged.

A restaurant that claims to be the home to fine European cuisine should not serve run-of-the-mill dinner rolls that have the texture of bread that had been in the freezer too long; nor should it have brewed coffee as its only hot beverage (and weak, watery coffee at that) instead of offerings such as espresso and French press. It should also not serve a house wine that’s undrinkable. When asked, the server said she didn’t know what the label was behind the house wine, but she thought the wine came from California.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Suzette’s has likely survived all these years because there’s not much in the realm of fine dining on its stretch of Highway 169. But that’s precisely what’s so frustrating. There’s something sweet about the whole concept, with its old-school menu and old Bridgeman’s decor, not to mention the Cambodian craft shop at the front of the house. Done well, it could be a destination for a fun stroll down a culinary memory lane. As it is, the restaurant serves overcooked food from an overpriced menu.

What’s more, that stretch of highway is gaining population. Jordan isn’t far from Shakopee and Chaska, both of which have seen considerable growth in the past decade, but neither of which offers much in the line of fine dining. There’s a niche here that’s begging to be filled, and if Suzette’s raised its standards, it could take over that niche.

But to do that, the kitchen staff would need to create food of a higher and more uniform quality. That means not just the big-ticket entrees, but also the accompaniments — like house-made dinner rolls and better coffee — that round out a memorable meal.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Suzette’s
European restaurant in Jordan

20251 Johnson Memorial Dr
Jordan, MN 55352-4602
952.492.2422
OWNER/CHEF: Banrith Yong
HOURS:
Tue-Fri, 11am-2pm
Tue-Sun, 4:30pm-9pm
BAR: Beer + Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for Weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $12-$36 dinner, $8-$12 lunch

4 replies on “Suzette’s of Jordan”

That’s so sad to hear. We’ve enjoyed Suzette’s in the past, but haven’t been there for years. Hopefully they have the will and the way to turn it around.

I have a great deal of respect for Tom Sietsema’s approach to reviewing small, out-of-the-way restaurants. In Dianne Jacob’s “Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More”, he is quoted just before this excerpt in Chapter 6, “Secrets of Restaurant Reviewing”:

….
You might notice that not much is published about mediocre and bad food. Most publications and websites keep negative reviews to a minimum, unless the place is famous, expensive, or new and opened to great fanfare. Most editors and writers believe it’s best to tell reader about places that excite them and give them a reason to go out rather than telling them where not to go.
….

In his own on-line discussions and articles, Sietsema expands on this topic with the insight that a negative review of a place that would not otherwise have attracted notice causes damage to a business for no good reason.

There’s an excellent purpose served in reporting on a hidden gem that proves to be worth the trip, but that’s just not true for publishing harsh notes on a small place in Jordan. No one expects them to be La Belle Vie … except maybe for somebody on a deadline.

This review carries a faint odor of “I went therefore I’m going to file a post in order to get paid”. Its content doesn’t serve anyone else in the cooking, dining, or writing realms.

On the positive side, the Hennepin County Library system has six copies of the Dianne Jacob book, 2010 edition. Run, don’t walk.

Hi KT,
I see what you’re saying. In fact, I struggled quite a bit with this review for those very reasons.

There was some discussion between the editor and I when I proposed reviewing it (before I’d ever eaten there), because Suzette’s website says on its home page that it serves “the finest European cuisine in Minnesota,” then goes on to say its chef is “5 star” and “you’ll experience delicate flavors that rival those of the finest restaurants in Minneapolis” (http://www.suzettesrestaurant.com/). We all know hyperbole is a major form of advertising :-) but even within the restaurant industry, these are pretty drastic claims to make.

The problems Suzette’s has are fixable. I would love to see them turn the food around, even if it’s nowhere near the level of La Belle Vie or other top Minneapolis restaurants. I would happily eat there again and report on the improvement, and it would be a boon to the growing communities near them. But right now they’re charging high prices, especially for the location, for food that is poorly done, or mediocre at best, while claiming to be the best or at least equal to the best. Ignoring that doesn’t seem like a good form of public service either.

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