Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 19-25

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveSmoked Oysters at The Hasty Tasty
The mention of “smoked oysters” may evoke memories of tin cans, but the version at The Hasty Tasty is fantastic. Rather than individual oysters, the dish is a composed plate with fennel, pickled veggies, and Texas toast. This open-faced style keeps the accoutrements from overwhelming the star of the dish, while making it substantial and interesting. Pair with the Kumquat Caipirinha for a bright contrast!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

Ted Held / Heavy Table0

2-new - two - hot fiveSriracha Zucca Pasta at Italian Eatery
The Sriracha Zucca pasta at Italian Eatery is a welcome addition to their perennially excellent menu. The nickel sized pumpkin shaped pasta have more of sriracha’s brightness than heat and are cooked al dente, as you would expect from IE. Pepita pesto with toasted pepitas are a lovely twist on the usual pine nuts. There is a hint of citrusy tartness that contrasts perfectly with the olive oil and the sweetness of the basil. Pair it with a salad and the crispy chicken thighs for meal perfection.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveCheesecake from Brianno’s Deli-Italia
Anyhow, back to the cheesecake. It’s as tangy as you could possibly desire, and sticky to the point of being almost cream-cheese-like in consistency. The balance of sugar and dairy zing is spot on, and the graham cracker crust is a great counterpoint in terms of sweetness and crunchy texture. We’ve had cheesecakes with a more elegant texture (lighter, firmer, overall better), but this slice gets the tangy vs. sweet balance right in an important way, and really delivers on the “cheese” side of things.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from a recent review]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveHam and Cheese Quiche Bite from Sift Gluten-Free Bakery
The crust of this mini-quiche was chewy and buttery, and perhaps a little corny. The egg filling was creamy and shot through with pockets of melted cheese and bits of smoky ham. Our only gripe was the silver-dollar size. We could have eaten an entire full-sized quiche. On the other hand, if it were bigger, we’d have missed out on the lovely crust in each bite. Sift knows what they’re doing: These things are seriously craveable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveRain Drops Northeast-Style IPA by Barrel Theory
Hazy, New England-style IPAs remain wildly trendy and it’s easy to taste why: many possess a juicy, fruit-forward hops-driven flavor that paradoxically seems to flood your mouth with a pulpy, almost orange juice-like moisture while also making you thirsty for more. Barrel Theory’s Rain Drops (7.5% ABV, 60 IBU) is brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops and even juicier than most, a seeming cascade of moisture in every sip plus an earthy, profound, orange-and-iced tea sort of body.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Jakeeno’s Pizza and Pasta in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Restaurants that keep their doors open year after year interest us. They must be doing something right to endure economic slowdowns, food trends, and intense competition. And Jakeeno’s has been going strong since 1975. It’s survived Generations X, Y, and Z.

What’s the key to Jakeeno’s longevity? Comfort. It’s familiar, unpretentious, and low-key. The staff is easygoing, and the customers clearly pick up the vibe. Even when busy, there’s none of the hustle, bustle, and, well, stress (on the part of staff and diners) that often characterize the latest “it” spots. Seemingly impervious to flashy trends, Jakeeno’s and its regulars are refreshingly comfortable in their own skins. Why else would we see such an embrace of what we’ve nicknamed the “Jakeeno’s lounge” — a laid-back posture more common on porches than in restaurants?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A little sign over a little table near the front of the restaurant won our hearts. It reads, “The table by the door is ‘The Worst Seat in the House.’ Dine here and receive 15% off your meal.” Now get this: The deal applies year round, and even when there are other tables available. Hell, when we inquired about the sign, our server encouraged us to move one table over and get the deal. (Though too earnest to move, we appreciated the suggestion.) Speaking of deals, Jakeeno’s has them all: cheap date night, happy hour, and all-you-can-eat pasta, to name a few.

Like the atmosphere and service, the food is comforting. It’s what “throwback” Italian-American restaurants throw back to. Unlike Mucci’s in Saint Paul (which we adore), Jakeeno’s doesn’t update the classics. In fact, we doubt the recipes have changed much over the last four decades. Of course, red sauce is the cornerstone of the menu: rich, flavorful, and slightly sweet (thankfully not too sweet), it’s well suited to pasta, pizza, and hoagies.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Of the pizzas we tried, a simple pepperoni pie (large, $16.45) stood out. Jakeeno’s crust is thin and well balanced (not too salty or sweet) and sturdy when not weighed down with too many ingredients. Although it lacks the snap associated with “cracker crust,” it holds its own. Covering thin slices of zippy pepperoni, the cheese is nicely browned without being burnt. As much as we enjoyed this option, we didn’t care for Jakeeno’s margherita (large, $21.75): The cheese was too thick, and the overwhelming garlic and flavorless tomatoes were way out of balance.

Heavy Table Hot Five: April 15-21

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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Peter Sieve / Heavy Table
Peter Sieve / Heavy Table

1-new - oneBiscuits and Honey-Lavender Butter at 4 Bells
The biscuits and honey-lavender butter at 4 Bells are, as a dining companion put it recently, “F***in’ ON POINT!” Five bucks gets you four large, flaky, homemade-tasting biscuits that will make you very happy. We’d have been willing to do unseemly things for more of that sweet, floral butter — thankfully, the friendly staff simply brought extra when they noticed it had vanished in mere seconds.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From an upcoming review by Peter Sieve]

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

2-new - twoSambal Chow Mai Fun from Chin Dian Cafe
It’s easy to get distracted by the newest, buzziest, Instagrammiest places. But it’s more than worthwhile to revisit the old reliables that keep churning out good stuff. Like Chin Dian Cafe on East Hennepin: Vietnam meets China meets India meets Malaysia on a plate. The family’s own funky, fishy, tomatoey sauce (as hot or mild as you like) turns this plate of rice noodles, veggies, and shrimp into something you can’t get anywhere else.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

3-new - threeMascarpone Cheesecake with Blackberry Preserves at ie Italian Eatery
Italian Eatery recently added a handful of spring dishes to its dinner menu. We really enjoyed an entree of charred spring onion ravioli, and a side dish of asparagus with romesco was superb, but the mascarpone cheesecake with canestrelli (a buttery cookie) crumble crust and blackberry preserves stole our hearts. It’s sweet but not overly so, and the berries cut the dish’s overall richness. We’ll be back for more — and soon!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

4-new fourSaigon Nights Ice Cream at Milkjam Creamery
Milkjam Creamery’s Saigon Nights is a wonderful — and authentic — tribute to Vietnamese coffee, with its strong, smooth coffee flavors blending with the sweet milk, and in this case, a tiny bit of Cognac that you can just barely taste at the end of each bite. Great on its own, but it’s not a bad thing to melt it a bit and stir in some more Cognac for a very adult drink.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveNorth Fork Whiskey Washed Munster from Redhead Creamery
Munster isn’t generally a decadent cheese, but this European-style treatment from Redhead Creamery (which we tasted at Chicago’s Cheesetopia festival) makes Munster make sense. Its a washed-rind cheese, and the resulting product is creamy and flavorful like a great Camembert. The rind is particularly tasty, having neither the leathery texture or acidic taste that can come with washed-rind cheeses. We’ll be serving this any time guests come over, and oftentimes in between.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Becca Dilley]

Heavy Table Hot Five: April 1-7

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneThe Notorious P.I.G. Hi Top at Hi-Lo Diner
The Hi-Lo Diner has been open for only a few days, but we’re already fans of its unique menu specialties, the Hi-Tops, unglazed house-made doughnuts topped with sweet or savory accompaniments. We actually love the mellow, mild sweetness of the doughnut with savory toppings — in this case, citrus glazed pulled pork, black-bean-sweet-corn salsa, seasoned sour cream, and a fried egg. So often, breakfast feels like an unwinnable contest between the sweet and the savory, but with a Hi-Top like this one, you can have your doughnut and eat it, too.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton in advance of a forthcoming review by Susan Pagani]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoPanes con Pollo from Abi’s Cafe
The Salvadoran Panes con Pollo has got to be one of the most imposing sandwiches in Minneapolis — super marinated, ultratender chicken packed into a bolillo that becomes moist and dense with flavor, garnished with a whole drumstick. We had it for the first time this week at Abi’s Cafe, and we’ll be back for more.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from a recent Bite]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

3-new - threeCharred Octopus at ie (Italian Eatery)
The Charred Octopus at ie (Italian Eatery) is a refined blend of octopus, pepperoni, fregola, smoked paprika, pistachio, and preserved lemon aioli. It’s refreshing,”big city” fare found in a Southwest Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourEspresso Cream Cheese Brownie at Mon Petit Chéri
We dug our dinner at Mon Petit Chéri, but it was the dessert that took the cake. The restaurant’s Espresso Cream Cheese Brownie is one of the richest, fudgiest, densest, yet most nuanced brownies we’ve had anywhere, and at $2.25, it might be the best dessert value in the metro.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveCabot Clothbound Cheddar at Kowalski’s
Cabot Clothbound cheddar from Vermont is hard to find around here, so I was delighted to see it at Kowalski’s on Lyndale last week. My first taste reminded me why I love this cheese. It’s nutty, caramel jammy, and buttery yet crumbly, with the slight crystal crunch that a good Parmigiano Reggiano or an English farmstead cheddar also has. This is one of America’s great cheeses.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

The Tap: Fine Dining’s Next Incarnation

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: In the wake of the late 2015 / early 2016 fine dining closures, we look at the changing landscape through the eyes of a few newcomers to the scene.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Next Dimension(s) in Upscale Dining

The closures of Vincent and La Belle Vie after long and distinguished runs — and the far, far too brief lifespan of Brasserie Zentral — have kicked up a lot of dust about how we dine out when money is no object and the goal is to celebrate to (or well past) the point of excess.

People have told me with a straight face that Minnesota hasn’t actually had anything that qualifies as fine dining since Aquavit closed or, more charitably, since La Belle Vie shut its doors. I’ve eaten at Le Bernardin — I get what they mean. But it’s limiting (not to mention self-destructive) to fixate on a Michelin Guide three-star definition of “fine dining” and to spurn less formal, more inviting restaurants that are born and bred for local tastes. An impeccable celebration meal in St. Paul doesn’t need to be like one in New York or Paris or San Francisco. In fact, it really shouldn’t be.

Part of my self-defined job as editor of the Heavy Table is dining at the high-profile places that our writers review. It brings additional material (and, often, corroboration or added nuance) to the review, and it allows me to talk about the state of the local restaurant scene from a first-person perspective. Armed with my notes, here are some thoughts on a few newcomers to the scene, and what they’re bringing to it.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Food’s the Thing

Upton 43 is all about working hard and letting you know it. The menu is replete with challenging vocab (ymerdrys or västerbotten, anyone?); the servers are effusively verbal about the ins and outs of the boundary-pushing cuisine; the food itself is a ballet of refined technique and ingredients. At its best, it dazzles with inventive creativity. At its worst, it holds food at a tweezer’s length and overthinks itself. It’s a place, in short, where you may have your breath taken away by what’s on the table, and you’ll exit with some detail-rich stories to share with your fellow gourmands.

See also: Spoon and Stable, Piccolo.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Mood’s the Thing

The contrast between Upton 43 and Saint Genevieve couldn’t be more visceral. Sure, both restaurants are upscale and ready for prime time, but while Upton 43 offers a sleek, minimalist space that seems designed for intense conversations, the raucous, convivial Saint Genevieve revels in its cheerful hospitality. Saint Genevieve’s food isn’t an afterthought, but it’s approachable and classic — French tavern fare, with some upscale twists. When you’re dining at Saint Genevieve your mind is principally on your dining companions — and, perhaps, the identity of the next bottle of wine.

See also: Saint Dinette and (the glory days of) Barbette.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It Ain’t No Thing

Finally: ie Italian Eatery has received a comparatively small share of press attention, but it offers yet another route to serving up a memorable celebration dinner – its seductively familiar and low-maintenance menu sets a modest bar that the carefully crafted food and warm service effortlessly vault. Case in point would be the spaghetti and meatballs, with lovely house-made noodles and a savory sauce that rings the “ah, the taste of home but somewhat elevated” bell in your brain. The bucatini (above) wins similar plaudits for combining culinary chops and deliciousness.

See also: Broders’, and (we hope) Mucci’s.

NOW OPEN

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Upton 43, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka. Read our review here.
  • Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview).
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood. Read our review here.
  • Wicked Wort Brewing Co., 4175 W Broadway, Robbinsdale | Just opened.

Italian Eatery in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Shortly after ie Italian Eatery opened, a marquee in the parking lot read, “Hi.” That’s it. No boasting. No big promises. Just a simple welcome. Like the message, everything about this restaurant — from the service and food to the decor and vibe — is straightforward and approachable. Ie doesn’t try to be the most fancy, cool, or “authentic” Italian restaurant in town. Instead, it aims for and achieves high-quality, friendly service and well-executed, delicious food in a stylish, casual environment. That ie hits all those marks is a credit to the owners, Eric and Vanessa Carrara, and their staff.

In line with some other excellent new restaurants, including Ramen Kazama, Revival, and Saint Dinette, ie’s menus (dinner and brunch) are focused and relatively brief, allowing the kitchen to concentrate on a manageable number of dishes and saving the diner from painfully long menu “tours.” Also like these other special spots, ie elevates standard items that eateries often treat as afterthoughts. Tomato soup ($5, below) with mascarpone and Parmigiano Reggiano is a tangy, creamy delight.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pork, veal, and beef meatballs ($12) served with a deep, rich red sauce are juicy and packed with flavor. A large portion of exquisitely fried yam ravioli ($8, below) impressively achieves the sweet and savory one-two punch.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chef Stephanie Miller, who has worked in some of the best kitchens in the area (including Piccolo and Heartland), also uplifts everyday breakfast items. Mixed with just the right amount of fresh oregano, roasted tomatoes, fontina, and cream cheese, perfectly soft-scrambled eggs ($14, including bacon and toast) displayed Miller’s expert technique and made our trek on a negative-10-degree morning worthwhile. Beautifully crisped baby potatoes ($8) accompanied by nduja aioli (a decadent and tasty mayonnaise and salami spread); delicious, pan-seared sausage ($5); and pillowy polenta pancakes ($9) with sweet and tart (but not too much of either) limoncello curd and blueberries sealed the deal.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Miller’s skills are also evident in dishes that less adept chefs tend to screw up. Supple and not the slightest bit rubbery, octopus ($13) arrives with great char, magnificent taste, and inventive plating. The giant short rib ($22) is fork tender and not at all greasy; with fat-cutting, sweet-and-sour onions, it’s among the most flavor-packed beef dishes we’ve tasted in the Twin Cities. And the chocolate torte ($7, above) — often too dense, heavy, or sugary — is a skillfully balanced stunner. Olive oil keeps the cake moist and rich, like a brownie crossed with a soufflé, and whipped cream, pistachios, and a few grains of flaky salt are superb accompaniments.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 8-14

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - onePork Sausage Banh Mi at Tay Ho
There’s an awful lot to like about the earthy, soulful food at the criminally underappreciated Tay Ho in St. Paul (hint: order the Bun Bo Hue, the spicy noodle soup), but this banh mi may well take the cake. At $3, it would be absurdly cheap even if it were small and of low quality. It’s not, and it isn’t — the baguette is delightfully crackly and soft without being insipid, the sausage is ably spiced but doesn’t overpower the sandwich as a whole, and the mix of pickled veg and cilantro is wonderfully balanced. Plus, it’s big.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from the upcoming debut of the Green Line Checklist]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoTomato Soup at ie
It doesn’t look like much in the picture above. It doesn’t look like much on the menu. But the tomato soup at the newly opened ie (Italian Eatery) is one of the most ravishing things we’ve tasted in quite some time. The secret is mascarpone cheese folded into the soup, which brings a silken, creamy richness that complements the tart, bright flavor of the tomatoes. The sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top (not pictured due to the fact it got eaten too quickly) didn’t hurt, either. A much needed reminder that food doesn’t have to be complicated or novel to be absolutely awesome.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three Poppyseed Cake Topped With Lemon-Raspberry Custard at Savory Bake House
Longfellow’s newest bakery has some good stuff happening on both the sweet and the savory sides of the aisle. Here’s one from the former: the lemon-raspberry-custard-topped cake offers up a lovely hit of tart via the lemon curd, which looks like an egg yolk atop the poppy-seed-dusted cake. The cake itself is tender without being soft or over-moist, and the raspberry flavor comes through clearly.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | From a review by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourSour Pork Ribs from Thai Cafe
Almost peanut-brittle chewy and crackly, fatty and rich, and sour almost beyond human comprehension, these pork ribs will divide a table down the middle between those who are angry that the ribs were ordered and those who will obsess about them until returning a week or two later to eat them again. If you’re looking for a really bold taste of Thai food, uncompromised and gloriously real, here’s the dish for you.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from the upcoming debut of the Green Line Checklist]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

5-new -five Chocolates from Patisserie 46
Boxed-to-order chocolates are the best kept secret at Patisserie 46. Each bonbon is a small masterpiece of well-flavored ganache or caramel coated in a thin layer of dark chocolate that snaps to the bite. The green piece in the bottom row is filled with a peppermint and lemongrass ganache. The beige dot on the chocolate in the middle row is a perfect half of a coriander seed that denotes the coriander-mango milk chocolate inside.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]