After our first round of plates at Borough, one of my dining companions sank down in the booth and sighed. “Oh no,” she said. “I think I like this place.”
That’s what it felt like to have dinner at Borough in downtown Minneapolis’s North Loop. It felt like submission. Not only is the space beautiful and the staff well trained, but the food is pretty and mostly delicious. Borough’s got polish all over it, after just a few weeks of business.
In the spectrum of contemporary fine dining in downtown Minneapolis, Borough slips into place like it’s been around for years. The dining room has that large, classic feeling that Bar La Grassa champions, but with an industrial, loft-like bent that is at once impressive and unpretentious. Huge windows overlook Washington Ave., and the city lights are reflected in a collection of mismatched mirrors on the opposite wall. It’s cozy but chic. Airy and intimate.
The menu is reminiscent of 112 Eatery’s high-end, sprawling offerings that manage to be both inventive and mouthwatering. Borough pares down the options and presents them on one of the most basic, no-frills paper menus I’ve seen. But the restaurant’s simple features and industrial space belie the artful way each dish is actually plated. Chefs Tyler Shipton and Nick O’Leary apply all of the colorful swipes, dollops, and kitchen acrobatics you could want. And yet these techniques mask nothing. The food is really good.
Borough’s foie gras has the most obvious wow factor ($18). A mosaic wheel of foie gras encrusted with pecans balances on a white platter. Triangles of toast, a smear of golden yam, some toasted marshmallow, a mini pile of ground pepper, and a quenelle of ice cream complete the composition. The whole thing has a sort of deconstructed s’mores effect. Take a bite of each element and you have something creamy, sweet, crunchy, and then salty. It’s like meat dessert!
Other items are more approachable and more savory. The plate of fries ($7, above) is huge and topped with two perfectly fried eggs. Even if the fries had not been crispy and adequately salty, the creamy yolk and spiced ketchup would have saved them. The battered cod ($12) is pillowy and ultra satisfying, served with simple smashed potatoes. And five malpeque oysters ($18) balanced on individual beds of ice are refreshingly sweet and briney. They arrive with a cup of unnerving smoked lemon ice, but we liked them best with just a bit of pickled shallot.
While the bison tartare ($14) tastes nice and clean, it’s a little spendy for just a dollop. And the token salad ($6) is made up of matchstick-like bits of endive that are frustrating to scoop up. One fellow diner said that even though she loved the citrusy flavor and crunch, “This salad makes me feel stupid.”
The octopus ($15) is flavorful but a little texturally unsound. Two gorgeous tentacles coated with a savory black-bean something are cooked to steak-like density. And while the meat is not at all rubbery, it’s too chewy to be a total winner. Another diner ordered the steak ($24) and reported it perfectly cooked, but lacking seasoning and spunk.
By far, our favorite dish is the cauliflower ($9). Fried florets of the vegetable and an oyster are served atop a pool of warmly seasoned, silky cauliflower puree. The seasoning is so expertly balanced and natural that it practically disappears. Yes, Borough’s cauliflower is the sort of thing that makes meat eaters flirt with ideas of vegetarianism. And besides that decadent foie gras, for dessert we liked the campy-sounding Margarita ($7), which turned out to be a delightful square of lime-curd tart with a tender Saltine crust.
Between each course at Borough, someone stops by carrying a tray of mismatched flatware to refresh each table setting. It’s fun comparing your pointy dagger to your friend’s frilly butter knife, but this practice could get annoying (for the staff most of all). For now, it’s a sweet touch that speaks to Borough’s excellent service. Each dish arrived quickly. The butter that came with bread was tempered. And best of all, our server told us exactly what was on each plate when it arrived and answered all of our questions with genuine composure and knowledge. Regardless of marshmallows and smokey ice, a night at Borough is lovely because you’re in sturdy, skillful hands.
Fine dining in the North Loop of Minneapolis
730 N Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401
OWNER / CHEF: Brent Frederick and Jacob Toledo / Tyler Shipton and Nick O’Leary
HOURS: Mon-Sun 5pm-2am
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes
VEGTARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $6-24