The phrase “coup d’etat” typically refers to a violent government overthrow, and while Uptown seems relatively peaceful these days, the 9,000-sqaure-foot restaurant bearing that name holds the promise of something new and noteworthy. Opening in January 2014, the newest dining destination from the group behind Borough and two former Travail chefs brings a distinctly mature vibe to a neighborhood more popular with Gen Y than Gen X these days. Elegant furnishings, sparkling chandeliers, and a distinguished bar lend a comfortable, classic air to the massive dining space. The food, though? While it ranges from serviceable to scrumptious, it certainly isn’t revolutionary.
With a name like Coup d’Etat, one might expect a French menu, but the restaurant’s long list of dishes offers a taste of all corners of the world. The cold and hot starters range from cumin-salted deviled eggs and a cheese plate to tempura-battered frog legs, harissa-kissed octopus, and bone marrow with gremolata. Stand-outs include the tuna crudo ($12), which pairs tender tuna with blood orange slices almost identical in color and texture and adds the crunch of breakfast radish to balance the dish’s softness, and the arancini ($10), creamy rice balls studded with savory duck confit and a rich, spicy red onion marmalade.
The best way to begin a meal at Coup d’Etat, however, is with one of the crisp, flatbread-like pizzas, cut Midwestern-style into squares. We’re partial to the veggie, featuring kale, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions with a generous but not gloppy amount of salty mozzarella. The excellent crust and square slices make the pizza seems like an upscale, fresher version of the frozen pizzas many of us grew up eating at sleepovers, and at $13 for a 12-inch pizza, it’s a great value compared to the petite portions among the other starters.
Coup d’Etat’s entrees are solid overall, with four offerings each in pasta, fish, and meat categories. The pillowly agnolotti ($12) combine winter squash and mascarpone to create a creamy, dreamy filling that oozes out of the thin sheets of pasta. Similar dishes often taste strongly of brown sugar and butter, but the addition of the mascarpone gives these agnolotti a more delicate taste. The scallops ($24) are expertly paired with curry couscous and pickled sultanas to counteract their natural sweetness, creating a sophisticated dish with a nod to today’s “let’s pickle everything” trend without taking it too far.
The flat-iron steak ($30) arrives perfectly medium-rare — how often does that occur these days? — and has the precise amount of char to add flavor without overpowering the dish. A sprinkle of salt is all that’s needed to improve the toothsome beef, which is accompanied by a tumble of crunchy leeks atop a buttery popover. The dark portions of the half-chicken ($22) proved juicy and properly spiced, but the white meat needs an extra spoonful of the harissa yogurt sauce to really sing. An enormous fillet of arctic char ($23) tastes fresh and flakes easily onto the fork, with a swirl of sweet beet reduction playing off the punch of a horseradish cream. The fish comes with rustic red-skinned potatoes, but for a rock-your-socks-off side, order the creamy, cheesy polenta ($7), with its kicky, crispy garlic garnish.
Unfortunately, the desserts don’t live up to the standard set by the rest of the meal. Tiramisu ($7) is a hit-or-miss treat at many restaurants, and at Coup d’Etat its overwhelming sogginess makes it a miss. The chocolate ice box cake ($8) doesn’t fare much better, suffering from a blandness that no dessert with chocolate should have. The donut holes ($7) come across as heavy and greasy rather than light and sweet, and the bittersweet chocolate sauce does them no favors. The candied bacon on the side adds a touch of spice, but the dish would be better if the bacon were incorporated into the dough.
Perhaps a better end to the meal would be another cocktail — a Parlour Old Fashioned ($12) if you’re looking for a bourbon-fueled punch into last week, or a zingy Take a Chance on Me ($9), which blends ginger, sarsaparilla, almond, and citrus. It might be an odd choice for a winter cocktail menu, but at least it offers the promise of spring. Sparkling wine fans will enjoy the light, floral-scented Lagoon 75 ($11), which will be awfully refreshing come July.
Despite the restaurant’s size, it fills up quickly, and the lack of a reservation may relegate you to a table in the bar area. The high-topped tables themselves are comfortable, but the location close to the door makes for some cold toes during your meal. Better to make a reservation so you can enjoy the relative quiet of the upstairs seating area, with a bird’s-eye view of the lively bar. Luckily, the friendly staff knows how to be attentive without overdoing it, and you don’t have to play the annoying “why can’t I find my server when it’s time to pay the bill?” game, which can mar the best dining experience.
So while Coup d’Etat is French by name only, its little bit of this, little bit of that philosophy works more often than it doesn’t. Its dessert menu could use an overthrow, but the rest of the menu requires only minor tweaks to be consistently tasty. A revolution it’s not, but Coup d’Etat is well-positioned to stake a claim in Uptown as a destination of choice for a wide range of diners.
A little bit of everything in Uptown
2923 Girard Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
HOURS: 4:30pm-2am daily
CHEFS / OWNER: Tyler Shipton and Nick O’Leary / Jester Concepts
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE PRICE: $12-30