It’s a tale as old as time. People like things that are shiny and new. Whether it’s a new shirt or a new car, we’re always looking for the next best thing. This holds true when it comes to the restaurant world as well. With new culinary projects popping up left and right, owners and chefs alike really need to put their best foot forward (both feet, even) in order to stick out.
The latest to take on this not-so-simple feat are Minnesota natives Chris and Andrew Ikeda (below left and right). They’re trying their culinary hand at flipping the Blue Sky Creamery on Lake Street into Uptown’s newest neighborhood restaurant and bar, Lake & Irving.
While keeping with their Midwestern-comfort roots, backgrounds cooking in Hawaii and Napa allowed the Ikeda brothers / owners / chefs to tailor their menu to incorporate warm climate Hawaii-Asian influence, which helps shape the globally diverse menu. They opted for an uncluttered, arguably simplistic decor and exterior to go with this concept, which ultimately may be their Achilles’ heel considering their Uptown location (refer to first paragraph). With that said, though, the price point is quite affordable for the area.
We started our evening with the Lobster Tostada ($8). Atop four wonton crisps, the Texas caviar, guacamole, and togarashi (Japanese seasoning) made for a texturally pleasing dish. While the guacamole was delicious, the lobster played second fiddle to the garlic and onion. However, it was still a great bite.
Switching gears to the poultry side, the Furikake Chicken ($8) was quite delightful with complex flavor. The chicken thighs were perfectly cooked — neither fatty nor greasy — and were accompanied by a divine kabayaki glaze. They were a classier alternative to standard bar chicken wings. The sesame seeds weren’t overpowering; they rather complemented the whole structure.
- Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the evening was the Mushroom Fries ($8): tender Portobello mushroom spears swaddled in tempura batter. This is something we haven’t seen on a menu in quite some time. This dish carries a threat of being too soggy (due to the amount of water in mushrooms), so the crispiness of the tempura was impressive — right on point. The flavors in the black aioli were tasty, and in this day and age, in which everything seems to be over salted, the dish was seasoned just right.
We knew a sandwich was in order as soon as we spotted “Patisserie 46 brioche bun.” The Kalua Pork Sandwich ($10), inspired by Chris’ Hawaiian influence, was a nice, fairly well-balanced nosh. The sweetness of the pineapple slaw worked in unison with the soulful flavor of the pork and the house pickles. We also polished off the crispy house fries.
To end the night, we ordered the Crab Crusted Snapper ($11 / $21). While it was slightly overcooked, the flavors were still delicious, especially the soy mustard beurre blanc. The lingering heat made for a nice touch and kept the dish exciting.
The bar offered a variety of beers on tap. In case you forgot where you were, each tap represented a character in L-A-K-E & I-R-V-I-N-G. They gave some (much needed) personality to the space. From Bad Weather Ales (Windvane Red Ale and Firefly Rye Ale) to Founder’s Breakfast and Left Hand’s Milk Stouts, there was an array of unique beers in house. Other local brews that made the roster: Rush River Double Bubble, Indeed Midnight Ryder, and Harriet Brewing Woluptuweiss. Wine was also available.
The cocktail menu was comprised of all the usual suspects: Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Margarita (all $9 except for Old Fashioned, $12). Perusing the list of libations, we noticed that one came out of left field: the Le Sureau ($9). While not a “classic cocktail,” it was an easy, well-balanced drink. Made with Prairie Organic Vodka, St. Germain, lavender simple syrup, grapefruit juice, and lemon, it was a bright combination of variables without the floral notes being overwhelming. The grapefruit juice was a welcome touch. It made us want to be outside on a patio, in shorts, getting a mild sunburn.
Also on the menu was the Martinez ($9), deemed the predecessor to the Martini. (It has been speculated that the Martini’s origin refers to Martinez, CA — the home of what else, the Martinez). It was candied and thick, but the residual orange bitters were a pleasant twist and kept the sweetness at bay. Overall, it was an adequate cocktail, but not a home run.
Lake & Irving’s food was good, and the service was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable, but the ambiance and lighting were less than desirable. It didn’t seem like it had a cohesive concept. It was somewhat cold (all white walls); one accent wall could’ve gone a long way. The many, many different types of light fixtures were confusing, and the fluorescent lighting shining on us from the kitchen was less than ideal. (I had a flashback of the two-faced Seinfeld episode when Jerry’s girlfriend’s appearance changed based on lighting.) A simple curtain or awning would’ve helped our predicament — not Jerry’s.
We’d definitely go back for a quick bite or brunch (natural light), but perhaps not on a first date.
Lake & Irving
New American Cuisine
1513 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
CHEF / OWNERS: Chris & Andrew Ikeda
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED:
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN:
ENTREE RANGE: $11-$21
PARKING: Free lot in back