When we interviewed Restaurant Alma alum Ben Rients in January about his upcoming restaurant, he said “It comes down to being as authentic as you possibly can: That’s something I’ve learned from Alma — you can recreate flavors, but if you want to be better, be as authentic as you can.” Now that his restaurant is open for business in Richfield, we can say with confidence that he and his team are hitting the mark. Lyn65 Kitchen & Bar is turning out food and drinks that are crafted with evident care and pride.
The restaurant’s interior design is spot on — no small feat. The lighting is dark but not cavelike. Chalkboards listing enticing looking foods and cocktails line the walls, and the overall vibe is “modern supper club,” the kind of place where you feel welcome and relaxed the moment your feet cross the threshold. It doesn’t hurt that locals seem to have already found and embraced the place. Chatty, happy crowds of diners contribute quite a bit to any place’s atmosphere.
Lyn65’s cocktail program is run with verve and skill; every cocktail we ordered ranged from good to excellent, and the punch of the night (good ol’ sangria) was a lovely example of the form, a harmonious balance between fruit and wine that we couldn’t drink fast enough. The Tijuana Brass Smash ($9, above) incorporates vodka, pineapple, cilantro, basil, lime, cucumber, and a hops tincture to make a drink that’s a bright, crisp, refreshing walk through an herb garden – finished with a touch of the smoothing magic of avocado.
The bar dominates the restaurant’s visual space, meaning that as bartenders strain, muddle, shake, and otherwise properly craft their cocktails, the dining room has the opportunity to gawk and anticipate their beverages.
The pasta section of the menu is short but sweet. We tried both the Bucatini alla Bolognese ($13, above) and the Fresh Tagliatelle ($15) and found them to be well executed, featuring balanced portions of tender pasta and rich, flavorful sauces. The tagliatelle was a particular standout, with its corn, tomatoes, fried sage, and caper pesto tasting bright and fresh.
Crispy flatbreads ($9-$12) are comfortably elevated spin on pizza, and come out of an oven capable of hitting 1,000°F. They’re reasonably small, making them well-suited for a light meal or a substantial bar snack.
We also tried a three-course tasting menu ($32) that served up smaller portions of menu standards including the marinated crab salad ($12 a la carte), the Bucatini, and the Braised Short Rib ($23). The crab salad was outstanding. Visually, it packs a hell of a wallop: a rainbow of shapes and colors distributed artfully across the plate. And the flavor’s there, too — acid and oil in balance, bright produce, and sweet, soft bits of crab accented by crunchy breadcrumbs flavored with XO seafood sauce.
Good as it is — and it is good — Lyn65 still has polishing to do. The Mussels from Brussels (above) cost $13 and contained nine mussels in total, at least three of which had noticeable grit. The half of a Brussels sprout included with the dish seemed like a rounding error. At $6 or $7, the dish would make sense as a small plate. At the actual $13, it’s financially outrageous. And while we found the chalkboard tasting menu appealing, we were put off by our waitress informing us — after we’d ordered — that typically everyone at a table gets it, a tradition not mentioned on the board (or elsewhere as far as we could tell). Less frustrating (but still irksome) was a popcorn bar-snack listed on the chalkboard during both of our visits that was simply not available.
Those few stutter-steps aside, it’s hard not to see Lyn65 and restaurants like it as the wave of the future — truly chef-driven, using quality ingredients, and dedicated to serving a neighborhood rather than an abstract ideal of cuisine. The next time we’re in Richfield, we’ll be back.
Lyn65 Kitchen & Bar
Upscale neighborhood fare in Richfield
6439 Lyndale Ave South
Richfield, MN 55423
OWNER / CHEF: Ben Rients / Ben Rients, Jason Sawicki, Travis Serbus
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: For Parties of 6+ / Yes for Weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$32
PARKING: Lot and limited street parking