The culinary world goes through trends faster than you can say: “fried egg.” From Minneapolis to New York, the crowdfunding revolution is transforming local restaurant financing before our very eyes. Just recently, Travail Kitchen met its goal in less than six hours. (It takes longer to brine a turkey.) The latest Minneapolis Kickstarter success is The Rabbit Hole — Korean-inspired street food located in Midtown Global Market. Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard, the brains behind the brilliant Left Handed Cook, most recently created this vibrant, sit-down eatery with Asian-fusion flair thanks to its backers. Perhaps the famous quote is true: “If you build it, they will come.” Minus Kevin Costner in this case.
Between the Cocktails on Tap and the House Cocktails, the restaurant attains high marks with its libations. The selection was extensive, yet not overwhelming. The Julep ($9) wasn’t oversweet and was abundant in mint sprigs. The Cabra Vieja ($9) was also well-balanced and packed a mean punch. The Fernet Brasca had a lingering intensity in the Not Doin’ Jack in the Morning ($9), but in a good way. (If we‘d had one more, we would’ve been doing just that.) In a different camp, the French 2 Bits ($9) possessed a longing sweetness from the Crown Maple & Rye Whiskey. It was bright with complex flavor.
Added bonus: Those who backed the restaurant on Kickstarter received a free tap cocktail ($9 value) with their Kickstarter backer pin, a bonus above and beyond having their name written on one of the booths (above).
For starters, we opted for the Charred Green Bean ($7). The green beans were crisp and clean and were augmented by the funky, slightly spicy paste and the crunch of almonds. The dish was quite delightful. The Bacon Haemul Pajeon ($10) was also good — very substantial and crunchy, a lot like an Indian pakora with a scallopy flavor.
Next up to bat was the Duck Duck Dduk ($7) — the thinly sliced, gummy rice coins dressed up with duck confit and served in a hot, richly flavored sauce. From the bizarre chewiness to the crunch of the sesame seeds to the serendipitous garlic cloves, everything worked in unison. It was absolutely amusing, comforting, satisfying, and delicious.
Perhaps the most complex dish of the night was the Watermelon Salad ($7). Each bite unraveled a new story, whether it was the hint of bacon in the vinaigrette, the kick of mint, or the bleu cheese crumbles. All of the variables worked seamlessly together; while complex, the dish was still well-balanced and a pleasant surprise.
Loosely packed and loaded with heat, the Korean Sausage ($8) was bold and filling, but beckoned for more kimchi flavor. However, pickled jalapeños added a nice crunch to the grainy texture and the roasted onions were perfectly cooked. The biggest letdowns of the night were the Pork Belly Skewers ($7 for 2). The cut of meat was inconsistent — some dry and some were all fat. The pickled mustard seed and the sweet soy sauce helped with the dryness, but the greens on the side felt somewhat like an afterthought.
The Appa Burger ($11), with the still ever-so-popular fried egg, was cooked correctly and was nestled between a nice tender bun that didn’t fall apart. The hash browns, on the other hand, were irrelevant — gilding the lily if you will.
The Grilled Kalbi ($19) with kimchi hash was a nice twist on comfort food. Down to the well-executed al dente texture, the entire structure of the dish was soulful. The smoothness from the potatoes and the cabbage crunchiness made for a nice contrast. However, similar to the Korean Sausage, the overall kimchi flavors could’ve been taken up one more level.
After a complete sodium overload, we wanted to end the night on a sweet note with the Mango Pudding ($6) for dessert. It wasn’t oversweet and the chewy rice bits floating in the pudding provided a delightful textural accent. The bunny-shaped, chocolate covered shortbread pieces were sort of unconnected, but cute.
In short: The space was funky. The menu was creative. The music (Vampire Weekend, Santigold) was on point. And the service was spot-on. Although Midtown Global Market caters to the lunch crowd, it seems likely that The Rabbit Hole can bring nightlife to an unlikely territory.
The Rabbit Hole
Korean / Asian Fusion / New American Cuisine
Midtown Global Market
920 EE Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
OWNERS: Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard
Happy Hour (bar only) Mon-Sat 4-6pm
BAR: Cocktails, beer, soju, wine
ENTREE RANGE: $7-19