When last we talked to Landon Schoenefeld about HauteDish, he told us that his plan, in essence, was to deconstruct the homey food of his childhood — elevated hot dish, he said. He filled our ears with tales of tater tots turned croquette, Bloody Mary oyster shooters, duck in a can, and smoked pork bellies sous vide. “This is my idea,” he said, “and I hope people like it.”
With all this promise tucked in our collective salivary glands, we went to HauteDish on opening night this week, fairly well prepared to be delighted, our enthusiasm only slightly restrained by opening night jitters. And, if what we ate that night is any indication, there is every reason to be excited.
It would be a rare restaurant indeed that could out-twinkle the bright lights of Sex World, but when we pulled up to HauteDish the lights were so very dim we thought it might not be open. On closer inspection, a child’s smiling face peering out the window told us otherwise. Inside, the light was actually quite welcoming as it reflected off newly earth-toned walls, a warm complement to the space’s vaulted ceilings and tile floor. Schoenefeld and company have maintained the original bar in all its wood-and-mirror glory and, had we not been laboring under thoughts of braised beef and gravy, it would have been tempting to sit for a while.
A leisurely stay was perhaps even more tempting after we settled into our booth and perused the extensive drink menu. Our dining companion gasped at the ambitious bourbon list, which he compared to a bourbon bar he had visited recently in Brooklyn. He then ordered a nicely mellow Mint Julep ($10), featuring Maker’s Mark and served in an appropriately frosty stainless-steel julep cup. Also notable, a Sazerec ($10) — Old Overholt, lemon, Le Torment Vert Absinthe — which has a couple things on the Craftsman’s recipe: a soft start and, ultimately, a hint of sweetness make it easier on the palate. A Moscow Mule, which combined Prairie Organic Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, did not fail to please, but proved to be a bit summery for a gusty spring evening.
We could not hope to scratch the surface of the drink menu, which (along with a swell cocktail list) also includes something like 36 beers — 16 on tap — and a varied yet not overwhelming wine list, ranging from a $6 glass of La Fiera Pinot Grigio to a $95 bottle of Heidsieck Monopole Champagne.
The HauteDish dinner menu — mounted on a light piece of wood reminiscent of those retro balsam postcards — presented somewhat fewer options. If you are a vegetarian, you might find this a hardship since you’d really only have one option, a Med Plate ($11) combining veggies, legumes, olives, and cheese. But have no fear, cow, pig, duck, chicken, fish, mollusk, and crustacean eaters, there’s plenty of choice and you will be well fed.
There were no vegetarians at our table, so we started things off with the Char-Cuts ($13), a sampling of three charcuterie with traditional garnishes. We were unanimously struck with the spicy head cheese — served with a brilliant red hot jelly — and rustic paté that was at once firm and light and clean in flavor. A chunk of mortadella divided the table between those who found it too bologna-like and those who delighted in its delicate texture and subtle smoke.
Also spot on: The Steak & Eggs ($10), a complex dish featuring a tartare well-balanced with capers, cornichon, and mustard; a brioche egg in a hole — a circle of toast balanced sweetly on the crust; and a Bloody Mary oyster shooter. It was all good, but the shooter was the star. Imagine: a savory, piquant Bloody Mary, followed closely by bracing mouthful of sweet vinegar, shallot, and oyster. We should all wake up to that.
No one was entirely sure about the Snail & Ham Pot Pie ($9); overall, it was tasty, and both the ham and the puff pastry were tender, but the snail lost its way in the sauce, and it was a hard dish to share. The latter comment might also apply to the Steak & Eggs, which was a little fussy in all its pieces, yet worth it.
Amazingly, we continued to eat. An earlier report detailed our exploits with the Duck in a Can ($33), to which I will only add my dining companion’s comment: “This toast might be redundant; it’s getting its ass kicked by all this duck.” Toast is never superfluous, especially when the foie gras is spreading like butter, but when he tossed a blanket of duck fat to the side, it did give the rest of us pause.
On the subject of toast, another dining companion was heard to say that the Creamed Peas on Toast ($13) was weird, unlike anything she’d ever eaten before. The creamed peas were oddly enjoyable, with a light, fresh flavor complemented by bits of morel and pecorino. However, chunks of sturgeon added a smoky element that was maybe a little too strong for such a green, green dish.
Overwhelmingly, the hero of the night was the Tater Tot HauteDish, which very well may give the Modern Cafe’s famous pot roast a run for its money. Served along side a hunk of short rib — covered in gravy and tender beyond all belief — the croquette crust of the tater tots cracked to reveal a warm run of potato and porcini béchemel. On top, a thatch of lemony, perfectly al dente green beans.
When Heavy Table interviewed Schoenefeld last February, he teased this reviewer, a native of California, for never having eaten hot dish, much less the tater tot variety. Well, I stand converted.
BEST BET: Tater Tot HauteDish, hands down — high concept meets satisfying comfort.
Upscale American in the Warehouse District
119 N Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401
CHEF / CO-OWNER: Landon Schoenefeld
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Some / No
ENTREE RANGE: $10-$33