We are a tasting group of women who have been dining out together since 1998. We dine in restaurants all over the Twin Cities and we choose restaurants that either are new or long established ones with good reputations. Because we are a tasting group we do not all order an individual appetizer, entrée or dessert. As a group we come to a consensus before ordering. We share each course and give our opinions on taste, presentation and service.
We first went to Nicollet Island Inn in 2004 and liked it
so well we gave it a "5 Plate Licker" designation.If this needs an explanation, we did not leave a
bit of sauce or crumb on our plates.By
consensus, we rarely return to a restaurant, preferring to choose from the wide
variety of wonderful eateries in the Twin Cities.This is the only restaurant we have returned
to a number of times.In the summer, we
sit outside; in the spring we have enjoyed brunch overlooking the river.
The restaurant was decorated beautifully for the
holidays.Immediately the scent of
freshly-cut greens filled the air upon stepping through the doors.Tiny, twinkling lights sparkled throughout
the dining room.
After visiting several restaurants with high ceilings and
poor acoustics, we appreciated Nicollet Island Inn and the calm atmosphere
enabling us to enjoy a glass of wine while catching up with one another.
We chose two appetizers - the Beef Tartare and a Beet
Beet Salad - wonderful!This included roasted and pickled beets with a variety ofspring greens .The salad dressing drew many compliments.The golden beets were pickled, the red beets
roasted providing an odd contrast.Beets
are a favorite with most of us but we would have preferred either roasted or
pickled, not both in the salad.
Steak Tartare - this wasn't up to their normal high
standards.We found the beef to be a
little chunky, similar to the texture of ground beef and agreed that it needed
more seasoning.The grilled bread served
with it was wonderful with a black pepper twist.
We chose 3 main courses.
Mushroom Gnocchi - we wouldn't change a thing; it was
very good.This dish featured wild and
cultivated mushrooms that tasted almost caramelized and potato gnocchi with
taleggio cream, truffle oil and pecorino cheese.
Lamb Duo -this
was a Rack of Lamb and braised Lamb Shank combination.The lamb was done perfectly, medium rare as
ordered; the braised Lamb Shank was tender and seasoned with cumin.The Rack of Lamb could have used more
seasoning to compete with the cumin but was beautifully served and very
tender.The dish was served with root
vegetables and was enjoyed by all.
Scallops - served with acorn squash risotto.The scallops were pan-fried, perfectly
cooked, the risotto creamy and rich.Most of us loved this dish.
Dessert, typically the highlight of our meal, was
disappointing.We chose Salted Crème
Brule and Gingerbread cake.We all
agreed both desserts were quite average.
Our waiter was very attentive and gracious about
assisting us in making menu selections that are easily shared.
It may have been the atmosphere or because it was the
Holiday Season but as we left, we decided to make this restaurant our annual
It was nice to see this restaurant looks the same as it did
several years ago.A large u-shaped bar
for seating along with small tables around the perimeter.The colander light fixtures and sconces are
still there.The restaurant fills very
shortly after opening time of 5 pm and stays crowded with a line of people
waiting in the hallway by the entrance.The noise level is quite high.Get there early to get a parking space in the small lot.
Jeff, our waiter, was a familiar face who has been there for many
years.He is very knowledgeable and was
happy to recommend dishes for us to try.
We started with olive ripiene - Sicilian green olives stuffed
with fennel sausage, breaded and fried.The consensus was that it was interesting and good, but maybe we
wouldn’t order it again.
Next was the conserve del collo de agnello - lamb neck rillettes
which were pureed to a spreadable concentrate, served with pickled apricot,
onions micro green and toasted garlic.
It came in a small jar with great bread.Most of our group wasn’t fond of it.Others really liked the roasted lamb flavor.
Mozzarella de bufala had a different twist with the mozzarella
served over butternut squash puree, with oyster mushrooms, apples and
balsamic.There was not a lot of
flavor- a little bland.
Torta de formaggio was a savory gorgonzola cheescake served with
fresh persimmon, spiced walnuts and apple balsamic that was served with toast
for spreading.This was the flavorful
winner for the antipasti.
Pastas we sampled were very different and all delicious.
Fettuccine con cinghiale e fichi - Fresh spinach pasta with boar
and fig ragu which incorporated
kale, tomatoes, mascarpone and pine nuts.This was mild flavored.We had an equal number of those who loved it and
those who felt it was okay.
Guadrucci con pollo - Fresh pasta with fresh field greens,
roasted chicken breast with prosciutto, sliced almonds and asparagus had a nice
savory finish with balsamic and mascarpone.This has been a top seller at the restaurant since it opened, and we
in agreement that it was very good.
Fettuccine con maiale all’arrabbiata - fresh pasta with braised
pork belly, tomatoes, garlic, chilies and arugula was our favorite.This version of the dish had a nice spicy
(but not too hot) sauce that we all loved.
The seasonal desert was Pumpkin Cheesecake which was nicely
spiced and served with bourbon caramel, mascarpone and walnut brittle.
The tiramisu was well done and served with mascarpone,
Bestia nera is a flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream and
We liked all the deserts with the pumpkin cheesecake the winner.
Overall, the food was very well done and presented.All the pasta is freshly made, along with
the sauces.There is a nice wine list of
Italian wines and also some desert wines.
Eight of us made the trek out to Wayzata on the evening of July 28 with the idea of sitting on the patio watching the small waves from Lake Minnetonka lap at the shore as we enjoyed a leisurely dinner. Well, we at least hoped to be near one of the floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors...
Cov, a very popular location, does not accept "traditional" reservations. What that means to the traditional diner is that if you are not willing to spend a hefty minimum amount, you can cool your heels and wait. And so we did, for 45 minutes before being seated at a high-top table in the bar with a view of other diners who scored the patio. The sound level is overwhelming. It was so loud we were unable to have a conversation at our table. And about the food...
As you know from previous entries, we usually order through the menu, creating a tasting menu so that we can sample a number of offerings from each category. On this particular evening the noise level was too high to even discuss choices so we opted to either share with the individual sitting next to us or go it alone.
Some of our selections: Watermelon and Feta Salad was served with mint and basil, cool and refreshing (and plenty for two); the Blue Cheese Wedge arrived with marinated tomatoes and red onion. We ordered one each of three flatbreads: Caprese, traditionally served with fresh mozzarella and basil, but with the surprise addition of heirloom tomatoes; Harvest with grilled vegetables including wild mushrooms; and Smoked Chicken with Nueske's bacon and more marinated tomatoes. The Walleye Fish and Chips were crispy and perfectly cooked. Nothing was so memorable, though, that you would say you wanted to return for that specific item. We skipped dessert but did order wine by the glass along with a bottle of Vino Verde which is the perfect light white wine for summer.
Would we go again? According to others this was a unique experience and as a rule Cov is much more welcoming than it was on this night. Cov is not inexpensive though, and there are many really good restaurants offering great food that are much closer to Minneapolis/St. Paul than Wayzata.
During the summer months we like to eat on the
patio of the restaurant we select if at all possible.We have learned that at most restaurants, it
is first come, first served and so it was at sparks, 230 Cedar Lake South, Minneapolis, our restaurant of choice
for June. sparks is busy, and has a causal,
neighborhood feel aboutit with an
eclectic clientele, and so we felt fortunate to secure a table outside for the
seven of us.
On this night since the menu listed small plates,
pizzas and entrees we opted to order from each category so that the food
arrived at the same time.
From the small plates our favorite was Mango
Shrimp Tacos · two large grilled shrimp per taco with a peppery Thai Salad and
three pepper aioli.There are two tacos
per order and the sauce was piquant enough to get our attention but not
overwhelming.Less successful was the
Lamb Merguez, ground lamb sausage in a very spicy sea of harissa which did get
our attention.Although it was tasty,
the disappointment here was that there was not a strong flavor to the lamb. We
ordered Tzatsiki to cool off these two dishes but found the cooling off unnecessary
and so enjoyed it with excellent warm pita bread.
The twelve inch Pizza Vedura, roasted onion,
roasted tomato, kalamati olives, parmesan cheese and arugula, (which proved to
be a wonderful combination) appeared to be on a grilled crust as well and was
appealing to the eye as well as the palate.
Our final choice, from the entrees, was Roasted
Amish Chicken.The half chicken,
flavored with lemon juice and herbs, definitely thyme among them, appeared to
be more grilled than roasted and was moist, flavorful and very tender.We rated it right up there with the Mango
dessert menu is limited so rather than ordering two selections, during this
Minnesota rhubarb season, we opted to share two servings of Strawberry Rhubarb
Crisp, warmed and paired with vanilla gelato and whipped cream.What a glorious end to a meal…large chunks of
tangy rhubarb tempered with sweet strawberries, all afloat in slightly melting
vanilla gelato.And the crisp was
crisp.The oatmeal, flour, sugar and
butter combined to provide a light crunchy topping for the fruit below. There
was not a morsel left.
We found the manager and wait staff very helpful
and agreeable.sparks prices are very reasonable.
We visited this new restaurant with great expectations and we were not
disappointed. We liked the decor; lots of brick, skylights and windows.
Very light and airy. The noise level was high and conversation was
difficult at times.
We recommend the Day Boat Scallop Carpaccio with green apple, shiso,
chilies, scallion vinaigrette as a starter
Our entrees included Grilled Heritage Pork with hoisin glaze, salsify, and
wild mushrooms cassis. The pork was tender and delicious. This
restaurant also serves the bone on the side, perfect for gnawing on.
Vidalia Onion Tortellini with lamb ragu, eggplant, feta cheese, pine nuts
and mint. This was beautifully presented. The lamb ragu was
succulent, the eggplant crisp and thinly sliced.
Poached Atlantic Halibut with fava beans, spring onions, preserved lemon and
lobster emulsion. The halibut was properly cooked. Very moist!
However; this dish needed more flavor. The preserved lemon and
lobster emulsion just was not enough to give this dish the zing it needed.
As a side we chose the Creamy Spinach with fried cheese curds.
Although we were concerned that the cheese curds would be State fair
like, they were very tasty and crisp and the creamed spinach, what can one say,
it was perfect.
Two deserts rounded out our meal. Honey and Cream Cake with
strawberries and sweetened condensed milk ice cream. This dessert
reminded us of Tres Leche Cake. The cake was moist, not soggy. The
milk was pour over it at the table. There could have been more strawberries
and we would not have sliced them as thin.
The Chocolate and Coconut milk chocolate custard with cocoa sorbet was just
ok, not terrific. If we had not ordered the Honey and Cream Cake,
this dessert would have fine. But compared to the cake it tasted bland.
Chef Gavin Kaysen came to our table with the Black Truffle Arancini which is
usually only served in the bar. What a treat! Our servers were
attentive and knowledgeable.