Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Craftsman Restaurant - Minneapolis, MN

It had been a couple years since we last ate at the Craftsman Restaurant on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Recently, the new chef Mike Phillips has been getting a lot of press so my wife and I decided to see what all the hype was about. We would not be disappointed. Chef Phillips and his wife Michelle opened and ran Chet's Taverna, a popular neighborhood restaurant that was committed to working with regional and organic ingredients. After operating Chet's for 6 years, Mike closed Chet's in 2004. His interest in sustainable living, organic quality, and European cooking techniques are an integral part of The Craftsman. We started out with the Pork Rillettes and Artisan Cheese Plate. The Pork Rillettes is basically a seasoned pork pate served with crostini and spicy mustard. It was delicious and a very generous serving. Four people could have easily shared this. We picked two of the many artisan cheeses offered for our plate. First we tried the 'Winnimere' from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont. It's made from Ayrshire cow's milk and is similar to a Brie and very creamy. We also tried the Uplands Cheese 'Pleasant Ridge Reserve' which is a Gruyere made from cow's milk in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Both were great.

For the main course I tried the Grilled Fisher Farms pork chop with new potato and cipollini onion gratin and grilled maple sausage. The pork chop was good but a little bland paired with the excellent potatoes and sausage. The gratin potatoes were some of the best I've ever had. The sausage, like the chop, also came from Fisher Farms in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. I'm going to try and track down this sausage. My wife tried the Grilled grass fed Flat Iron Steak with fries and Bearnaise sauce. It was great and I especially enjoyed the super thick Bearnaise. Like the appetizer the portions for both entrees were very generous.

For desert we decided to try the Heirloom Apple Crisp and Brioche Bread Pudding. A lot of restaurants serve apple crisp but the Craftsman's version is a cut above the rest served with a scoop of Izzy's cinnamon ice cream. Even better was the Bread pudding. I can't really describe how good it was but it was close to eating a baked stick of butter. To wash it down we shared a glass of the Saint Croix Vineyards Raspberry Infusion which paired perfectly with the bread pudding.

The Craftsman restaurant is located at 4300 Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota just across the Marshall/Lake Street bridge from Saint Paul. You can go to Open Table to make reservations.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ichiban Japanese Steak House

Last week, I dressed the family up and headed out to Ichiban Japanese Steak House on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. Ichiban’s has been open in Minneapolis since 1979 and I have been there a few times before, but this was the first time I took the kids. The beautiful, pagoda-style building is very elegant and the comfortable indoor garden atmosphere with the waterfall and the stream offers a unique and fun backdrop for dining. My kids loved walking over the little wooden bridge to get to our table and the running water sound is so relaxing after a rough week at work.

Our kimono-clad waitress offered us oshibori (traditional hot, moist towels) and we all selected a dinner sampler that included Lobster, Filet Mignon and Chicken. The food was good and the show was great. Ichiban is pure theater. Seated in a horseshoe formation around a huge griddle, my family oohed and ahhed as the chef demonstrates the art of teppanyaki (griddle cooking). The chef chopped, sliced and set ablaze our dinner. My kids were truly amazed with his quick chopping skills, ability to play with fire and witty jokes. My daughter whispered over to me that it was the best steak she had ever had! Now, she doesn’t get out too much, but I do agree the Mignon was phenomenal that night and we got so much food! We were all stuffed as we shuffled back to the car (parking is a breeze there, another plus!)

Ichibans is definitely famous for the grill side cooking show, but they also have an award winning sushi bar and a great bar and lounge area. The delicious food and entertaining show have made Ichiban a favorite dinner destination in the Minneapolis area for years – if you haven’t been there, get out and give it a try! The food can be made mild enough for wimpy palates or spicy enough for the more brave! The bill is not cheap, but you also get entertainment with your meal. I would say the price is comparable to a Dinner Show, but the food is much better!

Reservations for teppanyaki are recommended and can be made by calling 612.339.0540 after 10:30 am weekdays and after noon on Saturday & Sunday. The sushi bar is available on a first come first served basis. The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday, 4:30 pm - 9:30 pm and Friday to Saturday, 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm.

Thank you to the Ichiban’s staff for making our family’s night out a special one!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Hard Rock Cafe, Minneapolis

I stopped by the Hard Rock Café in Minneapolis this week after a Timberwolves game and noticed the place was full of basketball fans. I have been there a few times before, but I was with my buddy who is from out of town so he wanted to stop in. The Hard Rock is always a classic place to entertain guests and my buddy is a real car guy so he was pretty impressed with the purple convertible with the gold flames right in the middle of the restaurant. If you have never been to the Hard Rock Minneapolis, seeing the classic car is worth the trip alone. There is also a ton of Prince memorabilia on the wall. The Hard Rock is easy to get to and is literally right across the street from the Target Center so it’s just a quick walk over and if you are driving downtown just to eat out the huge guitar outside the restaurant is hard to miss!

The food is classic Hard Rock entrees and the beer isn’t too cheap, but we had a great time. My buddy took a few pictures of us all at the bar and we kept our eyes open for local celebrities (it has been rumored that many professional athletes hang out there and I have seen a few local news anchors there as well.) The night was fun as we enjoyed our appetizers and commiserated about the Minnesota Timberwolves loss. Win or lose, The Hard Rock Café in Minneapolis is a great stop after any Target Center event!