Friday, January 29, 2010

The Sample Room - Minneapolis

I'm not sure how long it's been since my first visit to the Sample Room in Northeast Minneapolis, but it feels like it must be close to ten years. That was back when i was a Nordeaster. I moved to Saint Paul and had kind of forgot about it until a friend of mine was raving about a recent visit. This prompted my return and I'm happy to have rediscovered this gem just down the street from the old at 2124 Marshall Avenue NE.
The Sample Room specializes in small plates and flights of wine, whiskey and more. We went for the Grand Sample Combo Platter which included a choice of any four small plates at a discounted price. We tried the baked goat cheese with oven roasted tomato and basil, meatloaf with homemade smoked tomato ketchup, seared sea scallops, and roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.

I would most recommend the sprouts and squash. I'm not a huge vegetable guy, but these were REALLY good. They are roasted with tons of brown sugar and super tender. Next best was the baked Stickney Hill goat cheese with oven-dried Roma tomatoes and basil oil. This went really well with the home made breads. I liked the seared scallops with pumpkin seed picada. My date thought they were a bit over cooked. Neither of us thought the bison-pork-beef three meatloaf was very exciting. Not bad, just didn't meet it's potential. We split a deluxe cheeseburger with bacon medium rare. It was really solid. For desert we had the bread pudding which was excellent.

The Sample room is open 11am Monday through Friday and 10am Saturday & Sunday. The kitchen closes at 10pm Sunday through Thursday and midnight Friday & Saturday. The bar closes at 1am everyday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

D' Amico Kitchen - Minneapolis

I checked out D' Amico Kitchen downtown Minneapolis. They moved out of there old digs in Butler Square and are now located on the ground floor of the swank Chambers Hotel in the heart of the Hennepin Theatre District. This would be a great spot for a nice dinner or upscale snack if you're holding Orpheum Theatre tickets.

The atmosphere is upscale and trendy but still feels warm and invited. The artwork in the restaurant and hotel are worth the visit.

The menu is grouped by antipasti, pasta and secondi. Our waitperson recommended that we each go with one of each. If I go back I would probably stick to the small plates, as they were the highlight of the meal and after which we were all getting a bit full to really appreciate the main course. The fresh bread served was great and could have easily made a satisfying meal paired with the small plates. I think we went through three baskets.

We started with the mussels, tuna, lamb meatballs and roasted beets. All of these were excellent. The mussels were served in a basil-garlic butter and were so good we ordered some more to share with the table. My favorite was the lamb meatballs served with pine nut, currant and yogurt. These, by themselves, will probably bring me back. The yellow fin tuna was served with avocado and melon and I really liked the roasted beets with pistachio, Gorgonzola and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. The beets with the Gorgonzola is a great combo.

We tried the mushroom risotto, ravioli and butternut squash cappelletti for the pasta course. They were all solid, but I think the standout was the ravioli with bufala ricotta, goat cheese, speck, tomato and basil.

Everyone was pretty full by the time the main course was delivered to the table. We tried the braised short rib, sea scallop, grilled swordfish and chicken under brick. All the dinners were good, but I didn't have anything that would send me racing back.

D' Amico has a great wine list, but the prices are a bit of a hammer. I don't understand why restaurants feel they need to charge three retail.

If you go to D' Amico Kitchen or the Chambers Hotel during the winter make sure to check out the Ice Chamber ice bar and fire pit out in the courtyard.

D' Amico Kitchen is located in the Chambers Hotel at 901 Hennepin Avenue. Right across the street from the Orpheum Theatre. Their phone number is 612-767-6960. D' Amico Kitchen's hours are 6:30am - 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 6:30am - 10pm Friday and Saturday.