The Marsh (Minnetonka, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune West
April 5, 2006

Spa cuisine. Makes you think of dry toast and spirulina, doesn't it?

Thankfully, the restaurant at The Marsh, a full-service spa, inn and conference center, takes a different tack. Much of the menu is lighter fare: appetizers, salads and sandwiches. But there are full entrees on the menu, too. Beef. And beer and wine.

The focus is less on stereotypical "health" food and more on real food, locally grown when possible, organic and fresh. The message is that real food, not supplements and flavor enhancers, feeds our bodies.

The quesadilla made with butternut squash and smoked Gouda was quite good, as was its beet and lemon garnish.

We were less impressed with the walleye cakes, which had too fishy a flavor and weren't improved by the wild leek butter alongside.

The roasted beet and arugula salad, with goat cheese and lavender honey vinaigrette, was appetizing.

On the other hand, a Caesar salad is already a perfect thing and it is not improved, as was attempted here, by the addition of tomatoes.

The salad Nicoise was fine, with lovely fingerling potatoes, but we didn't think the tuna steak was quite as fresh as we like.

The chicken soup was perfect, with lots of chicken, carrots and celery in a wonderful broth. We liked the chili less well; The Marsh's version was not especially spicy.

Our favorite sandwich was the bison burger. The meat comes from the open range of the Silver Bison Ranch in Baldwin, Wisc., and the bison eat only pesticide-free grass.

The burger is served with sauteed mushrooms and leeks on a delicious onion bun. The Marsh also offers a vegetarian sandwich of fresh goat cheese and greens, as well as a variety of other options.

Some of the entrees were exceptional. The incredibly tender bison pot roast, made with that same Silver Bison Ranch meat and served with grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes, was marvelous.

The grilled hanger steak was also good. The cattle are raised on grass, not in a feedlot, and the steak was perfectly complemented by the porcini onion ragout. The side of roasted cauliflower completed the dish.

The fish and chips was tasty but misnamed. It's a piece of pan- roasted walleye, without any of that crunchy breading you expect when you order fish and chips. Also, chips are French fries, not roasted potatoes. The dish was just fine; it simply wasn't fish and chips.

There are always a lot of specials on the board behind the counter. We ordered the sliced duck breast with a fine barley risotto. This was an excellent dish, though the duck portion was small.

The desserts are real desserts, not tasteless "healthy" options. We especially liked the carrot cake and the chocolate torte cake. Ask for a scoop of ice cream on top of that.

The Marsh restaurant is more popular for lunch than dinner.

On one weekday night, for example, we were the only table in the restaurant. But they have a take-out counter that does a brisk business.

There might not be a big sign outside, but the restaurant is open to the public and is a worthwhile destination.

The Marsh Restaurant

Location: 15000 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka.
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
Atmosphere: Beautiful open windows look out over the marsh
Service: Pleasant
Sound level: Not loud
Recommended dishes: Bison, beet salad
Prices: Sandwiches $8–$10, entrees $10–$15
Children: No special children's menu, but the kitchen is accommodating
Contact: 952-930-8560; www.themarsh.com

earlier review: Pop! (Minneapolis, MN)
later review: The Ole Store (Northfield, MN)
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