Naar Grille (Eden Prairie, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune West
September 20, 2006

The best spinach salad we've ever had was at the Naar Grille in Eden Prairie.

We've been fooling around with vinaigrettes at home, trying to find the smooth but biting blend that makes a salad great. The dressing on the spinach salad at Naar was in every way ideal. The olive oil and lemon juice each stood out as individual flavors but supported each other as vinaigrette is meant to. The spinach leaves were tender and fresh. It was simple food done perfectly. We encountered this marvel on the shrimp and scallops entree. It's also available as a side dish.

There's lots more to like. The Thoom wa Lamoon shrimp appetizer has shrimp marinated in lemon and garlic and topped with manchego cheese. The sauce has a nice hot kick to it: delicious.

A less spicy but also wonderful appetizer is the baked goat cheese. The cheese floated in a pool of mild tomato sauce atop an island of wilted spinach. It was served with crostini, perfectly crunchy and not shatteringly dry, and the combination was exceptional.

Not everything is wonderful. The hummus needed more garlic and lemon. The baba ghanoush and the stuffed grape leaves were okay but not special. The olive tapenade needs some better olives.

Naar Grille's best entrees are seafood and pasta choices. The arugula squash ravioli was a fantastic dish in every way, from the squash-filled pasta to the roasted cauliflower to the sauce. If you're a vegetarian, this dish is worth driving to the restaurant for.

The red snapper was similarly delicious, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus and sumac hollandaise. The shrimp and scallops delighted us with that amazing salad, but the scallops were sad and overcooked. Ask for this dish with all shrimp.

We found nothing special about the more traditional entrees. Best were the kabobs -- beef, lamb, chicken or shrimp. These are nicely marinated and served with grilled vegetables, rice and salad. We didn't care for the apricot pistachio sauce, but that's easy enough to avoid.

On the other hand, the moussaka was forgettable and the gyros plate was generic and uninteresting. Neither of these dishes were worth the price on the menu.

Naar Grille also serves several different cuts of steak, a nice lemon basil chicken, and some more traditional pasta dishes. They also have a friendly and cheap children's menu, as well as a variety of dinner salads.

The port wine reduction that garnished nearly everything was a bit of a blessing and a curse. With a big group, it quickly became the cliche of the meal, appearing on everyone's plate. On the other hand, every plate it graced was enhanced by the slightly sweet addition.

Naar Grille isn't a cheap restaurant, and we wish the service were on par with the prices. The decor tries to say upscale, but the dining room looks like a chain restaurant. It's hard to fault them for this, though, as the building used to be a Hops Brewpub.

If You Go: Naar Grille

Location: 11528 Leona Road, Eden Prairie
Contact: 952-946-6227 or www.naargrille.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Atmosphere: Upscale chain restaurant
Service: Well meaning, but slow
Sound level: Not too loud
Recommended dishes: Baked goat cheese, arugula squash ravioli, spinach salad
Prices: Appetizers $7–$14, entrees $17–$25
Children: Children's menu available

earlier review: Piccolo's Pizzeria (Eagan, MN)
later review: Town Talk Diner (Minneapolis, MN)
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