NorthCoast (Wayzata, MN)
By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
We've got a great idea for escaping the workaday world. Pick a lovely summer evening, and watch the sun set over Wayzata Bay from the new Calypso Grill at NorthCoast. They've got palm trees, plenty of island décor, and some of the better calypso- and Caribbean-inspired cuisine around. Chef Ryan Aberle is serious about providing "a vacation away," and we can't think of much that's nicer than the relatively intimate space upstairs, outside and under the fine Minnesota summer sky.
The Calypso menu is still being tweaked, and Chef Aberle expects to make frequent changes as the summer rolls on. But we are confident it's going to be good, since we liked so much on NorthCoast's menu. If the weather isn't perfect for dining lakeside, the main menu in the dining room has lots of excellent choices.
From the summer menu, choose starters like the Prince Edward Island mussels, which we liked with the slightly spicy Asian marinara. The spice added a welcome new twist on a classic dish. We also liked the warm Brie crusted with cashews, with pear and lingonberry providing a welcome contrast to the perfectly melty cheese.
If you like peppers, as we do, try the seven-layer Caprese salad. The tomatoes here were exceptionally nice (in May!), though we missed the basil.
The gazpacho, done with smoked tomatoes, is another tasty, interesting twist on a summer favorite, even if we thought it had far more horseradish than was strictly necessary.
For main courses, we are great fans of rosemary seafood brochettes: succulent bites of seafood skewered on twigs of fresh rosemary. The herb really lights up the scallops, fish and prawns. Everything here tasted fresh and wonderful.
Vegans as well as those with less restricted diets will enjoy the sweet potato gnocchi, served in a light vegetable broth, with lots of mushrooms and asparagus. Though the dish is bland to the eyes, the mix of flavors works delightfully well.
We were wild about the mango salsa served with the mango duck breast. Next time, we'll ask for more. Yukon potatoes, appearing oven-roasted or mashed with different dishes, made a tasty accompaniment, as did the various grilled vegetables. Every dish we had was composed of well-chosen sides, prepared well and served hot.
We give a special nod to the front house staff at NorthCoast. Everyone we dealt with was charming and competent, making us feel that they were glad we had come to their restaurant and hoped we'd be back. It was just heartwarming, in this world of too-often-indifferent service, to feel so welcome.
Chef Aberle makes a point of shopping locally, stocking his kitchen from the farmers' markets as the growers produce more and different vegetables. He says he enjoys the challenges of "cooking high-quality ingredients for people who understand good food." Since his background has been cooking for upmarket chains like Palomino and Kincaid's, he's come into his own, appreciative of the Wayzata clientele and looking for ways to make NorthCoast a rising star. We think he, and the whole staff, are well on their way.
294 Grove Lane E.
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