Haute Dish (Minneapolis, MN)

By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
The Mix
September/October 2010

A new restaurant finally opens to high expectations: much buzz, top talent, a beautiful space, and convivial atmosphere. And we're not reviewing it. We can't be objective, since our son is one of those cooks, and we're down at Haute Dish pretty often. But we can't resist telling you how much we like the Dish. So, Chef Emery and his mom had a serious sit-down meal, and herewith: a meal report.

Emery chose a bunch of dishes, so we'd have a sampling of the current menu. There's always change in the works at the Dish, with new ideas and the turning of the seasons.

At the height of summer, we had two exceptional salads. I can't say enough good things about the House Salad, done "South Dakota Steakhouse Style." Head Chef Landon Schoenefeld is from South Dakota, a land where lettuce wedges have been known as a fancy salad. But here, there's glory in the details. Iceberg lettuce's fine crunch is the perfect background for macerated cherry tomatoes, cucumber curls, red bell peppers, dehydrated red onion, and bacon powder, all accented with 2 kinds of dressing and bleu cheese crumbles. Making the bacon powder, dehydrating onions, the long slow prep for the tomatoes: This isn't just thrown together. It's complex, interesting, and so good.

We also tried the Picnic Salad, featuring pork belly done sous-vide, but which also has a "cauliflower three ways" foundation. Look for cauliflower refrigerator pickles, dehydrated cauliflower chips, and a cauli-mayo garnish. Buttermilk dressing gives the romaine an extra layer of flavor, as do caraway and a taste of chilis, and the oyster vinaigrette adds subtly to the top of the flavor profile, there's no fishiness.

Complicated, stimulating, delicious: it's just salad, right? Not at the Dish. Each little ingredient is homemade. This is a kitchen of passionate, inventive cooks.

The Chicken Pot Pie is another work of art, the gilded frame here being the fois gras mousse ladled over the top. The pie crust is larded with duck fat; the pie itself includes 3 kinds of roasted peppers (for flavor, not heat) and shredded, smoked chicken. This tasted stupendous, but I'd prefer the chicken in chunks. And here we hit the Richness Complaint. Most reviewers share our observation that the food at the Dish is incredibly rich. They're fine at keeping portions to a smart size, but when the food is heavy, one doesn't want a lot to eat. That holds us back from appreciating the hard work and genius that goes into each plate.

The Egg Noodles ought to have been better. Homemade noodles were perfectly prepared, but the eggplant ragu just didn't have the power to carry the dish, even with those lovely macerated yellow tomatoes. It was almost a ratatouille, but that's not a dish that needs noodles. This was fine, but had no star power.

We moved on -- even though we were getting full -- to the fish special, which that evening was a perfect marlin, done to a turn and highlighted with shitake and chanterelle mushrooms and summer squash. The ponzu sauce gave the dish lightness and depth of flavor: this was wonderful.

You can try Chef Emery's pork rillettes, highlighted with orange and topped with apricot jam, on the Char-Cuts plate. This take on the French charcuterie offers sous-vide chicken liver mousse; mortadella, a grown-up boloney, and a pork terrine along with the pickles and mustard one expects. It's protein heavy, but everything is made with skill.

Haute Dish isn't cheap, and it's hard to eat light there. But it's a fun place for groups, and we've enjoyed ourselves every time we've been.

Haute Dish
119 Washington Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 338-8484

http://www.haute-dish.com/

Cuisine type: Nouveau Midwestern
Reservations: Recommended
Diet choices: Some few vegetarian options, but vegans won't do well here.

earlier review: St. Boni Bistro (St. Bonifacius, MN)
later review: Domacin Wine Bar (Stillwater, MN)
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