Domacin Wine Bar (Stillwater, MN)

By Bruce Schneier
The Mix
November/December 2010

Domacin Wine Bar is in Stillwater, and that's the one imperfection that keeps us from being regulars. For us Minneapolitans, it seems like a bit of a drive, even for great food and wine, a smart and charming staff, and the sort of musical playlist that makes us happy just walking in the door. But they're good enough to make your "must-try" list anyway.

Expect a seasonal Mediterranean menu with a lot of twists. You'll find a list of small plates that work as appetizers, for a nibble with a glass of wine, or to combine to make a whole meal. The risotto cakes, made with mozzarella and basil and served with tomato jam, were tasty if a bit overcooked. The scallops were a slight miss. They looked good on the menu -- green beans, hazelnuts, and a saffron-lemon aioli -- but the sauce didn't quite work with the perfectly cooked scallops. Crostini, with more chevre and marinated tomatoes, were crisp, rich little bites, ideal if you're in the mood for tapas. So is The Wine Lover's Plate, with olives, cheese, and artisan salami.

We liked all the entrees. The succulent braised pork, served with cheese grits, a bit of candied jalapeño pepper, and tomato jam is a fine representation of the American edge to the menu. The ahi tuna is their most-Asian, and lightest, dish: perfectly seared tuna slices, wasabi mashed potatoes -- not too much wasabi -- cucumber, sesame seeds, and a ponzu sauce. The beef tenderloin was terrific. It came in a dark truffle sauce, almost a glaze, with small potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Very rich and very earthy.

Even the pappardelle pasta was good, with bits of beef tenderloin, carmelized onion, mushrooms and crème fraiche. They also served an end-of summer penne pasta, with zucchini, red peppers, yellow squash, spinach and parmesan cheese.

For dessert, we loved the flawless tres leches cake. This kitchen is doing a lot of things right, and they source everything they can from the St. Croix Valley.

If nothing else, to go Domacin for the value. The small plates are all $8 -- $12 The entrees, quite substantial, are more, ranging from $16 for pasta to $28 for the expensive beef dish, but most are $20 or less. Unless you're very hungry you're likely to leave with the leftovers. The most expensive dessert is $7. The best value is on Sunday, with their $30 four course tasting menu -- $45 with the wine pairing. This quality of cookery is never cheap, but we've far spent much more for meals we didn't enjoy anywhere near as much.

Wine bars live and die by the wine list. Domacin can be proud of the range and depth of their 400+ bottles list, which is heavily weighted to West Coast and Italian wines. They can do vertical tastings, sell you an oversized bottle of a Super Tuscan or just help you find a great glass of wine to go with what's on the menu this week.

Domacin Wine Bar
102 South 2nd St.
Stilwater, MN 55082
651-439-1352

www.domacinwinebar.com

Cuisine Type: American, Mediterranean, eclectic
Reservations: Recommended
Diet Choices: All diet restrictions will eat well here.

earlier review: Haute Dish (Minneapolis, MN)
later review: Sen Yai Sen Lek (Minneapolis, MN)
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