Roasted Pear (Burnsville, MN)
It's not that we hate chain restaurants. Some very good restaurants are owned by corporations. Small local chains seem to us like markers of success, not focus-group encroachment. But we resent how national chain restaurants set the public taste and squeeze the independent restaurants out of the business.
We say this because Burnsville's Roasted Pear looks incredibly like a chain restaurant. The muted earth tone color scheme, good wood tables, and open kitchen all impressed us as a corporate store. It's not; Roasted Pear is an independent restaurant, and the family works there. It's more expensive than we'd like, and the menu is more variable than it should be, but....
Appetizers include the same list you'd expect at any chain: chicken wings, a quesadilla, chicken tenders, bruschetta. We liked the signature roasted pear baked brie, with pears, sweet caramelized onions, and a small wheel of brie baked in a puff pastry. Order it to share and eat it quick; it's best when hot. Same with the onion rings; they're thick and juicy, and best eaten before they cool. Less successful is the artichoke and spinach dip, which tasted too much of spinach and not enough of artichokes.
Roasted Pear offers familiar salads: Cobb, Caesar, and club. There's also a pedestrian house salad that you can order. Why is it so hard to include some good mixed vegetables in a house salad? Their roasted-pear spinach salad is much better than the current version at California Cafe at the Mall of America.
The wonderful chicken noodle soup was clearly homemade and with excellent stock. A bit sturdier noodles would be welcome.
We didn't do nearly as well with the entrees. The Cajun porterhouse pork chop tasted solely of blackening spice; we could barely taste the pear compote. The broiled salmon was too dry and not flavorful enough.
Entrees come with very good grilled vegetables, and your choice of potatoes. Have the skin-on garlic mashed potatoes; there's plenty of garlic in them.
We had better luck with the pasta dishes. We especially liked the Thai chicken pasta: chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers served with a creamy and slightly spicy peanut sauce on penne pasta.
The pizzas are OK. We like a crisper crust. The sandwiches and burgers, too, are predictably OK. Best is the grilled portabella mushroom sandwich, served with grilled onions and peppers, sprouts, and Swiss cheese. Really nice.
The portions are huge, so order less food than you think you want or be prepared to take leftovers home.
And the food can be expensive. With appetizers and drinks, it's not hard to spend $50 a person. That's a lot of money for dinner around here.
Roasted Pear advertises itself as "upscale casual," which means "quite nice dining room, but with a television in the corner."
If we could tweak Roasted Pear, we'd give up huge portions for more finely crafted dishes. We'd pay less attention to matching the expectations of corporate-crafted tastes, and more on being really good at what they do. And we'd ditch the television in the corner.
14200 Nicollet Ave., Burnsville MN 55337
Sun–Thu : 11:00 AM-Midnight
Fri–Sat : 11:00 AM-1:00 AM
Atmosphere: Upscale casual
Service: Unremarkable but fine
Sound level: Not too noisy even when crowded; classic rock soundtrack
Recommended dishes: Thai chicken pasta, spinach salad
Prices: Sandwiches $9–$11, pastas and pizzas $8–$14, entrees $14–$24
Smoking: In the bar only