Good Eats (112 Eatery -- Minneapolis, MN)
The morning after Jon and I ate at 112 Eatery, we received a call from his dad informing us that it had been named the Best New Restaurant of 2005 by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. And while I didn't eat at any other restaurants that opened in the Twin Cities in 2005, I am inclined to agree with them.
Minnesota was unusually balmy this year, hovering in the high 30's, low 40's most of our visit. So on the night we visited 112, we decided to walk the 3.5 blocks to the restaurant. Without coats. And we're idiots.
In any case, we arrived at what's currently deemed the hottest table in town to find it busy, but not oppressively so. In fact, our reservation was for 2, but we got seated at a four top. We also had a great view of the door, and could clearly see that this was where the in-the-know bitches and hos bide their time.
What initially tipped me off to 112 was a reader suggestion. What kept me intrigued was the fact that it's a Twin Cities restaurant that is open six nights a week from 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. Holy fuck! A great restaurant with late hours? In the Midwest? Our little city here would do well to take that cue more often. But I digress...
The service was sweet and capable. The hostess more than charming. And the food...well, the food is just super, save for a minor problem with salt. I'll get to that.
Everything on the menu looked good to us. But we formulated a plan and launched it. After discovering the seared ahi with chimichurri was no longer available (and while I cried salty tears of regret -- I adore chimichurri), we shifted gears and ultimately ended up with:
1. A small plate of stringozzi with lamb sugo for Jon. Jon declared this dish to be extraordinary save for too much salt. Now there has got to be a fuckload of salt in a dish for him to say that. He loves him some salt. He really felt it was an exceptional dish otherwise, but was super bummed that it was marred by the salt (Not to mention the fact that the server probably clocked about 1327 miles running back and forth to refill his water glass).
2. A small gnocchi with cauliflower and orange for me. The "small" plates of pasta were about 1.5 times as big as a "large" pasta at Delfina. We're talking Paul Bunyan style here. Welcome to the heartland, my friends. This was a great dish, with a nice smattering of chilies. A bit creamy, which I wish I had known in advance, but great nonetheless.
3. Now since everything looked good, we decided to go with little bits and side dishes to round out our order. We felt we were ordering conservatively but ended up not being able to finish our food due to the gargantuan portions. Part of what set us back was the country style pork ribs with salsa piccante. When we asked the server how large each rib was, she gestured to show us each one was slightly smaller than a deck of cards. Taking the bones into account, Jon ordered two. And when they arrived, they were the size of small babies. I'm not kidding. They were fucking huge. But they were also fucking good. And although we could not finish them and we would have been fine with just one, we really enjoyed them. They were just great. The salsa was spicy, just how I like it, and the ribs were cooked perfectly. Rock on.
4. Wilted escarole with anchovy and nutmeg. Is that just the most brilliant combo you've ever heard of? It tastes as good as it sounds. Too bad my stomach cavity was already bursting and bleeding from the sheer quantity of food we'd already consumed. But this was a truly delicious vegetable option.
5. I saved the best for last. This was my most favorite of all. I was so sad that I was too full to eat all of this next dish. So I had it boxed and ate the rest for breakfast the next day. And this dish was fried bread with prosciutto. From the description, I was not sure what I'd get. Now if you grew up on the east coast like me, the carnival came to town once a year. I lived for this because it was the only place I could get fried dough. A yeast dough deep fried and covered in powdered sugar. I'm seriously salivating at the thought of it right now. Pardon me while I touch myself. Anyway, this here dish at 112 was basically that beloved dough, except instead of powdered sugar, it was covered in prosciutto. And Oh My Christ it was good. It also had a bit too much salt, but not enough to detract from it's heavenliness. I would go back to 112 just for that. Fortunately, there are many, many other things to draw me back.
We were too full to get dessert, and lamented the fact that we couldn't try things like the Chinese fried eggs or the lardon and foie gras salad (we had foie earlier in the evening at the bar at our hotel -- are we gross, or what?), or just about anything else on the menu.
A little to much salt here, an inaccurate description there, a few missing menu items in between, but all in all the whole experience was super wicked. I'd go back again faster than your mom can drop her pants. And if you happen to find yourself kickin' it in the Twin Cities, you should go, too.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld