In the past few weeks both Anne and I have had the pleasure of dining at Bar La Grassa. This Minneapolis hot spot has received rave reviews- the Star Tribune named it restaurant of the year. It’s a She Said, She Said unanimous write-up; we both agree that La Grassa’s accolades are well deserved. Here are our takes on the latest hot spot.
JEN SAYS: It’s hard to believe that this space was once Babalu. In fact, Brette did not believe me when I said something like, “I can’t believe this used to be Babalu”. They have done a complete makeover. I found it modern yet cozy, and and although they have quite a few tables in the room and the place was packed, I could still have a conversation with my fellow diners without having to shout.
ANNE SAYS: I love what they did with the space. The fresh, modern decor looked great- also loved the paint colors. The atmosphere- I’d describe it as ‘busy’ and ‘energetic’ and ‘lively’. There was lots going on, but I was also able to hear just fine and carry on conversations with the other diners at our table of eight. [Additionally, I quite enjoyed watching the photographer and her big impressive camera and tripod shoot up the place. I wonder where they’re being featured?? I’d love to see her shots from that night.]
JEN SAYS: I thought the service was top notch all the way through. We arrived about 5 minutes prior to our 8 o’clock reservation and our table was ready and waiting. Our server was very friendly and extremely helpful in explaining the menu, suggesting a few items and checking in on us just the right amount; Enough to take care of our needs but not to the point of being a part of our dinner conversation. Because it is such a popular pace and a hard reservation to get, I was anticipating being “moved along”, but no such thing – a great surprise.
ANNE SAYS: I’d describe our server as not the most patient person I’ve encountered. She was nice, and did a fine job of serving us, but was visibly annoyed when she returned to take our orders and we still requested a few more minutes to decide. With a table of eight chatty women, she probably should have been able to predict that we’d not be super on the ball with ordering. Then, she TOOK AWAY my friend’s plate of food as she was in the middle of TAKING A BITE of something. That was a pretty big server faux pas, if you ask me. She apologized, but still TOOK THE PLATE OF FOOD AWAY. In that sense, I did feel like we were being a bit rushed along. [Additionally, I was not bothered at all when a server dropped a little rameken of butter that went rolling across the floor and landed at my feet. He was calm, cool, collected… added some extra excitement to my experience!]
JEN SAYS: The best part! The menu is broken out into 6 sections; antipasti, bruschetta, dry pasta, fresh pasta, secondi (table mains) and contorni (table sides). As a table we shared the seared scallops and the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta. The scallops were served on top of some sort of braised pork number that was fought over and was a great complement to the perfectly cooked scallops. Although they were wonderful, they didn’t compare (in my eyes) to the soft egg and lobster bruschetta. I was tempted to order 2 more for my main dish. It is exactly what it sounds like – a soft scrambled egg with lobster mixed in served over a toasted baguette. It was heaven.
For the main course, each of us ordered a different type of fresh pasta. They were all delicious. My sister Joan ordered the Crab Ravioli – 4 crab filled raviolis that she was nice enough to share. Her husband ordered the Fettucini Alfredo (which apparently he orders anywhere it’s on the menu, making him an alfredo expert). He said it was the best he has had so that should tell you something. I ordered the Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange. This dish had been recommended by quite a few people and now I know why. It was fabulous. The gnocchi were small, soft and flavorful, the cauliflower was just al dente and the orange was just the essence, no big chunks. It was very well balanced. I would order it again and probably again and again.
Brette’s dish was the table favorite. Orecchiette with Braised Rabbit. The pasta was as delicious as the others, but the melt in your mouth rabbit stole the show. I don’t think Brette was happy about having to share.
We did not order anything off the secondi menu which was wise for the reason that we had room for dessert. Brette went with the Izzy’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream (if you live in the metro and have not yet been to Izzy’s, please go now. You’ll thank me). I had the carrot cake, which was delightful. It was light yet it had a little something to it that gave it a bite – I haven’t figured out what that was – I guess I’ll have to go back. Joan had the table favorite dessert. Crispelle with Salted Butter and Caramel. It was essentially a caramel filled crepe with more caramel sauce on top and a little scoop of ice cream. I think one more glass of wine and Joan would’ve been licking the plate.
ANNE SAYS: I was extremely pleased with my meal, and from what I could tell, everyone at the table agreed that the food was superb. We didn’t do much round-the-table sharing because we were a table of eight people and not all of us knew one another, so we mainly ordered our own starters and main courses. From the antipasti section of the menu, I ordered the Apple and Prosciutto with Gorgonzola Parmesan Dressing. I would describe this dish as a cold apple slaw (with I think radicchio mixed in) tossed in the gorgonzola parmesan dressing, and wrapped in a lovely piece of prosciutto. I loved it as a salad/appetizer, would definitely order it again, and could eat it every single day. For my main course I ordered the Bucatini with Bolognese, and I thought it was rich, flavorful, and delicious. I was so pleased to have leftovers of my dish so I could eat it again for lunch the next day. Finally, there was no way I was getting out of there without having dessert. One of my favorite ways to cleanse my palate is with ice cream, so I selected the Izzy’s chocolate hazelnut which did not disappoint.
Oh, and a word on the amuse-bouche** and post-dinner tidbit. I really enjoyed the cold white bean palate-whetter before the meal began. The jalapeno/pine nut toffee at the end though?? That kind of scared me, so I didn’t try it. The ladies at my table who did try it weren’t too excited about it. But, I do give the restaurant credit for coming up with a new and creative “parting gift” instead of the usual mint.
JEN SAYS: For me, Bar La Grassa was as great as everyone had claimed it was. I wasn’t dissapointed and am already excited about a return trip. If you’ve been, please let me know of your favorite dish so I can start planning my next experience. If you haven’t been, put it on your list. High on your list.
ANNE SAYS: Ditto that. Quite possibly the best dining experience I’ve had in a long time. I am very, very eager to go back to try out a few different menu items.
**Amuse-bouche = French for ‘mouth amuser’. Small piece of food selected by the chef and served before the meal begins. Read more here. Why am I bothering writing about this? Husband was so pleased that he knew this term before I did. He’s such the foodie!