Friday, February 20, 2015
The Gravlax Project: Spoon and Stable
Spoon and Stable opened with much hoopla this fall, and marked the return of hometown hero Gavin Kaysen. Chef Kaysen's curriculum vitae includes extraordinary stints as executive chef at Café Boulud, American team member and coach at the Bocuse d'Or, Iron Chef competitor, and James Beard Award winner. Just this week Spoon and Stable was announced as a semifinalist for JBA Best New Restaurant.
I'd already planned to visit Spoon and Stable before perusing the menu and spotting cured salmon among the offerings, but it seemed sensible to wait for the excitement and crowds to tamper down before pushing my way into the packed restaurant. Three months after opening it is still difficult to get a reservation. My favorite partner-in-dining, K, joined me on a weeknight to try our luck at the bar where happy hour draws lines half an hour before the restaurant opens.
Stories circulated about a mix of botoxed cougars and beautiful hipsters inhabiting the Spoon and Stable bar each night. Either the reports were exaggerated or we hit upon a good night. Patrons were a nice blend of older folks out for an early dinner and Minneapolis office workers looking for cocktails in a gorgeous setting. Sure there were plenty of beautiful people, but the rest of us felt at home among them. The space and the food are well matched: open, clean, elegant, and sleek. There are cozy tables, comfortable chairs, valet parking and coat check; but nothing fussy or intimidating.
Grilled oysters on the bar menu were too tempting to pass. They came topped with an odd-colored foamy buttermilk mignonette. K made a face. "I always trust you when it comes to these matters," she said, "but..." I poo-pooed her hesitation and together we dove in. K nodded with approval. The oysters were lovely but I'd come for the cured salmon and it was time.
Chef Kaysen and his team use a straightforward cure of salt, sugar, and dill. After a 24-hour brine (give or take, the bartender told us) the gravlax is sweet and luscious, with a sheath of packed dill. The dill cured salmon is nestled with tiny fingerlings, bits of Quisp-shaped pickled onion, mustard so coarse that I mistook it for pickled seeds, dainty little swirls of preserved lemon, horseradish cream, heaps of salmon roe, and tendrils of dill and greens, all sitting atop a hill of pumpernickel croutons.
We paused to appreciate our experience, and then braved the menu once more.
The sunchoke volueté was silky and plump with lardon and truffles. I dipped warm sour dough bites into the bowl (even after I'd spread the bread with butter) so that I could smear each bite with the flavor of the creamy soup. The Wisconsin dry-aged grass-fed beef duo included a beef cheek sausage and fat strip loins partnered with braised cabbage, potato puree, and a burnt orange jus (that reminded me of a BBQ jus I once enjoyed and have thought of many times since at the now defunct Goodfellow's). Dessert was pistachio cake with meyer lemon panne cotta, grapefruit curd, and crunch pistachio brittle, which was followed with Spoon and Stable's complimentary tin of petite cookies (a de-amuse bouche?). With our final nibbles K spotted Chef Kaysen across the bar and we tittered. "Now THAT is a fabulous dessert," I said, not sure myself if I meant the food or the chef sighting.
Conclusion: Spoon and Stable's Dill Cured Salmon ($14) is one of the best I've had (and I've had some pretty amazing gravlax in my life). Each bite is dreamy and sleek. Come for the salmon, stay through dessert.
Spoon and Stable
211 1st Street North
Minneapolis, MN 55401