1612 Harmon Place
Quick, name another local restaurateur who owns eight dining sites, each with its own unique menu and persona?
No, neither can I. Hats off to Kim Bartmann, a glass ceiling shatterer in a largely testosterone-dominated profession. Not only are her eclectic establishments accessible and affordable and styled with boho charm, they’re arguably the greenest and most organic of food ops in the city. What’s more, she’s adept at recycling failed spaces.
And she’s done it again — all of the above — at the new Third Bird, latest occupant of Nick & Eddie’s, then Café Maude in Loring Park. Adding to its boho cachet, you meander down a who-knew alley (so SoHo) to the entry door — where you’re welcomed warmly.
But OK, do-gooder credentials aside, what about the food? One word for it: terrific. The most original menu consists of two dozen share-able plates from which to compose a meal ($5 to $19, not counting the ribeye at $69 that’s not exactly flying out the kitchen.) Two of us polished off six plates, lubricated by enticing, of a bit costly, wines BTG.
Start with the grilled asparagus, then send me a thank-you note. The slender green stalks come slathered with an extraordinary coalition of chevre, sherry vinegar, sweet onion, crunchy bits of almonds and toasted rye crumbs (plus a bonus of picked white asparagus atop, as our server whispered.) I could order it again as dessert. And I will.
A radically de- then re-constructed Caesar, also ultra-tasty, involves a few baby leaves of romaine consorting with char-roasted cauliflorets, sweet cherry tomatoes and (again as our server alerted us) hot, toasted-to-order croutons, all basking in brown butter and a Parmesan-infused vinaigrette.
Hard acts to follow? Darn right. But the pork belly — chunk after sublimely fatty chunk — strode up to the plate and hit it out of (into?) the park, accompanied by peanuts, cilantro, Minnesota chokecherries and yuzo crumbs. The salmon carpaccio (served slightly charred, and thus a tad too firm and dry) came paired — genius! — with rhubarb, fried walnuts and black olives as savory companions, and fennel-dill oil. (If you’re counting ingredients, just quit it and enjoy. They team up fluidly with no unruly shout-outs.)
On to the deliriously creamy polenta, seriously scented with truffle oil, on which rests an egg poached in Easter-basket-ready beet juice (why? And a mite too long at that.) It’s paired — perfectly — with tiny bits of ham hock in a mild pistou sauce. Finally, the sweet, meltaway scallops come matched with a dice of burly chorizo (a smart yin-yang alliance) and a handful of clams, steamed (so our server whispered) in PBR.
Desserts range from crème brulee and flourless chocolate blah-blah to what our server insisted was the evening’s winner: Pavlova. It proved to be the customary (back in its day) combo of meringue, pudding and fruit. OK but boring, we told him later — so he removed it from our bill: totally unnecessary and totally nice.